Challenging, frustrating, and addicting; these are the three words that would perfectly describe Star Ghost, an old-school styled experience that will undoubtedly keep you hooked on your Switch for a long time. Star Ghost is deceptive. Looking at the game, I immediately thought of Graceful Explosion Machine and assumed that I would be controlling the ship while taking down legions of enemies. While you do in fact, destroy countless swarms of ships and alien creatures, gameplay is surprisingly restrictive.
In Star Ghost, you only use two buttons: A and the left analog stick. Using the “A” button will allow you to propel your ship in an upward direction. Moving the stick up or down will change the angle in which your gun fires bullets. Movement feels reminiscent of Flappy Bird while firing projectiles is automatic. You just need to worry about aiming correctly and dodging obstacles that will destroy your ship rather quickly.
Star Ghost is a relentless experience. I played for around 13 hours, and I don’t think that I even cracked the surface in terms of levels. I made it through five galaxies. Each galaxy adds an additional sector. For example, the first galaxy has three sectors; the second has four sectors, and so on. This means that by the time I made it to the fifth galaxy, I completed at least 18 levels. This wouldn’t be so difficult if it weren’t for the fact that there are no checkpoints whatsoever. You read that correctly; there is no way to save your game. If you die, it’s back to galaxy one.
This is why I didn’t make it to the end of the game, but that’s a positive. After every death, I would immediately start playing again. I wanted to try and beat my record. Star Ghost is fun despite its minimal gameplay and tough difficulty. The goal of each level is to make it to the end of the sector. There will be ships and creatures that must be defeated on the way there. Star Ghost is essentially an on-rails experience. Killing an enemy can leave power-ups and currency behind for you to pick up. Yellow power-ups increase your projectile spread, green improves your rate of fire, white recharges your health, purple expands your traction distance, and teal is currency, which you use to purchase power-ups at the end of a level.
Purchasing items at the end of a level is strategic in its own way. You can only use your currency for one item per level. Do you improve your firing speed or recover some health? Do you skip purchasing something after a particular level? What you do can heavily affect the next level. Each sector is randomly generated, so there is no way to know what you’re up against. Saving currency can be highly beneficial for one big reason. If you die and have amassed at least 50 pieces of currency, you can purchase an additional life. Doing this will start you at the beginning of the same sector for a chance at redemption. After 10 hours with the game, I realize my preference was to pool my currency. Since the levels are always random, I often found myself purchasing power-ups, only to come across them immediately at the start of the next sector, effectively making my purchase redundant.
Visually, the neon color palette is appealing to look at, and it occasionally becomes flashy. It’s a simple, yet, effective approach to a visual style that pays off wonderfully. Technically, there wasn’t any instance of lag or slowdown. The framerate was solid, while the overall experience was fast-paced and hectic.
In terms of negatives, the difficulty in Star Ghost can be off-putting to some people. The lack of a save system is a blessing and a curse. It makes Star Ghost a wonderful pick up and play game, but if you’re having a great session and your battery starts to die while traveling, losing your progress because of a dead battery would be terrible.
Star Ghost is a game that I started to appreciate over time. During the first two hours, I became aggravated with the game’s on-rails approach, excruciating difficulty, and lack of checkpoints. All of that changed after its addictive nature made itself visible to me. 11 hours later and I’ve finding Star Ghost difficult to put down. The gameplay is engaging, the visuals are appealing, and just when I think that I’ve figured out the keys to success, the game throws me for a loop. I’m not sure how long it will take me to finally clear all 12 galaxies, but I know that I’ll be playing Star Ghost on my Switch for a long time. It’s an indie treat that will not only please fans of old-school video games, but also those who want a rewarding challenge.