These days developers have a tendency to put any nerd culture references in their games but making a game that is self-aware of what it is and using these themes to make it its own thing can lead to something amazing. “Ghost 1.0” takes recognizable science fiction themes and had some fun implementing them into the story and gameplay, making it one of the best sci-fi adventures I’ve played.
This is not a story about saving the world from some apocalyptic danger, or fighting a corrupt corporation (though one is involved). This is a tale of two dorks hiring a ghost agent to infiltrate the Nakamura Space Station, find the server room with the Naka’s (highly advanced androids produced by the company) A.I. algorithm, download it, and use it to their own ends. The tone of the story changes as you progresses, but they keep their objective in check throughout the game while putting them in situations where they would resolve them as the geeks they are.
“Ghost 1.0” is one of the purer Metroidvania games with a bit of “Avenging Spirit” thrown into the mix, focusing more on the arsenal, skills, and problem solving. Naturally, you have to explore the Nakamura Space Station since your trio of Ghost and geeks are the first outside the company to map out the place (and asking for directions doesn’t get you anywhere). A word of advice though, keep grinding to a minimal if you want plenty of enhancements and firepower to work with.
Before you start infiltrating the space station in the stealthiest manner with guns blazing, you get to choose either Classic or Survival Mode. Classic is the traditional Metroidvania mode where you explore, collect your inventory at a fixed price and pace, and use the 3D Printer (save and teleporter room) for scanning your chassis on everything you collected to the template. Survival Mode takes “Ghost 1.0” and turns it into a Roguelike. The items random all around the station per life, difficulty increases the longer you live, and you lose all your weapons and power-ups on death. I found you could pick up some of your gear from your last death on the hard difficulty setting. However, you lose a good chunk of it if you die.
There are quite a few weapons to choose from between your Primary and Secondary Weapons, with energy capacitors to remove any need for ammo. Don’t mistake your arsenal as reskinned weapons that do the same thing with different attack powers. You have a variety of ways to solve your android problems, such as the standard Machine Gun and Shotgun and more unique weapons like Wave Gun (which passes through multiple targets), and the Laser Drone Gun (which hits everything as it spins).
Aside from your weapons, you have four other categories on your inventory screen. Items are the usual consumables such as repair kits and other support items. However, they stay in your inventory after use and can be recharged at shops, making it more efficient than recollecting or buying up stock again. Power-ups are passive add-ons that improve your chassis’s combat efficiency with Drones (such as a reflect shield, precision and a HP increase). Some of them are stackable as you find/buy them, even in “New Game Plus” (which allows you to become ridiculously powerful).
Upgrades adds enhancements like Chassis’s HP, Primary Weapon shot capacitors, and a fixed amount of energy cubes when your body is printed up after death. These will be necessary in the long run, and they too are stackable in the “New Game Plus”. This is also where new frames will be placed, having android bodies with attributes like Regen and a repair bonus at your disposal. And it looks like you can use the frames you earn from one game in another, giving you a better chance at beating Hard. Finally, there are the Geek items, which are cosmetic changes to the game to make it more nerdy. These include coming back to a Printer Room (save room) Terminator style, the station map displayed in ASCII, and the Tarzan audio clip like in “Short Circuit 2” (zip lines only, though). These are fun to play with, but you can only have one active at a time, which is let down as well as a pain because you have to switch them around constantly if you want to use them constantly.
To help the mission the team put their talents together in a skill tree with five branches. Chassis will give you special skills such as double jump, air dash, and other useful traits to help whether you’re running and gunning or out for a ghost stroll. Jacker’s skills will help out during alarm phases, making things easier with hilarious results so you can grind for energy cubes. Boogan offers his engineering expertise and improves item usage and other technical perks. Ghost’s branch can improve her Ghost Form potential as well as enhance any android she possesses. And then there’s the Nakamura Space Station itself (there’s a reason) which gives a mix skill set of making the game easier or harder, depending on your playstyle. Alternatively, you can ignore all of these and just play the game without any skills (except yours).
The Ghost Form (the game’s most unique and fun gameplay feature) has several uses in this game aside from just taking over an enemy android. With the abilities of a ghost agent, you can clear up pesky security detail, accessing panels on other sides of death traps, and solving puzzles with ease. In this form, you can also safely explore a room. However, you need to possess another android to check the next room, which is fine as long as your body safe. There are also plenty of opportunities where you can have some fun with your enemies, such as jumping to their doom while exiting their bodies and taking over more powerful androids to wreak some havoc.
The main goal of the game is to explore the space station and find the server room but there will be other missions in the story. There will also be special missions, which will test your mantle, including one that utilizes Ghost Form and droid possession to its fullest throughout the segment. Furthermore, you got the more recent Mission Mode update that contains several missions with three achievement tiers for each one as well. You can unlock these missions by finding them in story mode, and by at least completing them will grant you a little something if you become a Mission Backer.
If you need a break from missions, you can trigger Alarm Phases and search for Hidden Souls. During Alarm Phases you get a quick rush of androids to fight with their difficulty depending on the Alarm Level. When Jacker turns off the alarms, you can bust open crates full of energy cubes or items (Survival Mode only). This is a great way to farm for Energon so you can stock up on items, power-ups, and new weapons. Hidden Souls are glowing specs you collect to form items, upgrades, cubes, and even Geeks. Some have easy activation points such as blowing a hole in a wall or ceiling. A few of them are out-of-the-way but simple enough like possess another android to kill certain targets.
And then there are the cryptic ones where you Save and Exit in one room and select continue from the main menu after blowing away all the droids (because the game won’t let you unless the room is clear), or kneel in a certain spot for five or so seconds like it was “Simon’s Quest”. There is a community guide to help find the more secretive ones (as well as the rest of them) but having to switch out to the overlay kind of takes you out of the game.
The graphics has a science fiction flair to it, though some people have tagged it as “cyberpunk,” which to me a cyberpunk design would be something more in the lines of “Shadowrun”. Sure Jacker has an eye patch augment but the game is too clean for me to consider it as cyberpunk. The SciFi theme holds up well, especially with The Nakamura Space Station as a believable setting: a Center Zone with polished metal corridors and neon lights, a Greenhouse that isn’t overgrown with plants, a Lab Sector with an uneasy atmosphere and slight disturbing imagery, and the Chunker area where all the scrap you’ve made with all the androids you took out goes.
Ghost’s Chassis has a cool design going for it with glowing tube hairs and polished brass bits on her repurposed Naka shell. It’s a simple and cool design but the other frames gives her different styles, with the Plant Frame making her a cute garden robot and the rest more intimidating and bad ass. There’s also the Mission Backer Frame which looks like it was based on “Transformers” G1’s Arcee with live wired hair, but this is initially for Mission Mode only. You can, however, unlock for story mode by at least completing all the missions (challenge accepted, Fran). As for Ghost’s spectral form it does nail the spirit look with her faint glow and floating human form. At first, I thought she was roaming around in her skivvies or some medical garb, which would make sense since she’s not really there. However, it really turns out that she’s wearing some Zero Suit, which is alright since she’s a ghost agent, but it’s not like any of the characters in the game will notice.
Our other two main characters (Jacker and Boogan) is playing the part of being a couple of nerds who with tech backgrounds. Jacker fits the large, scruffy hacker stereotype with an eye augment and Boogan is a simple engineer in a white shirt complete with pocket protector, looking exactly like the geeks which the game calls them out on. They look so much as the unlikely heroes that Jacker made a meta joke about the likelihood of them (along with Ghost) appearing in a video game (twice if you count the release trailer). The rest of the human cast are on the stereotype side, but they’re from professional (and questionable) careers where Jacker and Boogman are just these guys (also Jacker mentions he’s good at making money, not splurging it).
The rest of the cast consists of robots and androids. Some of them are themed robots that fall under their respective biomes, but you’ll be seeing much of the universal androids around the station. Yes, I’m not kidding! As the game includes everything from neutral workers, turrets, soldiers with different armaments to larger androids with distinctive kinds of arm cannons, and flying buzzsaws. Even so, the number-one hilarious enemy types are with no doubt the Nakas. These are the company’s android series that made them the most money and yet not only did they militarized them for the station, but they come in different variations complete with different dresses. And then there’s the Defense Biped, or you may know him as the Enforcement Droid Series 209. They nailed it’s designed and character between the two “Robocop” movies so well it’s awesome.
The music sounds has a mix of “Castlevania”’s melody in the tracks with “Mega Man Zero”’s futuristic tone. There are also a few tracks with a bit of “Metroid” in them, so we at least have a Metroidvania song there. It’s a great soundtrack that matches the atmosphere and genre, and it’s up for sale as DLC on Steam (complete with unique track titles). In the sound department, you’ll hear plenty of explosions and energy weapons, and may even recognize a few sound effects like the original “Star Trek” phaser and “MGS”’s Codec. The voice acting delivers some of the best dialogue seen in a game, making these characters lovable while having fun with tropes.
Ghost is a professional, but she enjoys her job (at least this job) as well as trading some witty comebacks. She’s also a bit of tomboy since she has some objections of returning a bow or Qapla’ in front oversized Roombas and having to “walk more like a Naka” (though she “accidentally” got even with Boogan for that one). Jacker and Boogan do most of the talking, but every minute of them is a treat for both storytelling and comedy, even going with A.I. controversies but in a more subtle, nerdy way. And while they use references and tropes they are at least in context with better delivery than seen in “The Big Bang Theory”.
With all said on the presentation I need to talk about a serious problem I come across that caused all sorts of issues. In the audio department the dialogue either overlapped on one another or cut off during cut scenes, and sound effect skips. As far as visuals goes, the animation in the cut scenes weren’t used, scenes don’t end when they’re supposed to or start in the middle of one. Furthermore, the droids had jaggy animations, and Ghost’s tube hairs are missing a few frames. And the visual issues affected the detections on the elevators, making it difficult to play especially on one of the Mission Mode maps. It’s bad, but it is fixable.
Thanks to the Steam Discussion I managed to get the game to work on a stable condition. From what I was told the game has to run at 60 Frames Per Second, and any higher it will go insane. Updating my drivers got it working again but for assurance, I went into the hardware settings and manually set Vsync to “On”. I never had that problem again. There are still a few hiccups where Ghost goes bald or the episodic recaps (when loading) is missing the space background before and after the scenes. Nevertheless, these issues are benign compared to what I had to deal with. I may use nvidia Inspector in the future to see if I can give Ghost some Robo-Rogaine, but the game is in a playable state for me. As it is fixable.
As for controls, you have the option of using a controller or mouse + keyboard. You can redefine either controls as you see fit and even invert the mouse wheel (which certainly made things easier when selecting secondary weapons). Aiming is easier and precise with the mouse and keyboard setup (personal preference) but with fully customizable controls, you can make either option work for you.
+ One of the purest Metroidvania games out there.
+ A great story with likable characters, references that work, and A.I. controversies.
+ Unique Ghost Form feature that creates some fun puzzle solving and risk free combat.
+ The art style with a subtle SciFi flair.
+ Great Metroidvania music that is also available for purchase on Steam
– Cryptic Hidden Souls activation methods.
– One Geek at a time.
– Presentation issues depending on Frame Rate (can be resolved).
Replay value: 4/5
“Ghost 1.0” is a fantastic Metroidvania let alone one of the purest ones by definition. Some people may be tired of references and nerdy characters, but it’s better executed than some others (let alone some of my jokes). Personally, this game speaks to me on a level with all the themes and references from works of science fiction I grew up with, while giving me a game that has some soul in what it is. And as of writing this “Mini Ghost” has been out. Stay tuned for the outcome with a review of the MSX prequel.
Title: Ghost 1.0
Resolution: 1680 x 1050
Release date: 2016-06-07
Difficulty: Medium to Hard
Spent time: 34+ hours
Average grade internationally: 70.00% Gamerankings.com
PEGI/ESRB age rating: PEGI 12+/Teen
Robin Ek – Editor
The Gaming Ground
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