Game Name: Ghost Song Platform(s): PC (reviewed), PS4, Xbox One, Switch Publisher(s): Humble Games
Developer(s): Old Moon
Release Date: November 3rd, 2022
Steam Deck Compatible: Not Yet, but it works.
I suppose it’s important to note that I am a backer of Ghost Song Review and have been since the game was announced some eight years ago. However, I want to stress that this has zero bearing on my review of Ghost Song, and Humble Games provided a copy of the reviewed game. I love Metroidvania games, and this one was a title I was especially interested in, given that it also dips into the horror genre.
Alright, on to the review.
Let’s take it from the top
At the onset of Ghost Song, you take control of a character called the Deadsuit. You have no idea who or what you are, and for the first 15-20 minutes, you wind up learning the ropes and aimlessly navigating the world. That is until you encounter a human called Roper, who invites you into his camp. Eventually, he tells you about this blight about being stuck on this moon due to some freak accident that knocked his ship out of orbit. Things are bleak, that’s for sure. Suddenly and randomly, Deadsuit, that’s you, offers to help and is told about parts scattered across the moon. Good luck fetching them all; it’s dangerous out there.
The story is all over the place, and multiple NPCs have their own stories to tell. I’ve encountered several NPCs who all wanted to borrow my ear and explain how things came to be. However, some of the stories were utterly boring, while others were so damned interesting that I was determined to figure out how their story ended. Still, nothing was as depressing as when I mingled with the crew of the wrecked spaceship, and they explained how they lost friends as the ship slammed into the moon. I still haven’t completed all the storylines, but I’m trying even after I’ve completed the game.
Then there’s your character, the Deadsuit or referred to as Blue. We don’t know what or who this character is, and many NPCs are curious about that, as seen throughout the game. Interestingly enough, we get hints about the character, but not by the conventional story, but by listening to the character only when idle. Doing this, you’ll hear the Deadsuit question its existence, refer to the NPCs it has encountered, its favorite color, poetry, and more.
This gameplay seems familiar
As with most Metroidvania games, Ghost Song provides an interesting combination of gameplay and story while taking some cues from a certain roguelike. At the start, you’re equipped with a standard blaster, which isn’t that powerful, that will overheat, complete with a raging hot visual cue, if used for too long. Eventually, you’ll find upgrades that range from missiles, double jumps, health upgrades, and more. You’ll need them if you ever want to progress. Because, even with them, death is right around every corner. To be fair, the game is very Metroid-Esque, seeing how the entire reason the game exists was due to Nintendo not wanting to release another Metroid title. Or at least, the company didn’t when Ghost Song development started nearly a decade ago.
The gameplay is simple — travel throughout the massive moon, locate the parts, and try not to die. It’s not overly complicated, and if you’ve played a Metroidvania game, then you’ll be familiar with how things work. However, Ghost Song was also inspired by the Dark Souls games, so more mechanics are in place, such as a leveling system. Instead of finding weapons and gear, you can also level up three stats; Gunpower, Vigor, and Resolve. Gunpower increases your blast power, and explosive-type weapons, Vigor increases your toughness and maximum HP, and Resolve increases your stamina and health pools, while increasing damage from other weapons.
To upgrade these stats, as well as purchase stuff from the main camp, you’ll need Nanogel, the games’ currency. You’ll find lump sums in the world or off enemies you’ve blasted to bits; that’s the only way. Killing bosses don’t provide any at all, which I found odd. I thought that maybe the first boss didn’t provide any. NOPE. None of the bosses or named provide any whatsoever. This stuff is precious, and I didn’t want to lose any if I could help it.
Should you die, you end up back at your last game save location while dropping some of Nanogel. Weirdly, you don’t lose it all, as you’ll retain a small amount. I’m not sure why that is, but it’s a thing. The rest will be waiting for you to return to the scene of your death. And just like most roguelikes, if you don’t make it back there before you bite it again, you lose it. This is severally more important in this game than others, as it’s damned hard to acquire it. Death means more than just dropping your Nanogel, depending on what difficulty you plan on as it also impacts your health bar. Should you play on the original difficulty, every time you die, you’ll damage the Deadsuit, and the HP bar will drop. Die too much, and you’ll need to repair, which can only be done at specific locations.
Most Metroidvania games range from relatively easy to damn near impossible, and I’d rate Ghost Song in the middle. Easy on, enemies can shred you to pieces, and it’s not until you either find upgrades or level up do things get easier — but not by much. For example, you can level up or fast travel (they use the same location) there are only a few of them in the entire game. Or when you finally locate a ship part, the game shifts the difficulty into overdrive. Suddenly, fast travel is no longer usable, and you’ll need to travel back to the ship on foot. But that’s not the kicker. With that part in tow, you’ll face more enemies, including some of which were originally just background pieces, now turned to life.
I expected to encounter more bosses than I did, that’s for sure. Sometimes I’d randomly encounter one in the world, others were clear as day as they were behind a lined wall (think of the fog doors in Dark Souls), but again, there were very few of them. For those parts you needed to retrieve, most didn’t even have a boss who would attempt to stop you from picking them up. I suppose Dark Souls and Metroid had trained me to expect a boss at those pivotal moments, but that script was flipped here, sadly.
It’s eerie and beautiful at the same time
I enjoyed the desolate feeling that the art direction of the game conveys. Everything feels like depression, and it never lets up. Want to feel like you’re stuck on a dangerous, unfriendly moon with no chance of survival? Well, Ghost Song has that in spades. The designs definitely take some impression from H.R Giger, that’s for sure.
While the sound direction of the game was nothing short of amazing, I do have issues with it. The game does a fantastic job of projecting the isolation and eerie moon that Ghost Song takes place on. Every step, weapon blast, and the sounds of the massive amount of enemies trying to kill me was spot on. I can’t praise it enough, it’s good stuff. What rubs me the wrong way is the voiced lines. One moment I’m reading the dialog on my screen, the next there are some voiced lines, then I’m right back to reading the text again. It’s so inconsistent that it’s maddening, as when I heard the voiced lines and figured it would progress on its own afterward. This happened for the duration of the game, which didn’t make sense to me. Either do it one or the other, not this mixture of the two.
As far as playability goes, Ghost Song is pretty darn lengthy. I’ve beaten the game twice, and I still haven’t found everything there is to find. Despite locating multiple hidden locations and running into optional NPCs, I’m convinced there’s more to the game than I initially thought. My first playthrough took 25 hours as I searched everything and attempted to play in areas I shouldn’t have been in. But I was determined to power through them. My second time, I managed to beat the game in under 10 hours — only to find an optional quest that provided me with a powerful secondary weapon I could have used earlier on. Both of the endings from both playthroughs were anti-climatic. I’m still playing to see if there’s another ending.
My time with Ghost Song was on a PC, a very beefy one at that, and the performance was fantastic. This game doesn’t require a monster of a PC to play, so most hardware released in the past 6-7 years should be able to play the game. I did encounter an issue when I tried to change my resolution to either 1440p or 4K, and the game would reset it back. Of course, that wasn’t a great way to see how the game would run on older hardware, so I popped out my laptop and still managed to have a good experience.
The controls are responsive and tight, and I had no problem during combat. Though when it came to platforming, sometimes I’d fall off an edge, even though I swore I wasn’t close to the end. Maybe I’m just getting old. It is worth mentioning that I did manage to glitch out the game, which forced me to quit, losing quite a bit of progress. Save often.
While Ghost Song hasn’t been cleared by Valve for the Steam Deck, it does work. I’ve played it a few times on mine, though it did crash several times. I also noticed a few visual glitches, such as the backgrounds from a later stage showing on the left and right sides of the screens. This could be due to the game not being the final code, and the retail version may not experience this.
I loved it, even if it feels dated
In the end, I’m heavily conflicted with Ghost Song. In one regard, I loved the experience, and it was one that I won’t soon forget. On the other end, due to the development time of the title, and the eventual release, it feels dated. I know that sounds weird, but with no disrespect to Old Moon, there have been other titles that have done what Ghost Song has, but better. I’m pretty sure they had no idea that Nintendo would eventually release Metroid Dread, which does what GHost Song does but better.
Things would be different if the game had been released a few years earlier, but this is what it is. Still, Ghost Song has earned its place as one of my favorite indie Metroidvania titles of all time. Now, I need to dive back in, yet again, and find everything I missed… and hopefully, unlock a better ending.
If you’re a fan of Metroidvania titles and you’ve been looking for your next adventure, I highly recommend giving Ghost Song a try. You won’t be disappointed.
Review Disclosure Statement: A copy of Ghost Song was provided to us by Humble Games for review purposes. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.
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Everything about Ghost Song screams quality, and it shows that Matt White and crew put a lot of love into this game. As a big Metroidvania fan, I fell in love as soon as I started playing and couldn’t put my controller down until I beat the game twice. If I had anything negative to say, I would be that the game feels dated, especially after playing Metroid Dread.