Star Ghost is a title set in space that features you piloting your spaceship as you navigate the stars and shoot down any naughty aliens named “Metagons” who are making war with you, the good guy. Being in space is where the Star component of the title came from, I must admit I am not at all sure where the Ghost part comes from though, but lets not focus on that.
Ever since the early days of gaming things have been invading from space like the infamous Space Invaders. The 2D Arcade genre is quite saturated so the question must be asked how does Star Ghost differentiate itself from the competition? That would be found in how the player pilots their spacecraft, whilst not the first to bring forth the idea, in Star Ghost instead of flying in all directions the player finds themselves given the ability to fly up or down, aim where to shoot as the ship fires automatically and finally has use of a traction beam. It’s remarkably simple, but it what makes such an ideal fit for a title that is aimed less at the big screen, but more at the Switch’s portable capabilities.
Starring 12 star systems that are broken up into sections the goal is to shoot down enemies, collect power ups and cash to spend as you head to the end of the section you are in so you may proceed on to the next. At first dodging enemies and taken them out is quite the easy affair, but as you find yourself heading out further into the depths of space the difficulty does start to ramp up and this is where the shop and power ups offer a great deal of help. As you take down enemies they may also drop power ups these range from an increase to you traction beam, fire rate, spread shot and other more powerful add ons like missles and laser cannon. These goodies don’t last forever though as they do run on a timer. You can also purchase items at the end of the section you are in, but it only allows you to purchase one power up at first it doesn’t make much of a difference, but as you progress further making that decision between refilling your health or going for the better fire power can become quite the difficult decision.
All this talk about weapons would be pointless without mentioning what you are shooting at. Just like any 2D Arcade shooter the enemies start off easy and pretty non threatening and then begin to ramp up to becoming somewhat trickier. The game starts of with cannon fodder flying into your cannon, but then develops into targets that cling to walls that fire lasers across the whole screen that must be taken out before you fly straight into it. Every few star systems will then see you being targeted by a “Sentinel” this ship gives chase to you and has you on the defense as you must out maneuver the shots it fires out you and wait till the tables turn and it’s your chance to take a shot at the cheeky alien to score some extra points. The first encounter is pretty easy, but as you progress it does become quite the challenge to escape from the enemy life form.
Aesthetically, Star Ghost is lovely to look at whether on the big screen or on the Switch itself. It’s not a technical masterpiece, but the art style is pleasing, although the designs of the enemies and environments can be somewhat lacking (I suppose making different parts of space look different is quite the creative challenge). The soundtrack is enjoyable as well and fits perfectly with the sci-fi theme, as with your eyes closed it paints the picture of a space adventure.
The combination of these mechanics and design choices make Star Ghost a nice game to play through to aim for a higher score and beat that previous record, but it is not a perfect game so does have some issues. My biggest complaint is found with the pacing of the title as the game can be very tedious at the start as you have no control over the speed you go through the levels so a second or third attempt in one sitting can feel a bit boring for the first few star systems as you mindlessly go through the motions.
My second issue is found with the difficulty, the game does offer a healthy challenge, but suffers from crossing into being a bit unfair with some of the situations you can find yourself. The main offender being the virus you can accidentally pick up with your ship. This power down shuts down all of your weapons for a period of time, for the most part it’s a good idea and ramps up the tension as you must dodge enemies flying towards you, but I did catch the horrible space virus in a section that had enemies you needed to destroy as you couldn’t dodge them and even with full health I couldn’t survive letting them live and simply watched as I flew towards game over. It felt pretty cheap in a game that otherwise offers a nice balanced level of difficulty and nothing is worse then getting a game over in such a manner whilst playing a game that lets you aim for a higher score.
System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: A review code for Star Ghost was provided by Rainy Frog for this Star Ghost review.