Highly challenging retro-stylised games appear to be in fashion right now. With the likes of The Skylia Prophecy and Carnage in Space: Ignition prided themselves on using rudimentary control systems to give the player a hard time. Ghost Sweeper is also one such title. However, this time it’s not a simple case of moving left-to-right and timing your attacks wisely.
Ghost Sweeper is just as concerned with mental challenge as it is a dextrous one. The level design is typically limited to one-or-two screen widths. The basic objective is to collect a key to open the exit, then make your way to said exit. There’s also coins and jewels to collect, and of course enemies to avoid. However, it’s not as simple as it sounds.
The game plays out like a modernised Solomon’s Key. If you’re aware of the retro classic you surely will know what you’re in for, except of course Ghost Sweeper offers vastly improved visuals and eight differently themed zones. Also, the game features two unique characters each with a different weapon for combating the cartoony ghouls and zombies.
For the uninitiated, Ghost Sweeper challenges you to place blocks to plot your own path through the level. Existing pathways will invariably be covered in hazards that must be avoided and enemies that move on predetermined paths. All of this is easy enough to see, analyse and plan a way through. However, the execution is tricky thanks to Ghost Sweeper‘s intentionally slow response time. The player must be very exact with any input commands and often make their timing pixel perfect. Failure means restarting a level from scratch.
And Ghost Sweeper certainly provides plenty of levels. The eight aforementioned zones expand into dozens of levels when you’re clued-in enough to begin hunting the golden keys for secret exits. By the time you reach the second zone you’ll know whether or not you’re going to be able to tackle the hardest challenges in the game, as Ghost Sweeper doesn’t hold back with it’s difficulty curve. Every level is a significant jump from its predecessor. You’re either going to get ‘one more go’ syndrome, or find yourself throwing your controller in frustration.
That essentially is what Ghost Sweeper is all about. If you’re looking to put your 1980’s gaming prowess to the test this is certainly a good place to do it. However, if you’re simply between the latest FPS blockbusters and looking for something to tide you over for a few days, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere. The fact that Ghost Sweeper‘s ‘tutorial’ is merely a page displaying the controller mapping should be enough to tell you that this isn’t a game about handholding and checkpoints. It’s a game about obvious challenges, with less than obvious solutions.