Shoot 'em ups have been played the same way for decades. Star Ghost is a bold attempt at offering a unique control scheme, but will fans of the genre welcome this unorthodox change or should developers stick to the basics?
If you've read some of my reviews before then you probably know how much I love 2D shmups. I've reviewed a ton of classics like Gradius, Xevious, Darius, and even TwinBee. Therefore, whenever a developer makes a contemporary effort in the genre, I'm always compelled to see how it stacks up. However, I was quite puzzled when I started to play Star Ghost because of its unique controls. You basically tap a button to ascend and let go to descend while you automatically propel forward and shoot. You can also push up or down to aim and left to deploy a field that sucks in item pick-ups. These items either grant you currency that you can exchange between stages or power-ups that enhance your fire rate, projectile spread, or field radius. There are also a few more powerful enhancements that give you substantial boosts such as replenishing your shield or turning your shots into awesome laser beams. All power-ups gradually downgrade so you must keep collecting them to stay as competent as possible. Although I was hesitant at first, I must say that all of these aspects make Star Ghost's gameplay incredibly addictive.
Star Ghost's visuals are clean and give off a vibe similar to Geometry Wars. This means that points of interest are very easily distinguishable but the downside is that things start to look rather repetitive after a while. If the developers implemented more visual variety such as plants growing from surfaces, additional textures, and different backgrounds then this wouldn't have been an issue. Instead, staring at stars, distant planets, and similar-looking boundaries becomes tiresome quite quickly. On a positive note, the audio is masterfully done. Everything from the fantastic electronic music, suitable sound effects, informative voice clips, and satisfying fanfare upon completing a stage adds a ton of enjoyment to the overall experience. Basically, game developers can learn a lot about audio by playing Star Ghost.
When it comes to content, Star Ghost only consists of a single player mode that you have to start from the beginning every time you play. This reminded me a lot of the good old arcade days but without the ability to put in quarters. Instead, you can use collected currency to continue. Anyway, the campaign is impressively lengthy with a dozen star systems to conquer. Considering each system is made up of multiple stages, you'll have to set aside a healthy chunk of time in order to complete the entire game. It's definitely disappointing how little content is available yet the core gameplay is so well done that this is actually easy to forgive. That being said, if there were more modes then obviously Star Ghost would be a lot more enjoyable of an experience as a result.
I've already established that Star Ghost's gameplay is extremely satisfying with its unique controls and awesome power-up system. Because of this, obtaining higher scores feels fantastic. However, there are only local leaderboards to climb which is a huge missed opportunity. For a game where all you do is play until you get a game over, you'd at least expect to be able to show off your score to the rest of the world. I hope the developers implement leaderboards in the future because that alone would make your efforts in achieving greatness all the more rewarding. You could always post to Miiverse, but that's not nearly as intuitive.
Where Star Ghost lacks in content, it makes up for in its addictive gameplay. Any shoot 'em up fan who wants to try out a new take on the genre will definitely enjoy their time blasting away these neon enemy forces.
- + Unique and simply awesome gameplay that'll drive you to play again and again
- + Incredibly satisfying audio
- + Very cool power-up system
- - Only consists of one mode that you have to play through in a single sitting
- - Visuals could use more variety
- - No online leaderboards