Ghost 1.0 is the second Metroidvania made by Spanish developer Franfistro (Francisco Téllez de Meneses), after sleeper hit UnEpic. Unlike that one, it is not based on pen-and-paper RPGs and fantasy properties, instead on popular cyberpunk stories like Ghost in the Shell.
Many elements are common to both games though, such as allocating experience points to unlock buffs/abilities or environmental changes, sprawling color-coded maps, an expansive inventory, a similar graphic style, keyboard+mouse controls, absurdly difficult post-game missions and mini-games, tons of geeky references and a wacky sense of humor. The customization of the player’s stats is not as thorough or complex as it was in UnEpic, however Ghost 1.0 is more interested in telling a story, as this time there are several cut-scenes rendered in an anime style (another homage to 80s and 90s cyberpunk, heavily influenced by Japan’s culture) that unfold the plot. It is about Ghost, a sentient AI (or so it seems) that can possess with its “virtual ghost” every robot from lowly workers to war machines, that gets employed by two nerdy hackers to investigate the Nakamura space station mass-producing the super-advanced Naka androids.
The story is not particularly original, mostly paying homage to everything sci-fi from Robocop to StarCraft and Blade Runner, still with a couple nice twists here and there; more important is the focus on the “possessing” mechanic which is used to fight (Ghost has no offensive abilities of her own), to get around stealthily and to solve puzzles (mainly in the form of taking control of whoever operates the traps or making other robots fall into said traps, though there’s an interesting puzzle boss at one point). It remains consistently fun and engaging, up to a very long and tedious infiltration and rescue mission near the end, that can luckily be skipped. For the rest, there are the usual pieces of keycards to collect for opening the various areas of the Nakamura, from the greenhouse to the waste disposal unit.
About the combat: the space station is full of “alarm zones” that get locked and turn into arenas where you have to survive until the alarm fades, in order to gain energy cubes, the game’s credits that can be spent in the shops. Dying makes you lose cubes and equipped weapons, however there are several 3D printers throughout the station that, by printing another chassis for Ghost, act as save points and teleporters: an interesting way to combine the game’s lore with gameplay necessities.
Ghost 1.0 is relatively long (about 20 hours) and it still provides a harder New Game+ in order to unlock even more buffs and power-ups. On top of that, Franfistro also made the prequel game Mini Ghost, a sort of condensed version with MSX-inspired graphics that are customizable, still as engaging as the main one even without plot and cinematics. Another very fine work from the Spanish developer, that for whatever reason didn’t get the same acclaim and recognition as UnEpic.