Today we’re taking a look at a super-special indie game from Squarehead Studios. It released Star Ghost last week for Nintendo’s Wii U and it’s the first indie title from the developer – nothing unusual there, except for the chequered history of the developer’s main man Rhys Lewis and the influential dude behind its soundtrack.
Mr. Lewis is the talented gentleman who once worked for Rare and then the almighty Retro Studio as the A.I. lead (this probably means something important). Retro Studios is one of the quieter developers in the games industry and so doesn’t receive the colossal plaudits it fully deserves for creating masterpieces such as Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze and the Metroid Prime Trilogy (a real landmark in gaming history). Regardless, when one of its staff heads out to create innovative new titles, Professional Moron is there to promote the SOB. Yeah!
Here we have a side-scrolling space shooter which is reminiscent of classics such as Life Force and Grandia on the NES. The plot is basic (exactly how we like it – no arsing about with godawful scripts and 10 minute cut scenes, you’re straight into the game): you’re there to save the galaxy from “the Metagons” which is an excuse to craft a fiendishly addictive, subtly complex shoot-em-up for the Wii U.
With a level generation tool and a David Wise soundtrack (as in, the guy behind some of the world’s best video game soundtracks), it’s not your average space shooter. It’s kind of a like an endless runner game like Bit Trip: Runner 2 in that you don’t control too much in the game.
You hold the A button to drift up and down, but bullets are fired for you (highly unusual for a shooting game). The spaceship controls are, in fact, the same as the fiendishly difficult rocket sections from DKC: Tropical Freeze, just with toned down difficulty. If you’ve played this game you, consequently, get a bit of an advantage. It’s not cheating, but it’s not fair either.
What we essentially have here is a borderline strategy and management game where you must manage the power-ups you gather intelligently – you’re forced to plot ahead, reserve your ammo, and breakdance to the music. Let’s not mess about here – this is a David Wise soundtrack (the Mozart of the games industry) and he’s crafted a typically compelling piece of music which harks back to his work on something such as Donkey Kong Country 2.
Star Ghost is a stripped down and conniving fiend which is extremely addictive, challenging, and a highly enjoyable debut. Almost above these achievements as a fun and charming indie title, it goes some way to prove that massive budget AAA titles with all their pomposity and intricate plot machinations offer little, to no, gameplay superiority over smaller budget efforts.
It isn’t isn’t perfect. There’s currently no online leaderboard, which is disappointing for a game so heavily dependent on bettering your best score. There’s also, currently, no ability for players to post images from within the game to the Wii U’s Miiverse. These aren’t horrifying flaws, but it would be enjoyable to share one’s fondness for the game with other fans.
Star Ghost is also not going to change the gaming landscape, but what it does do is supply a pretty gosh-darned thrilling little shoot-em-up which only costs £8, is a total (*COUGH* *RETCH*) blast to play, and stands as a testament to just how vitally important indie titles are to the games industry. More of this type of stuff, please.