Ghost Sweeper

03/02/2022

When you think of great platformer games you think of Hollow Knight, Celeste or even Super Meat Boy. Unfortunatly Ghost Sweeper is a bland and lifeless game that should be swept under the rug and forgotten. 

Published by TotalConsole and released back in 2020. Ghost Sweeper does little to re-invent the genre of platform gaming and is a clumsy mashups of other titles that only succeeds in setting itself apart by it's art style and short comings. The game consists of 10 levels that are broken up into stages and stylised in a world map, very similar to the Super Mario games, but with a medieval theme. This is where the game starts to loose consistency with its theme, as if they randomly plucked ideas out of a hat for their enemies, setting and heros. You have a choice between two heros, who are given no names and thus I have taken to calling them 'Bucket Head Bin Man' and 'Green Hot Pants Cowboy'. Now I actually enjoy the design for these characters, all be it 'Bucket Head' does bare a striking resemblance to Hollow Knight. Their design is similar to that of a 90's cartoon show and the rest of the game's design does follow this similar pattern, including its enemies. But in a setting that is clearly way in the past, having two modernish day designs for the heros is just downright confusing.

 The game itself is also unclear, as it has no tutorial. It has a "tutorial" option in the main menu, but this is just an overview of the controls, and does nothing to explain what they mean and what you will be doing. The game just sort of throws you in and expects you to learn as you go. Now the stages themselves follow a simple pattern. You must collect a key hidden in the stage to unlock a door, then get to the door to move on. Theres also coins and diamonds and other things to collect in the tight and short stages. However, other than buying one use buffs, its not explained what any of these other collectables do. To get to the key, you have the power to place blocks, from the 'Ghostbusters' esque backpack you carry, and use them as barriers or stairs, then navigate your way to the collectables. This in theory works, its uninspired and the games does nothing to shake up or expand the formula as you go, but at least its not a broken mechanic. The enemies on the other hand, oh boy, this is where the fustration really sets in. Within most games, it will teach you basics, introducing you to the mechanics, chuck in some easy enemies, and as your skills progresses the game will adapt to this by introducing new enemy types to test your experienced abilites. Ghost Sweeper does nothing to this effect, simply tossing different varieties in at random and doing nothing to explain how to deal with them, other than killing you instantly if they touch you. There is a blue ghost that simply strafes back and forth, or up and down, in a straight line. You do have the ability as 'Bucket Head' to suck these ones up into your backpack (Who you gunna call? Ghostbusters!) and fire them off at other enemies, while 'Cowboy' has the power to throw fire balls on command and is clearly the stronger characters to use. However I had to learn how to do this myself, as the game keeps it's lips sealed on all the mechanics at your disposal. Theres also a skeleton who will take off it's head and roll it, sometimes, in your direction. Again, I had to learn how to defeat them, by making the brick they're standing on break where they will collapse and disappear. There is also a ghost dog that shoots fire and zombies with clubs. Now I will say again, I like their design, they are very cute. However most of the enemies can be simply avoided by jumping over them, and most of the game is reduced to just placing blocks and jumping as quickly as you can to the key and back to the door. The attack patterns of the enemies seem to be totally random, and again with no explination on how to defend yourself, you'll die over and over to the same enemy and this just makes for a fustrating experience in an already dull and fustrating game. 

Now this is the part of the review where we would usually discuss the story. Well, there is none. There is no plot or story at all. "Oh, what about enviormental story telling" I hear you say, and it's a good point. Well, again, there is none. All you know is you're tying to reach the final level which is the castle, for whatever reason the game simply does not wish to disclose to you. Then there is also the music choice. It's just the 'Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy' played on a loop but slightly distorted, giving the game this surreal carnival ride feel that I just couldn't wait to get off of. 

 

All this being said, Ghost Sweeper is a challenging and different indie platformer, requiring tactics and some planning to complete the stages, that fans of the genre will undoubtedly find somewhat enjoyable. But its lackluster level design and mechanics, its absence of clear instructions and story just makes for an un-boo-lievably dreary time.

Reviewed by: Chris Payne