Ghost Song Review - Ephemeral Fun
Updated: Jul 7
Ghost Song is the debut game of developer Old Moon and comes from Humble Games, who have a remarkably consistent track record of publishing games that look like I'd love them, but end up being disappointing or even outright bad for one reason or another. GS is a metroidvania with clear specific inspirations from games like Metroid and Hollow Knight. It's less of a souls-vania than HK, but it does retain the idea of recovering lost currency from where you last died and limited healing items that recharge at save points.
Let's start with the positives. Ghost Song is full of striking world art that, while not always necessarily beautiful, is by far the game's most distinctive feature. The art gets you interested in some of the biomes even when there's little else to go on, and it's also neat the some of the environments will undergo small changes as you progress through the story. There's nothing as radical as the environmental change from Hollow Knight, but you might find characters or interactive points that weren't there on a previous visit.
I also liked that the "main quest" of Ghost Song can be completed in any order, although the game confusingly strongly suggests you start in one place and then doesn't make any further suggestions. It definitely seems like there is an intended order that the game neither communicates nor expects you to follow. Combat revolves around your energy meter depleting from special attacks and heat building up on your main gun to force you to use melee. It's fun, but by the end you have enough energy and enough heat capacity that melee is almost irrelevant.
Unfortunately, Ghost Song is also held back by a basket of small problems and a couple of bigger ones. Starting with the small issues, it is overly reliant on unskippable voiced lines to tell its story and tends to drop most of this dialogue on you all at once when you deliver one of the core quest items. There's nothing to do while characters are speaking, and you have to talk to them repeatedly until they run out of dialogue like in Dark Souls, so running into a character can sometimes mean several minutes of just standing there waiting for them to finish. This is particularly painful when they don't have anything very interesting to say, which is most of the time.
Other small issues include a lack of enemy variety, sometimes preventing fast travel for no obvious gameplay reason, and stats that don't seem terribly balanced. One only improves gun power, one only improves health and melee damage, and one improves basically all of your stats. The latter seemed like it was nearly always the right choice at level up, particularly since it increases your energy capacity to equip weapons and buffs.
The big issues are twofold: First, the story is a worst-of-all-worlds mix of omnipresent and not terribly interesting. For all the time you spend listening to characters blather on, none of them are memorable and you learn very little about the world. Second, there's a wide-reaching lack of balance beyond just the stats. Boss difficulty ranges wildly and unpredictably from the utterly trivial to one that is actually impossible to beat depending on when you encounter it, and one weapon was so much better than all the others I found that there was no reason to even equip anything else. Since the energy costs of equipping relics and weapons can be quite steep, this lack of balance makes it so that finding new ones isn't exciting since you'll hardly ever actually use them.
Ghost Song has the foundations of a solid metroidvania, but its flaws drag it down to mediocre. I enjoyed most of my time with it, though I doubt I'll remember this game for much of anything in a year.
Time to beat: 9 hours.
MSRP: $19.99, but free on Gamepass