From The Haunted Hymnal: Ghost Song

I could describe Ghost Song as a Soulsian roguelike Metroidvania but only if I wanted to eliminate the people reading this post with a trio of surgically precise strikes. Instead, I’ll describe the game as an exploration-based 2d platformer set on a mysterious planet filled with weird horrors. We scrutinised a great wodge of footage back in April and for eight minutes or so it seemed like typical fayre, attractively presented. The twist in the tale was positively porcine, however, and the final minute of the video showed a fight with a deranged robot butler. It was preposterous and unnerving, like a boisterous opera singer in a wind tunnel. The new video below is in the same style – jumping, shooting, rolling, double jumping, and then, around the 6.30 mark, beautifully sinister synths and…eek.

Something ‘orrible is happening there and no mistake but I couldn’t tell you exactly what it is. That’s the way I like it. If I had my way, every game would be packed with the sort of spooky mysteries that make the entire run of Scooby Doo (13 Ghosts included) seem almost comical in comparison. The original Metroid contains an unmasking scene to rival anything that those meddling kids ever discovered, of course, hidden where only the most dedicated players would find it (and now on Youtube).

Ghost Song seems more likely to reveal that the player character is in fact a figment of the dream of a dead alien, or the mangled circuit-spew of a droid suffering from some digital disease. The journey toward whatever grim conclusion awaits should be a good one though, with a large area to explore, more than half of which is optional thanks to freedom of exploration.

It’ll be a perilous journey though.

…the combat encounters were balanced around the core controls and mechanics of the player, which are characterized by a high degree of speed and evasiveness (as you’ll see demonstrated in this video). The player cannot sustain a lot of hits, particularly if those hits are made in quick succession (if your armor/stam bar is above half, your health won’t go below 1, protecting you from ever having a single hit kill you). You must learn to quickly manage your resources in real time, and take advantage of your dash moves in particular in order to avoid being hit. This may sound daunting when described, but once you start playing it — if you don’t mind my saying so — it just feels right. I have a high degree of confidence at this point in the basic gameplay mechanics and controls.

Backers of the Kickstarter campaign should be receiving a playable demo in the near future and the game is seeking votes on Greenlight.

11 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    SuddenSight says:

    I initially read the first word as “Seussian” and now I am oddly disappointed.

  2. Premium User Badge

    Harlander says:

    Well, yeah, you’d have lost me at “Soulsian” – not because of dislike of the term, but because it probably means the game under discussion will be too flippin’ hard.

  3. Kefren says:

    Lovely use of colour, sound effects and music, it really pulls me in.
    (I’m a double-jump disliker, but for now the positives outweigh my prejudice).

  4. thebigJ_A says:

    What an odd thing to dislike.

    Anyway you’re fine. That was at least a triple jump.

    • Kefren says:

      We all have our little quirks. I see people double jumping in thin air in a game, and (unless there are jet boots involved) it feels like a cheat. Air is not substantial enough to jump off. I can suspend disbelief about lots of things, but that just strikes me as bizarre.

  5. marano says:

    It’s a blatant copy of Metroid. I understand why a developer would want to carbon-copy the best game of all time. Personally, I dislike cheap knock-offs and will therefore never support developers who disgrace genius originals the way these guys have.

    Shame on them.

    • Kefren says:

      Is it really copying Metroid? I’ve never played Nintendo games so am unqualified to comment on that accusation, but I grew up playing side-on platform shooting games on the Amiga, Turrican etc, and this just reminds me a bit of those. It was just a genre, like FPS, rather than being based on a single game.

      • lumenadducere says:

        It’s very similar, yes. Metroid isn’t just a side-scrolling shooter, it’s got a lot of exploration elements and uncovering the map, searching for hidden secrets, etc. There’s also power progression in terms of finding new abilities and upgrades in hidden areas of the map as well, and those upgrades let you explore further to find more stuff. All contained within a side-scrolling, shooting perspective. This game not only very evidently has those exploration elements, but some of the signature moves are also directly taken. The spinning jump thing, for example, is almost lifted directly from Metroid. Even a lot of the art assets seem to draw from the franchise.

        That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but there’s a fine line between “inspired by” and “clone” that this game seems to come near crossing. Of course, this is all based on just that trailer, and I’m sure there are some gameplay differences in the actual game – or at least I hope there is. But just on first glance it doesn’t seem like it, barring the difficulty…which is also a tricky thing to get right. “Soulsian” difficulty is a lot of balance work and it can easily cross over into feeling unfair and cheap if devs don’t fine-tune it correctly. I don’t want to be overly negative on the game, as it does look nice. But it looks nice as a Metroid fan who wishes Nintendo focused more on that franchise rather than endless variations of Mario, not so much from the perspective of someone who wants something genuinely new.

        • marano says:

          This reply was spot on and provided plenty arguments to support my initial statement, even if I was too lazy to provide them myself. Thanks Lumen.

          As for green frog; Lumen described it very accurately. There’s a huge difference between ‘being inspired by’ and blatantly copying. It doesn’t just LOOK like Metroid in every aesthetic aspect, key (signature) moves are literally copied, the map (and acquisition of map fragments) looks exactly the same, textures seem to be copied, the beam of light following ‘fake-Samus’ etc…

          At one point I expected the main character to morph into a sphere and roll through the gap.

    • green frog says:

      You’re getting upset over this? I’ll grant you, the Metroid influence is powerful here, but every game is inspired by what came before. Metroidvanias are an entire genre now. So in your book, is no one allowed to make a sci-fi Metroidvania because Nintendo did it first? That’s silly. And I’m saying that as a proud Nintendo fan myself.

  6. Geebs says:

    Does the game adequately explain why the protagonist is RoboCop-at-the-hairdresser’s?