Review: GhostSlayer (WiiWare)

When there's no more water in the well, the dead will walk the Earth

You know what they say: if you can’t beat ‘em, take what they did and put a fresh coat of paint on it. In this case it’s Gevo Entertainment taking on Wii Sports Resort’s sword-fighting modes with a mythical Chinese folklore twist. This is by no means a bad thing.

GhostSlayer is a MotionPlus-enabled slasher on rails. Your chosen slayer moves forward on a set path, only pausing to slice down the motley crews of ectoplasmic meanies in your way. You see, there’s a well in town said to run so deep it reaches down to Hell, and one day that well dries up. Bad things ensue, and being the ghost slayer you head on over to take care of things.

There are eight stages, three difficulties, blades to unlock and a lot of shogun-esque ghosts to cut down. Stages don’t last much longer than two or three minutes, although the running tally of consecutive hits will make you want to replay them for perfects and high scores. The four blades don’t appear to be different in any way other than cosmetic, but hey, at least they look cool.

Enemies are, shall we say, a mixed bag. There are only a handful of types, ranging from useless unarmed fodder to slightly trickier blade-wielders to ones who vanish and reappear behind you. Since you’re not in direct control of your character the camera snaps so you never lose sight of your target, which makes it even easier to exploit enemy weaknesses (once you’ve figured them out, at least). You'll never feel overwhelmed either since you'll take on a maximum of three or four attackers at one time.

While some of the character designs for the ghosts are neat, the game is not a very impressive visual package. Sure, the lighting and flame effects are pretty good, but textures are very bland with little in the way of detail and the environments are shrouded in thick fog. It’s there for atmosphere but it cuts down the draw distance severely and can at times make the game come across as spectral pea soup. The sound, on the other hand, is ambient spooky that wouldn't feel out of place at a Halloween party and fits well here. We understand there are limitations for what can be done on WiiWare, and it’s possible that Gevo spent more time focused on the swordplay than environments and enemies, but we can’t help but feel that an added layer of detail would have gone a long way.

Fortunately, the time spent on implementing MotionPlus paid off handsomely. It’s a true 1:1 experience that works just as well as it does in Resort, although it’s a little disconcerting to see your sword flying around without a body attached. There are a few problems with the motion, which seem to be more of an issue inherent with using the attachment itself than shoddy programming. Large or rapid gestures will throw off the calibration, which is kind of a pain when certain enemies require fervent shaking to break away. Blocking seems not to work always as intended or occasionally better than intended, but that may be more player fault than the game's.

Playing without MotionPlus is a completely different experience. Instead of free wielding, your blade stays locked into place and a waggle of the Remote will swing it. To change blade positioning you hold down the block button and rotate the Remote; the entire scheme feels vastly inferior to using MotionPlus, and if you don’t have a dongle laying about then this game is not for you.

Conclusion

Without MotionPlus, GhostSlayer is barely worth bothering with. If you do have a dongle, though, GhostSlayer is a fun way to get some use out of it: the controls truly do make the game and helps it serve as a nice supernatural substitute for Resort's swordplay. While it’s on the short side, a bit simplistic and isn’t the most impressive game on the block, GhostSlayer manages to fall on the right side of fun for 600 Points and is worth a spin if you don’t mind a few blemishes.

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