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Ghost Parade Review

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1370076659_GhostParadeboxart.png.5a87f3fdc02948b8c4e3d337fe130a58.pngThe 2D platformer genre is such a mainstay of the video game world that seeing one as poorly done as Ghost Parade is honestly kind of shocking. The game's intriguing art style and promise of dozens of unique specters initially drew my attention, but it didn't take long for the game's appealing facade to crumble into a series of misguided or outright sloppy design choices.
You play as Suri, a young girl who, after she misses the bus home, decides to try a shortcut through the forest, where she finds not just woodland creatures but entire villages of ghosts, ghouls, and apparitions. The ghosts are drawn from Indonesian mythology and folklore which makes for a pretty great source of spooky stories—the main story doesn't get too deep into the dark origins of its spectral characters but you can find a bit more information in the game's journal. Once Suri is over her initial shock of meeting actual ghosts, she learns that they have been trying to scare away humans in order to preserve their home against deforestation and reckless human destruction. The environmentalism plotline is certainly admirable, but it's told with all the subtlety of an after-school special. The writing could definitely have benefited from a few revisions to make it less boring and mechanical.
Boring and mechanical is an apt description of the gameplay either. Ghost Parade is a 2D action/platformer with some light Metroidvania elements. Suri can attack with a fairly basic melee strike and call upon her ghost allies for unique abilities, and of course there's plenty of jumping over obstacles, climbing up vines, and some backtracking involved as well. Unfortunately, Ghost Parade struggles to make even the most basic controls feel comfortable or enjoyable. Suri's movements are incredibly floaty which can make some of the platforming elements horrendous. Even with a double jump to help correct your movements it is shockingly awkward to just jump on a platform, much less jump on one while avoiding fireballs and enemy attacks. Thankfully there are frequent checkpoints but that's just a bandage over a wound—actually fixing the game would require overhauling the core movements and animation.
That loose, floaty feeling bleeds over into the combat as well, making it all to easy to miss an attack or fail to avoid an enemy's. You can also easily get stunlocked by enemies which is always a pain to see—getting repeatedly juggled by fireballs because there are no invincibility frames and you can't break away with a dodge is beyond frustrating. Even when you're not pulling your hair out over enemies' juggling attacks, the combat in Ghost Parade just isn't fun. Suri's melee attacks are boringly simple while the ghost abilities add only a modest amount of variety. Bosses in particular are terribly tedious thanks to your limited attacks and the few opportunities bosses are even open to attacks. Some of the ghosts in this game must have died from boredom while trying to overcome the Sisyphean task of whittling away at these bosses.
Ghost Parade is also plagued with minor design annoyances or other issues. Top of the list is the excessive load time—loading screens are not only long but frequent. Each region of the game is divided up into smaller screens which requires a loading screen, and every time you die (which will likely be quite a lot) you'll have to endure more loading. A not insignificant part of my playtime with Ghost Parade must have been devoted to staring at loading screens. Navigating the game's menus is also needlessly time-consuming, particularly opening the map which you'll probably be doing frequently since there's no mini-map in the game and you'll need to backtrack a few times to progress. For some reason the ghost menu, which allows you to change the ghosts in your current party, is not part of the main menu but is activated by pressing up on the D-pad—I know this sounds like a nitpicky complaint but it kind of exemplifies the odd design choices that make Ghost Parade feel unpolished and untested.
The visuals are definitely a highlight of the game—at least at first. The strikingly colorful and unique designs of the ghosts are really beautiful and will certainly draw you in when you first start playing. But soon enough the repetitive environments and enemy designs, along with clumsy animation and an inconsistent frame rate, wears away the shine from Ghost Parade. You may end up cursing the ghosts' elaborate designs as well since they float around Suri and can be rather distracting when you're platforming. The soundtrack has a decently moody/atmospheric vibe for a mostly kid-friendly ghost story, but there's really not much notable about it either.
Ghost Parade only takes seven or eight hours to finish but you'll feel every single minute of that playtime. If, for some reason, you do want to spend more time with the game, there are a few side quests and a few dozen ghosts that you can recruit, though experimenting with different ghosts in battle ultimately felt unrewarding thanks to the shallow combat mechanics.

Ghost Parade feels like an earnest first draft that never should have been pushed to full release. The unique ghost designs drawn from Indonesian folklore is a great hook for a 2D adventure, but the game fails to deliver on even the most basic platforming mechanics which makes spending any amount of time with the game feel like a chore. Even fans of niche Switch titles will find little redeeming about this one.

Rating: 3 out of 10 Ghosts

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