By Marisa Alexander / January 23rd, 2020
|Developer||Lentera Nusantara Studio Corporation|
|Release Date||October 31st, 2019|
|Platform||Switch, PS4, PC (Steam)|
|Age Rating||E 10+ for Everyone ten and up|
If I were to give games to kids of mine, it wouldn’t be the usual tablet and phone time wasters. Instead, I’d much rather give them more fruitful experiences, ones they would cherish for a long time. With that mind, Ghost Parade by Lentera Nusantara was definitely a strange title to play. It is a game that invoked certain feelings of my own childhood, both positively and negatively. It has this sense of wonder that would appeal to young kids. With all that said, let’s find out how it fares.
The game’s central protagonist is Suri, a young girl who had the unfortunate mishap of missing her bus after school. Not being the wisest of the bunch, instead of taking the long path, she decides to cut through the nearby forest to get home. As a result of this decision, she comes across a more perilous adventure filled with friendly ghosts, downtrodden animals, and despicable people. With her new companions, she not only plans to get home, but also save the forest and spirits from deforestation.
The plot itself is like a modern fairy tale adventure, one with clear bad guys, themes, and lovable characters. Many of the characters, be it Suri or any side character, are very charming, and it is enjoyable to read most of the lines of dialogue. Even though the course of events is rather basic, the game’s youthful majesty makes it very easy to overlook. It is exceptionally easy to wear a smile on your face in these interactions. Even cuter is how the ghosts in your party truly parade behind you as you go through the game.
That said, it being aimed with younger audiences in mind is both a strength and a weakness. If one was looking for deeper themes and storytelling, it is not to be found here. Despite its themes of environmentalism, I would say that those concepts are not particularly strong. There are attempts to paint a broader picture in regards to man vs nature, such as how nature does not spare man, or how man needs to chop wood in order to build houses to begin with. Despite this, there is a sense of how the game paints those who deforest as bad and abusive of nature and nothing more. There is also the strange matter on how Suri acts both like a kid but not. The first ghost met she assumes is a lost child, not questioning the pupil-less eyes. She doesn’t feel particularly inquisitive, even though kids in my experience are very curious of the world around them. Yet, her assumptive nature is also in line to how kids are.
Then of course, there is the game’s presentation. The art direction lends to a hand painted adventure, and one that is lovingly made. Much of the artwork in this game is wonderful, and depicts a wondrous world to explore. Coupled with a decent soundtrack and sound direction, even walking about can be pleasant. My only issues with the presentation come down to visual storytelling and animation.
The animation is rather stilted, particularly when jumping and attacking. As a result, many of the movements in this game come off as rather artificial. Then there is the visual storytelling or lack of. Despite characters saying the forest is being destroyed, throughout my playthrough I mostly saw relatively intact areas. There was a mine inhabited by vicious miners, as well as a small bit of forest cleared. However, it felt lackluster, where there should’ve been more to truly portray the conflict in this world. This could help lend to more environmental variety, in the end.
Unfortunately, we come to the weakest part of the experience, the actual gameplay. The game features combat, exploration, platforming, and finding ghosts to aid you in your adventure. Much of the game is very rough in this regard, such as how combat is very basic yet lacking invincibility frames for a platformer. The platforming has heavy exploration, but obstacles bar your path heavily so backtracking is more of a pain than in metroidvanias. Yet the exploration is not even fleshed out, having basic puzzles, enemies, and not much to do but platform, fight and find chests with crafting materials, potions, or rarely equipment. As a result, the game doesn’t feel rewarding to play. I didn’t even use most of the ghosts I found, as I was content with the set-up I had. However, you are able to have a multitude of ghosts allocated to the trigger buttons where certain combinations allow for ultimate attacks. Some ghosts can attack, one can form a protective bubble, and the list goes on.
It can be very easy to die in this game, especially at the beginning of the adventure. Suri’s air control is very off, reversing much of her momentum immediately upon changing directions rather than gradually. This can be in spite of her innate double jump and later air dash. Despite Suri’s controlling rather simply, the lack of control in momentum at times can lead to death. Not to mention damage can be piled up very quickly and potentially even hard to notice in certain boss fights. Two of them in particular were a king beetle and a stone serpent-like behemoth. The king beetle shoots out electricity and projectiles, creating this near bullet hell-like experience, where the camera is far pulled back. With the behemoth, one of its attacks lines the ground with spikes, so if you are knocked off the platforms to protect you, it can be an effectual death. Yet the game becomes oddly easy when you get a multitude of potions and eventually the parachute. Due to the abundance of checkpoints, it feels empty to die, as if the challenge is not particularly real.
Overall, Ghost Parade reminds me a lot of games I played on the SNES and PS2. As a kid, I would’ve loved this game, having great nostalgia in adulthood. Yet here I am as an adult, unable to look past the very flaws I could’ve overlooked as a kid. As such, the game feels like it was made with love, but pulled down by inexperience. Having played this game for five hours, it feels the game falls just short for the $39.99 price tag. Instead, I would say wait for a sale to come along. I hope the developers who made this game makes another title. Experience is experience after all, and I am sure if they can overcome their flaws,they can craft a fantastic game in the future.
Review Copy given by the publisher
Aksys GamesGhost ParadeLentera NusantaraPCplatformerPS4Switch