If I listed my favorite 20 games ever, Super Metroid, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, and Hollow Knight would all be shoe-ins. Even though I’ve come to loathe the overused ‘Metroidvania’ term, I’ve really enjoyed seeing a resurgence of the genre in the last few years, and I try and play as many of them as I can get my hands on. Ghost 1.0 is developed and published by upepic_fran, a Spanish game developer who was responsible for the game Unepic, also available on the Switch. Following on the heels of Hollow Knight‘s release on the Switch, Ghost 1.0 has a some mighty shoes to fill.
Set in the distant future, you play as Ghost, and you are hired by two hackers to infiltrate the Nakamura Space Station. Nakamura is the world’s largest developer of androids, known as Nakas, and your mission is to locate and steal their source code within the enormous station. Ghost uses a chassis (or female android) for her physical body, but her spirit can leave the body and hack other androids, which guard the Station. She works as a freelance spy, but refuses to share any personal details with Boogan and Jacker, the two Cybercriminals who have hired her. These two are in constant communication with Ghost and give her vital information, hack security systems for her, and provide extra story.
This game is clearly inspired by Metroid and plays very similarly. You must explore the giant station by unlocking new objectives. To this end you’ll find yourself needing to collect keys to gain access into locked areas, obtain skill points to gain new abilities, earn currency by defeating enemies, and discover secrets locations via careful navigation. Your primary weapon is a blaster gun, and from the onset most of your enemies are androids, robots, and weapon turrets. Ammo is unlimited, but you have a numeric meter that counts down to zero, and when that’s hit you’ll have a cool down period while it replenishes. Your health starts at 300, but you’ll be able to find upgrades to make you stronger.
When you kill enemies you’ll obtain currency, health, or weapon energy. There are dozens of weapon upgrades you can purchase from item stores, and you’ll want them. The game is nearly impossible without powering up your weaponry to take out the ever-increasingly difficult enemies on your journey. You’ll want to spend money as soon as you earn it to maximize your lethality. You obtain skill points by locating access codes, and using these will unlock new abilities, like a double jump. Save rooms allow you to refill energy, save your progress (by making a 3D printing of yourself), and teleport to previously found save rooms. When you die, you can pick which save room to continue in, but you’ll need to go to the spot of your death to regain any weapon upgrades you’ve purchased. The map and menu systems are set up nicely and are simple to navigate and comprehend.
In many rooms you’ll be unable to progress traditionally and you’ll have to figure out a puzzle. Your spirit form can pass through walls, which you can then possess an android in order to activate a switch to unlock a door or engage a lift. Some rooms are packed with guards; so taking control of a powerful android and killing off the others while your chassis stays out of harm’s way is a necessity. This feature is the most unique factor of Ghost 1.0 (and helps explain the name of the game), however it doesn’t really add much to the game’s fun factor. Unfortunately there are rooms that have alarms that, once triggered, turn into small kill rooms where you have to fight off hordes of attackers. I rarely enjoy these types of scenarios in any game, and it’s not fun here either.
Unlike in Metroid games (except Other M), Ghost has a personality and talks frequently with Jacker, the overweight computer nerd hacker and Boogan, the cool Samuel L. Jackson-inspired roboticist. There is a lot of silly and snarky dialogue between the three, and the game pokes a lot of fun at itself. However the story that unravels is fairly predictable and unmemorable. I was more excited to unlock new areas and purchase weapon upgrades, than closely follow the storyline.
Where the game stumbles greatly is in its environmental ambiance. Super Metroid is great for hundreds of reasons, but what stood out to me the most is its gorgeous atmosphere. Each zone has its charms and is memorable and unique. The entire adventure is magical because of this. In Ghost 1.0, there is little of that. Most of the rooms in the Space Station are repetitive and uninspiring. Without a map, you’d never figure out where you’ve been, as nothing really stands out. The common enemies, as well as Ghost are rather small on the screen and lack any great detail or imagination. Even the bosses failed to impress me. All of the eeriness and isolation that Metroid inhabits is absent from Ghost 1.0.
However, I was pleased with the soundtrack. The high-energy rock music is a perfect fit for the Sci-Fi theme, although it can’t compete with the score found in Super Metroid. The animation during the cut scenes looked nice, certainly more fun than the dull Space Station. I was satisfied with the voice acting and that helped shape the three main characters. The controls take a lot to get used to. I tried the default method for a while, but jumping with ZL proved to be too difficult for me. Luckily you can easily change the layout in the options screen.
There are multiple modes to choose from. I played on the recommended Classic, which plays in a traditional fashion; enemies get harder as you progress. In Survival mode you obtain special items quicker and become stronger faster, but the enemies are all harder and you lose everything when you die. There are 3 modes of difficulty to choose from as well. Finally there’s a bonus Mission Mode, which features short individual missions to complete.
I had an all right time with Ghost 1.0, but overall the game is rather generic and fails to do anything truly special in comparison to its contemporaries. Boring environments, average story, and dull villains really hold this game back from becoming a classic. The enemy trap rooms could be overwhelming and the Ghost mode didn’t add much to the game. However, I really enjoyed the weapon upgrades, soundtrack, and exploration. The characters and humor worked pretty well, making it come across as a lighter Metroid-style game. This is an above-average game that is easy to learn, and can provide several hours of fun, however there are just too many similar games that offer much better overall experiences.
Ghost 1.0 was reviewed using a final retail Nintendo Switch download code provided by the publisher.
Aaron got his NES in 1991 and has loved and collected video games ever since. In addition to gaming, he enjoys Stephen King novels, Twins Baseball, and his cats.