I must admit that I’m rather ignorant of the Bullet Hell genre. I knew enough to see it as the obvious reference point for Enter the Gungeon, but I can’t tell you why anyone cares about Ikaruga (which is apparently blasphemy to its fan base). So, if you mainline Bullet Hell games and are looking for a recommendation, you might want to look elsewhere (but still read this, I need the views). For those of you wanting to know if Ghost Blade HD is a good place to break into the genre, here was my experience:
One long stream of “What the fuck just happened?!” (Editor’s Note: Install swear jar widget for William’s reviews.)
There is so much visual clutter on screen that just learning how to make since of it all took me a solid half hour or so. Between all the enemy ships, projectiles, and pickups there is always so much activity on screen that it is genuinely hard to keep up with. The game does about as good as could be expected in distinguishing all of this, but I still often felt overwhelmed by the sheer volume of it all.
Not helping matters is the fact that the game doesn’t establish it’s own rules well; nor does it always seem to follow them. While playing, it often seems like it only takes one hit to destroy your chosen ship, but I regularly saw enemy projectiles passing right over me. Sometimes, after destroying an enemy ship, all of its projectiles turn into score increasing stars, but that was never something I could anticipate. Those pickups could all condense on the player, but other times you have to manually fly over them to pick them up, with no indication as to why. Ultimately, the game needs a tutorial. The training mode allows you to get used to the controls, but the game does nothing to actually teach players how to play the game.
Once I found myself able to keep up with the visual chaos thrown at me, I still wasn’t quite as into Ghost Blade as I had hoped I would be. For example, the player is given three attack options: a spread shot, a focused shot, and a screen clearing bomb. However, I found the focused shot to be the only useful option. It creates a massive beam that does the most damage, so you’re better off just spamming it and moving your ship from side to side. It’s a ludicrously effective, downright overpowered tactic. While I’m not sure that’s the game’s fault, I just wasn’t connecting with it. Although part of me does have to wonder if I would have been able to get more into the game if it was called “Ghost Square Hammer” instead. (Editor’s Note: …eh, I’ll let it pass. It’s a good song.)
What I definitely can say is the game’s fault are its boss battles. The levels do a good job of varying up the enemies and types of projectiles the players face off against, but the bosses all feel fundamentally the same. They are visually impressive, but if given the choice between an interesting looking bosses and interesting encounters, I’d choose the latter every time.
Ghost Blade might not have depressed me as much as Ghost Bath, but in the end I still ended up feeling cold and empty. I’m not sure how much of that was because of the game and how much was because of my taste, but I just did not have a lot of fun with Ghost Blade. I guess it could be worse though. I could have been playing “Ghost Pottery” and have been forced to live thought that Patrick Swayze abomination again.
Ghost Blade HD was developed by Hucast Games.
Point of Sale: Steam (Reviewed), PS4, Xbox One, Wii U
Price: 9.99; I guess the “Ghost Blade” of the title is the one used to carve money out of your bank account. (Editor’s Note: That’s a rather CUTTING remark. Oh dear, it’s spreading…)
A Review Code for Ghost Blade HD was provided by the developer