Developer: Squarehead Studios & Four Horses
Publisher: Rainy Frog Games
Platform: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Category: Arcade, First Person & Action
Release Date: 30th of November, 2017 (Worldwide)
Brace yourself for an arcade blast from the past as Star makes the move from the Wii U, to Nintendo Switch.
Inspired by 2015’s Star Drift for iOS and developed by Squarehead Studios, Star Ghost is a side-scrolling shooter game that tries to turn the genre on its head, thanks to its Flappy Bird like ways that essentially result in Star Ghost as being nothing more than the barrel-riding section in Donkey Kong Country, but as an entire game as opposed to a sequence part of a game. Whether you believe it or not though, the concept does in fact work and even though the Switch release is not all that much different to the Switch version since they are the same game, but the Switch release has HD Rumble, Star Ghost does in fact, hold up.
Then again, what appears to be a basic neon game that is elegant in its simplicity, is in fact, a work that does have a soundtrack composed by none other than David Wise (Snake Pass,) and is developed by Rhys Lewis and if that name isn’t familiar, it should be. While Lewis is the founder of Squarehead Studios, he’s also a former RARE employee, who also did a stint over at Retro Studios as well, so he’s definitely got the know-how for what makes a good game work, just not the budget his employees are used to. Still that hasn’t stopped him from making a formidable indie title, as Star Ghost is a game you can easily keep on coming back to, as it has got something of an addictive nature to it, but if you were hoping lessons have been learned and an online leaderboard was added to the Switch version, then I am sorry to disappoint, but there is no such thing, so it really is just a case of the same old stuff.
But what does this same old stuff actually entail? Well, Star Game is an arcade shooter where you are a Commander, start off with a singular life and you must do your absolute best to venture through 12 diverse sectors in a bid to confront the dreaded Megaton empire and save the human race, after a Metagon War Fleet has been detected in the outer perimeter. Still, just because there are 12 sectors/star systems, it doesn’t mean there are just 12 levels, as each sector is made up of various stages and flying you through them is the most advanced star fighter, ever built by the human race, which just so happens to aptly be named Star Ghost.
Navigating the harshness of space is no easy task as there are asteroid fields, fragments of planets that heard Star Ghost was coming to the Switch, blew up and galactic dog fights almost on pair with 10tons Xenoraid. But if that’s not enough of a threat for you to face, there are also ships more advanced and deadlier than yours called Sentinels that belong to none other than the Metagon empire. They won’t just shoot you a couple of times, they will straight up destroy you, so be prepared to pay attention and do whatever it takes to stay alive, because no one wants to start over when they met their end upon reaching any sector that’s 7 and up and don’t go thinking it will be okay if you memorised the terrain! With levels that are dynamically generated, Star Ghost is a game that wants to keep you on your toes, but does allow each stage to have just enough familiarity so that you can just about expect what you will face and how to act.
As for how it plays, well in Flappy Bird fashion, holding A will cause your ship to fly upwards, and letting go off it, will have it fall and if it falls or rises too much, it will hit either the barrier at the top of the screen, or the bottom and bounce you back into the fray. As for how to use your weapons, it’s not something you can actually use as the weapons fire themselves, but if you choose to, you can use the left analog stick and move it up or down to aim to adjust your aim, but it doesn’t really do all that much, as the adjustments are very little, so you tend to just end up solely using the A button. That said, pushing the left stick to the left will activate the Traction Field, once you’ve got one to activate, as it is one of the game’s few power-up collectables.
Over collectibles include Fire Rate, Fire Spread, which can turn a single blast into 2 and so on, with 4 being the maximum and even Shield, which is handy for replenishing your life, but in order to be able to get the power-ups, you will need to put yourself into the firing line and take out every enemy you see, in the hopes they randomly drop one because if they don’t, you’ll just have to resort to collecting credits to regenerate your ship or purchase a power-up at the end of each stage. Still, don’t go taking these power-ups for granted, because they are only temporary and can easily level down, until they eventually revert back to their original state, so every time you see a power-up drifting lazily above an asteroid and you can get it, you should. Don’t worry though, as Ghost Star is not as tedious as I’m making it sound as it can be very fun, very addictive and even moreish, but as an arcade game, you should go into Star Ghost with arcade expectations because anything more runs the risk of you discovering nothing but disappointment. But because it is an arcade game, as well as taking on an alien threat, you are encouraged to do rack up as many points as you can get in a single playthrough and avoid damage at every turn, because a single impact is enough to reset your multiplayer. (Have fun now!)
Beautiful soundtrack, graphics and general gameplay aside, while Star Ghost is a fantastic game, there is something it does that I just can’t stand. I know it is great you can essentially play it with just a single button, as using the left analog stick isn’t actually necessary, but the second you do that, Stat Ghost feels a little too much like a game you would play on a mobile phone first and then was lazily ported to the Nintendo Switch. I know it’s not and it’s not the game’s fault that it comes across that way, but it does and with no online leaderboard this time around, it is a little hard to justify double dipping on this game if you got it on the Wii U last year, but if you gave it a miss, then now is as good a time as any to go hands on with it!
THE VERDICT: 7/10
*Review Key Provided by Rainy Frog Games