Crafting an addictive gaming experience requires a lot of talent. Thankfully, the folks who made Extreme Exorcism clearly have what it takes. I must say it's even difficult to put the game down just to write this review, but here we go... Let's make this quick!
Extreme Exorcism is played in single-screen 2D combat arenas (similar to the recently released Curses 'N Chaos). You basically run, jump, pick up weapons, and snuff out poltergeists. Where the gameplay becomes extraordinary is when you come to the realization that these spirits are actually recordings of you. To break it down, each level starts with you ending a haunted chair's life. Then, you fight the ghost of you battling the chair. Next, you fight the ghost who took on the chair and the ghost who fought that ghost. Before you know it, the screen is full of past iterations of you all in the heat of battle and it's your job to avoid all the gunfire and sword slashes so you can slay the king poltergeist (which is always your previous incarnation). If you're confused then I understand, but once you get in the groove and start developing strategies then Extreme Exorcism quickly evolves into one of the most rewarding games that you've ever played. Just replaying levels to get higher scores is incredibly satisfying which speaks volumes to how carefully constructed the gameplay is.
The 16-bit visuals in Extreme Exorcism are quite pleasing with a variety of detailed environments and cute bite-sized characters. Even the evil spirits are charming with their stereotypical forms complete with a mean look in their eyes. Everything is superbly animated as well with even many environments coming to life. Some stages feature hazards such as bursts of fire coming from the walls, breezes that make it difficult to walk against, ice that makes you slide uncontrollably, and beds that you can bounce on. The included music is one part horror movie and another part retro arcade which makes a fitting backdrop to battle ghosts. Sound effects are subtle yet they add so much gratification to successful exorcisms. Overall, Extreme Exorcism is retro but with many enjoyable intricacies.
When it comes to content, Extreme Exorcism doesn't fail to impress. The main mode consists of nine areas of a mansion broken up into five levels each as well as an introduction stage and a last boss. Each level ends when you lose all of your hearts and perish which means that you play for as long as you can to get the highest score possible. Your score dictates which further levels and mansion rooms unlock. A very cool implementation is that you can play this mode with up to four local players so if you have some capable exorcist friends, invite them over and have a blast! If you're just playing by yourself, you can tackle 50 additional challenges that get quite tough but anyone can complete them after some necessary practice. Finally, you can challenge your friends to four player death-matches. This mode seems simple at first, yet the extensive amount of configurable options can make each match entirely different to the last. You can't play with others online, but there are leaderboards for each of the main mode's levels that are great fun to climb.
As you play and defeat more spirits, you unlock additional weapons that'll start to show up at the spawn points. This is a nifty feature at first, but as you discover new weapons you'll often be disappointed by how clearly awful some of them are. What this results in is a huge imbalance in weapon types. Instead of rushing to the nearest weapon, you'll learn to avoid some like the plague since using them could be hazardous to future incarnations of you. In the end, having to be selective about which weapon I picked up frequently took me out of the otherwise immersive gameplay. The only other downside that I can think of is that there are only four characters and none of them have any defining features or personalities. They all look different, yet it's difficult to choose a favourite with not much to hold on to. All of this being said, these points are far from deal-breakers but I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't mention them.
Extreme Exorcism is one of the best indie games I've played this year. With phenomenal gameplay and loads of content to enjoy it in, how could you forgo this adventure in paranormal activity? Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to ghost-busting.
- + Awesome single-screen arena combat gameplay with an interesting twist
- + Plenty of content, modes, and options
- + Up to four local players can play at once
- - Only four generic playable characters who all lack personality
- - Weapons are very unbalanced