It’s a damn good time to be a shoot-em-up fan thanks to the way games are distributed these days. It’s really good to see as I was a great fan of the shm’up in the days of the Super Nintendo. So there is a new shooter on the block called Ghost Blade. Is this latest entry into the genre an Axeley or Super Aleste Beater or is it a crash landing?
Despite my love of the shoot-em-up I have often wondered how alien technology (or whoever you may be fighting) can create all these space ships, giant robots super frigates that are seemingly indestructible but yet only have blobs of laser as a weapon. Strange. Anyway random wonderings aside, you need to get used to these blobs of laser as the screen is literally filled with them at all times, and if you’re not used to the genre it can all look intimidating as hell.
Thankfully there is a training mode, which allows you to get to grips with the basics and the strategy of using the different types of shot that are available. The main shot is called the scatter shot and fires bullet hell all over the screen, hold Square and this shot will focus into one super shot which is great for the bigger enemies you’ll see. And finally you have the screen-clearing smart bomb which does what you would expect. It also lets you tackle the bosses directly so if you need to practice on one in particular you to learn its ways readying you to take on the big bad in the real game.
The trouble is,for a training mode, there is no actual training or instructions. They may as well just throw you into the main game. Still it’s there if you need it but I didn’t bother with it.
The main game is made up of just 5 levels and if you’re any good at Shmup’s then you can probably clear the game in half hour or so. So it’s very short. What makes things worse is that the levels are kind of bland and the boss’s lack an real imagination in their design so it makes the high score challenges that these kind of games are famous for kind of hard to get excited about.
However, The gameplay itself is real tight which makes playing the game a lot of fun. The difficulty progression is spot on, so even though you may get past the first level with relative ease the subsequent levels ramps up the chaos bit by bit and as a result you can expect to die a lot. Thankfully this never really becomes frustrating, because you know why you’re dying, you know what you did wrong and with another go you’ll nail it. There is some trial and error involved but it’s not as bad as it sounds as the levels are fairly short. This is a good thing due to there being so much going on on-screen that it’s hard to find the time to formulate any kind of strategy. More often then not I resulted in using brute force rather than dancing my way around the level utilizing the various shot types to their fullest potential
The whole game has a great old retro vibe going on. The pixel are graphics are straight form a Neo-Geo and the electronic heavy soundtrack compliments them perfectly. Hell you’re even given three credits for your game just like an old arcade, and when those credits are all used up, it’s back to the start for you my boy (or girl).
If the bosses and level design had a bit more flare and imagination, and the game had at least a little bit of story between levels to give you a chance to catch your breath and to give you something to invest in, then I might have been tempted to boot it up over and over, but there just seems little incentive to do so. Although the three difficulty levels offer a perfect challenge from never feeling out-gunned to a level never feeling insurmountable, and with a nice little multiplayer mode and a decent price tag there is a glimmer of something that could make you come back for more.
Ghost Blade has all the makings of a great shooter, it just lacks that special something in few major areas that makes it fail to live up to its potential.
Ghost Blade is available now on PC, Xbox One, Wii U and PS4 (reviewed) for £7.32
Developer: Hucast Games
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided a copy of the game.