Thursday, March 10, 2016

Star Ghost for Wii U eShop Review - Nintendo Love Affair

Star Ghost challenges the player to patrol 12 rendered star systems, navigating the fragments of exploding planets, surviving intense asteroid fields and dogfighting deadly Sentinel ships in an attempt to save the galaxy from the Metagon empire.

Review copy provided by Squarehead Studios, an independent game developer founded in 2014 by former Nintendo developer, Rhys Lewis.

Playing Star Ghost is simple enough.  The ship moves through the level on its own and you use the A button to propel it up the screen.  Quick taps keep the ship going in a straight line while a long press rockets the ship upwards.  If A is not pressed the ship will fall towards the bottom of the screen.  The left control stick is used to direct cannon fire and activate the traction beam.  

As Squarehead Studios stated it was their goal to “evolve the arcade shooting genre”.  They certainly do flip the control scheme on its head.   The ship will automatically fire straight ahead freeing up the player to maneuver around rocks and pillars while also aiming the cannon. Although you cannot control the rate of fire, you are able to aim up or down at a 45 degree angle using the left joystick.  This control scheme is what keeps Star Ghost from being just another arcade shooter, refocusing the player on maneuverability and timing rather than just blasting your way through the level.

While playing Star Ghost you will collect energy orbs that act as currency and power up orbs that increase the ship’s rate of fire and spread.  There are power ups that increase the ship’s shield (health) as well.  You can physically collect the orbs or use “traction” to suck them in, which is activated with the left control stick. This ability is also something you can improve with power ups, enlarging the range your ship’s traction has.  

While you work through the levels you are rewarded for the number of kills, pickups made, and how much of your shield is left by the end of the level.  Rack up points and make it on the leader board.  When you do reach the end of a level you must guide the ship in for a landing. Do it well and receive bonus currency.

Rather than granting the player permanent power ups, in Star Ghost each power up level expires after a certain amount of time adding a nice frenetic aspect to gameplay.  At the end of each level you will ask yourself, “Do I save, or spend on more power ups?”  Keeping the arcade spirit alive, when you die in Star Ghost you are sent back to the beginning of the game.  That is, unless you’ve saved your currency to restart from where you died.  Decisions, decisions.

The Good
Great look and sound

Simple controls and engaging game play

Jump immediately into the game, perfect for short bursts of action

Well balanced learning curve through the first two sectors

All hell breaks loose in Sector 3 and it is awesome

High score leaderboards and dynamic level generation keeps you coming back

The Bad
Unique control scheme takes some getting used to

Starting from the beginning after death might be a turnoff

Final Thoughts
Star Ghost is a wonderful first title from Squarehead Studios and is a promising sign of what’s to come.  It is a simple arcade shooter with a unique way to play and keeps you coming back for more.  Randomly generated levels keep the game interesting for quick pickup and play sessions, while high score leaderboards encourage you to get as far as possible.  

As Squarehead Studios’ Rhys Lewis told us in an interview, “I believe that Nintendo fans are the best community in the industry and I’m really grateful for the support that’s been shown for Star Ghost.”  Be sure to pick up this Wii U eShop exclusive on March 10.

*Update* After spending more time with Star Ghost I can honestly say that this is one of the best arcade shooters yet. The control mechanics are unique and solid, the graphics and music are wonderful, and the amount of depth this game has is amazing. As you progress through the game and improve you will learn when to spend on upgrades or when to continue. Viruses can be used to your advantage, but when to use them is important. Activating your shield can also help you in special ways but by doing so you miss out on points. Because of this depth, the game can be played many different ways depending on how you, the player, wants to beat it.

Tell us your thoughts on Star Ghost in the comments below! Also, let Squarehead Studios know what you think @SquareheadStdio

Mark Ball is the editor for Nintendo Love Affair.  He also spends his days teaching and adventuring while refusing to lose his childlike sense of wonder. 

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