Rarely do games created by a lone developer excel at being pretty, well written, and functional. Often lone developers can excel either at creating a beautiful game that has limited gameplay options due to coding limitations or you have a game that is exceptional and physics based to the most minute detail but uses basic art assets that could be googled on a budget. And somehow both potential scenarios manage to end up with some awful, cringe inducing storytelling. Francisco Téllez de Meneses, better known as @unepic_fran, has somehow managed to overcome these struggles to create a game that hits all three notes beautifully.
Set in a futuristic world ripped straight out of any standard issue science fiction novel, Ghost 1.0 has players take over the titular Ghost, a robotic mercenary who has been hired by “Operation Chiefs” – stereotypically hacker nerd Jacker and Boogan the engineer. Ghost has been turned loose aboard Nakamura space station with the intent to take control of the servers that control a type of robot known as Nakas. The Nakas are typically used as servants, and maintain a human like appearance. The twist here is that Ghost’s very own robotic shell is a modified form of the Nakas that Jacker and Boogan wish to gain control of.
The benefit to Ghost’s shell being similar to that of the Nakas is that players can make use of the 3D printers scattered around the space station and use them as save and repair points or as a fast travel teleporter. If ghost’s robotic body is destroyed, a new one is simply printed at the 3D printer of your choosing, and then Ghost’s non-corporeal form can then inhabit it and carry on. As clever as this mechanic is for explaining away the save system, it does come with some drawbacks. The 3D printers are fairly far spaced out in some sections, which can be problematic if you’ve made a lot of progress but do not have the means to heal yourself before getting to another save point or backtracking to a previous one for repair. Ghost 1.0 is intended to be played as a roguelite, and even when permadeath is disabled the risk death is particularly punishing resulting in losing some of the mods that have been purchased for Ghost. Any progress toward your mission or electric cubes (the in game currency), is also lost from the time of your last save. Unfortunately it felt as if it most deaths were right outside of the door to a new 3D printer, leaving no choice but to rehash finding materials for certain missions multiple times before finally being able to move on without dying.
Ghost 1.0’s primary gameplay focuses on platforming your way through the space station, crossing from one to the next in order to piece together color coded key cards and unlock the next section to progress the story. From time to time Ghost will across rooms that have an alarm system in place. Tripping the alarm sets the room on lock down, barricading the door and resulting in the spawning of waves of enemies. The number and type of enemies that players can expect to encounter in a room are indicated by the room’s security level. Level 1 rooms are obviously the easiest to tackle, but the security does go as high as level 15 which can be quite hectic. Ghost is armed primarily with a plasma pistol that, fortunately, has an unlimited supply of ammunition. This ammo does come with a slight reload delay, though, but taking a few seconds to dodge enemies is usually sufficient enough to allow for the clip to refill. Secondary weapons such as shotguns can be purchased from shops using cubes, and they too follow the unlimited ammo model, though the more powerful the weapon the slower the reload time. The combat sequences found in alarm rooms and during boss battles are only half of the story, though. Ghost 1.0 supplements its slower platforming and exploratory moments with simple puzzles, allowing players to exit Ghost’s Naka chassis in order to possess hostile robots. Once possessed, players can control enemy robots for a variety of purposes, such as using upgraded weapons to take out larger hordes of enemies or solving simple puzzles to allow Ghost to reach otherwise inaccessible areas.
In addition to the roguelite action platforming gameplay, Ghost 1.0 also throws in some RPG elements just for good measure. Ghost has over 200 different augmentations available to her in the world. Some are unlocked by collecting spirits floating around in some of the rooms, while others can be purchased in shops or serve as rewards for defeating bosses. Many of the upgrades are passive, simply sitting in Ghost’s inventory and working their magic behind the scenes. Some, however, are active and these are the powerups that proved to be the most frustrating. Active power ups have limited usage. One, for example, gives Ghost a health boost of 10 points over the course of 1 second. It’s the most minor of health boosts imaginable but its made even more useless by having a 1 time use limit. If you’d like to keep a power up and use it again then you’re going to need to head to a store and use cubes to purchase another charge for it. The number of times you can use a power up can only be increased by picking up more power ups of the same type. Another RPG element that sneaks in is the occasional ability point. These skill points can be spent to unlock special boost not just Ghost’s chassis, but also Ghost’s spirit form, Jacker, and even Boogan. These additional abilities include but are not limited to adding a double jump, allowing Ghost to interact with cubes as a spirit, or allowing Jacker to hack hostile robots to assist you during alarm sequences.
While the science fiction inspired setting of a futuristic space station full of robots lends itself to an environment that would otherwise be cold and sterile, Ghost 1.0 still manages to be visually striking with an intense amount of attention on the details. The game is fairly accessible to most players, as there are three difficulty settings to choose from in addition to being able to decide if you want to play with the roguelite elements in effect or not. Unfortunately, it can feel like game lacks a cohesive upgrade system because of the multiple weapons, perks, augmentations, power ups, and skills that can be purchased or obtained in a multitude of ways. The ability to teleport between save spots is a welcome addition to the Metroidvania aspects of the gaming, making backtracking and revisiting areas far less of a hassle then it would be if you had to actually hoof it across the giant space station. In all, Ghost 1.0 pans out to be a fairly even, enjoyable experience that is easy on the eyes, with a story that is well written and humorous.