Ghost Song

released on Nov 03, 2022

On the desolate moon of Lorian V, a long-dormant Deadsuit awakens from slumber. Journey beneath the surface on an atmospheric 2D adventure of self-discovery, ancient mysteries, and cosmic terror. Explore winding caverns and acquire new abilities to unearth this alien world’s long-buried secrets.

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Great atmosphere and soundtrack, but I think it came out a few years too late. If this was released in a world before Hollow Knight and Metroid Dread it would have actually made an impact. As is, it does nothing new, it is too similar to what came before and does not do anything better than its inspirations.
Additionally, the Switch version is filled with technical problems that usually do not bother me much, but here are very severe. The input lag specially, makes some of the more dificult encounters very very frustrating.

Ghost Song is an okay Metroidvania with a Soulsborne death and bonfire mechanic. The platforming is fine, the combat is shallow but serviceable, and the story is almost nonexistant.

True to Metroid, the map opens up as you collect new weapons or abilities like double jump, wall jump, rockets, etc. Your goal is to collect engine parts for a ship you won't even escape the dangerous moon on. The crew of this ship will have multiple boring conversations with you revealing the smallest fractions of a personality per person. If you work annoyingly hard, or be smarter than me and just find the quadruple jump before attempting it, you can find a secret location that changes very little of the ending. When the credits roll, you'll sigh and move on to some other game.

Ghost Song is just really forgettable. It's monotonous and it's emptiness is intentional which makes me angry knowing they liked it feeling like a void. To make this void worse, there aren't enough fast travel locations, so if you think you forgot something (good luck with the map, where you cannot zoom in very far and no location is named unless you are already in it) somewhere, you're in for a trek that feels needlessly arduous.

The combat is pretty easy, with very few exceptions, and the punishment for dying isn't so bad. A bit of semi-permanent damage is done, capping your health a few percents until you go to one of those rare fast travel locations and repair it for a very cheap price. Though it only happened once, I believe there is a punishment for dying before collecting your remains, and I believe that's you losing a Suit Level. I'm not certain about this, however, and I do not really care (and neither should you).

Not worth your money. Needed more time and energy.

A haunting sci-fi take on Hollow Knight’s dark souls-inspired metroidvania. It’s not quite as well-crafted as HK and stubbornly avoids a lot of quality-of-life stuff that Souls games have added in the past ten years (overly restricted fast travel between “bonfires” and bosses placed far from any nearby “bonfire” being the main offenders) but it’s still a pretty good time. The calm guitar soundtrack and seemingly hand-drawn art set a moody, alien tone, and the NPC stories are surprisingly substantial, although in early Souls style, it’s easy to screw up a quest chain with no remedy if you don’t use a guide (I didn’t and couldn’t finish one in particular).

There's potential here, but the game design is just a mess of concepts that essentially amount to "let's be different for the sake of being different" without regard for how the design impedes fun or potential fun.
-- Like walking/running and aiming? Not in this game. Hold a button to stand still and aim and hope you're not shaky with your analog stick, because weak spots receive more damage.
-- If you use your gun for too long, it overheats and your range and amount of damage output decrease. The tradeoff is that whatever melee weapon you have deals extra damage during this time. This will last for a limited time before the weapon cools down and you're back to firing your gun for damage again. What about enemies that excel at ranged attacks or proximity attacks? What about enemies that are strong against one type of attack and not the other? Answer: if they exist, too bad, suck it up and waste time using the other weapon form.
-- On one hand, I want to praise the exploration that the game allows for, since there's a lot of winding paths that loop back on each other but plenty of nooks and crannies to go for. On the other, the map doesn't even list legitimate passages in a number of places and gating is based on abilities you find in random places that aren't necessarily obvious.
-- Although I don't care much about signposting, this game is terrible about it outside of when you first accept the main quest of the game and are given five general directions to go in. You are advised to take on a certain one first, but you can theoretically reach each of the other ones if you just wander around aimlessly and find all the necessary gated abilities for a given area.
-- I don't mind that the Souls system is present (they even define your level as "SL #" after the Souls system) and I don't mind the modules that essentially feel like the charm system from Hollow Knight. If something works, why not borrow it and find a way to logically incorporate it into your game. We don't ask car manufacturers to find alternatives for wheels or side-view mirrors, so I don't see the problem in devs working with something that's a functional system.
-- The missile subweapon is just so much more appealing than any other one I found, especially once you're used to miserably standing still while aiming. It's also considered a gated ability needed for progression, so it feels like it's mandatory to have it at the ready anyway.
-- The real sadness for this game is in the main quest to retrieve some stuff and bring it back to a base. For what I can only assume are story-based reasons, you cannot fast travel from the location where you acquire one of the vital parts. You have to trudge back a good 20-30 minutes to the base because...because. You also can't opt to go hunt down another part because the game explicitly tells you as much -- if you beat a boss and grab a part, you're stuck with the part and the long walk back and you just have to shrug your shoulders and suck up doing a pointlessly long walk for...reasons.
The lattermost point I listed above REALLY took me out of the game. I don't want to spend an extra 2-3 hours of walking back to base just to satisfy some random dev need. It doesn't bring me joy, it doesn't keep me invested -- I'd just rather be doing anything else. It's great that you added in some new monsters on the way back; still not interested.
I found two bosses before giving up and the second one seemed like it could be fun to try and figure out, but after getting through the first boss on the first try, my interest in knowing I'm stuck with four more walks back is zero, I'm done. At least the MC has an appealing personality I can get behind.

I first backed Ghost Song on kickstarter back in about 2013, a one man project. Back then it looked like a unique Metroid like game with a cool artstyle, fast forward a decade and Ghost Song finally was finished and released into a world that has had countless Metroid like games released in that time. Ghost Song went through some revisions in this development, none bigger than the influences that came from Hollow Knight, if you are going to borrow something borrow from the best. What happened though is Ghost Song doesn’t feel like it has a unique premise, instead it’s an amalgamation of various Metroidvania tropes.
Ghost Song has you play as a sort of robot/humanoid being that crash lands onto a dying planet that has sucked in other ships, stranding other groups of humans and aliens. Like Hollow Knight and its inspiration Dark Souls, the story is told in a second hand manner. You learn the back story of why the planet is filled with aggressive alien life forms by speaking to the various NPCs that litter the world. You learn a bit about each character but there aren’t really much of any side quests, maybe one or two and like souls games they are more suggestions than quests. There are no markers of logs, you just find NPCs in different areas as you explore. Ultimately the story is ok, I came to like “blue” as you are so called and enjoyed some of the banter with the group of survivors you come across. But exciting this story is not, and that can be detrimental to the game when there are no real highs.
As Blue you explore a desolate alien landscape and learn new skills to access more areas, you get the idea. Like hollow knight the game has a “souls” mechanic where if you die you lose the gel you use to level up, run back to your corpse to gain the lost gel. You can spend the gel at specific save points to level up different aspects of your suit.
Not sure if melee was always going to be a major focus on the combat before Hollow Knight but clearly it went in that direction as melee attacks are a large part of combat. The standard Metroid like blaster has really short range and overheats quickly slowing down the fire to a trickle. The overheating has a secondary effect, it makes your melee attack be more powerful. Your melee attacks are tied to a stamina bar that lowers when dashing or running as well. A third meter governs a special attack (think Metroid missiles) which can be customized by one of the many different attacks you find. The combat system strikes a nice balance where you are switching from one kind of attack to another as one feeds the other. Combined with the dash which gives invincibility frames the game gives plenty of options for combat.
I also like the variety in melee weapons; it starts simple with a spear but later weapons can be a giant mechanical fist or a huge disc you can launch. Sub weapons have even more options, not all great, but some that send little goo monsters that attack on their own are helpful, in the end I mostly just stuck with the classic missiles. Like Hollow Knight there are a load of mods that can be applied to give different perks. One can increase melee damage you give but also how much you take. Some give boosts in strength, in life, in luck. Some can add effects to your dash and so on. I did not find them all, the game seems to have plenty of secrets but the map is awful at telling you where they are cause it marks nothing for you, instead you have to leave markers but even then the game doesn’t tell you where potential secrets are like Metroid does.
Everything I described above works well and it’s clearly borrowed from Hollow Knight and that’s fine. The issue is the application of those mechanics, how is the game world and enemies? Well not great, simply put Ghost Song has a boring world that’s not fun to explore and pretty simplistic enemies that don’t pose much of a challenge nor lead to any exciting fights. So many of the enemies are just small creatures that simply run at you, or float at you and they take almost no skill to take down. Then there are the more humanoid monsters that are like zombies, they just stand around until they spot you then just charge, so you can simply dash past them as they come. Their large life bars and the few occasions when they bunch up is the only reason I died in this game outside of the bosses.
Speaking of bosses, these fair better than the standard enemies but there is nothing that memorable. At least bosses have projectiles requiring more jumping and dodging. One memorable one is this scary screaming female thing that seems more Resident Evil creature and sort of just lands from the sky into different rooms as you explore. Most of them are basic bosses with identifiable patterns, I beat them all rather easily. I do like that there seems to be quite a few optional bosses, I might have even missed one or two. I am always for good secrets but again in this game they might be too hidden.
The main goal of the game is to collect ship parts and return them to the hub. In one of the worst ideas I’ve seen in a modern Metroid game, for some damn reason every time you find a ship part deep in the world you have to bring it all the way back to the hub and you can’t warp. I don’t know why the developer thought this would be a fun mechanic, whether he wanted to pad for time. It’s one thing if the trip back takes you to new locations or have unique new events happen, but outside a few new enemies getting in your way, you just traverse the same path you took. A complete waste of time. This happens four or five times, I don’t get it. The best part of Metroid games is going deeper and deeper into the game world, occasionally finding shortcuts that connect it all together. The pacing of a Metroid game works when you have constant discovery, forcing backtracking that adds nothing to the game completely destroys that flow.
The graphics are very nice with a artstyle that pops with bright colors and well animated sprites. I don’t think the world is all that interesting, it feels like it’s all bland tunnels, it all starts to blend together. Nothing stood out about the music either, I can’t recall any track. It takes a good 10 hour to beat with maybe 5 more hours to really find everything, it didn’t over stay it’s welcome and felt satisfying in terms of length.
Ghost Song feels good to play, it’s a solid Metroidvania with Hollow Knight influence that hits all the notes you expect. It just doesn’t excel at any one area and has some really annoying design decisions. It’s a shame cause I think there is a base for a really great game, all the elements are there. It’s a fine game but if you are looking for a Metroidvania to play there is plenty better out there.
Score: 6

Seems okay, but nothing in it really hooked me. The movement speed was a little too slow for my liking, with a lot of trekking around unnecessarily large rooms of nothing back and forth.
Shelving it, for now, but I might revisit it at some point. Right now, I have no motivation to keep going with this.