Extreme Exorcism is a simple, fun indie title that embraces one of Nintendo's core values: getting people together to play. From its aesthetics to its modes, this game is dripping with retro charm. If you haven't seen or heard of it before, it's a 2D pixel-art shooter that focuses on platforming and run-and-gun mechanics. It plays like Towerfall with the aesthetics of Sega Master System cult-classic Ghost House. And yes, it's as awesome as it sounds on paper.
Visually, Extreme Exorcism looks like it'd be right at home on the Super NES or even the original NES. It's got a retro feeling that permeates the game from its look to its soundtrack. It doesn't make use of many of the Wii U's modern features, either. Extreme Exorcism runs at a lower resolution than the Wii U's native OS does, and seems to be in a 4:3 aspect ratio, leaving black bars on either side of the screen. There are no online functions, and there's no off-TV play and no GamePad support, aside from the game's logo displaying on the touch screen.
Extreme Exorcism's three modes would feel right at home in an '80s home console title, too: Arcade, Challenges and Deathmatch. In Arcade mode, up to four players are dropped into an arena of their choosing to battle it out with ghosts. The interesting wrinkle is that the ghosts mimic the movements taken by their killer in the previous round. So, if you jump across two ledges and shoot the ghost with a shotgun, next round the crowned ghost will mimic those movements and fire a shotgun at the exact time you did. This may sound simple enough to counter, but as rounds stack up and more ghosts appear, it can be hard to remember the route each ghost will take, as you'll end up against ten or more ghosts each mimicking the movements that led to their demise in previous rounds.
As you play through arcade mode, you'll unlock more maps to play on, each based around a room in the mansion, and each with five variations. As you progress through, each subsequent stage requires you get a higher score on the stage prior. The objectives, however, never change. To clear a wave, you simply need to kill the crowned ghost. Each ghost is worth a single point, while the crown-bearer is worth ten. If you're confident in your skills you can knock out the crowned ghost repeatedly to quickly boost your score, but you'll also be multiplying the number of opponents you face in the process.
Arcade mode is made much more enjoyable when you include a friend. If a friend kills a ghost, in the next round ghosts will exist that mimic their movements as well. Fortunately, it's easy enough to differentiate between which ghosts are mimicking which players, as their colours will correspond to the player whose movements they're parroting. Still, it increases the chaos in an already chaotic mode to a very good result.
As you score more kills throughout the game you'll also unlock more weapons. You can carry up to three weapons at any given time in arcade mode, and up to six in deathmatches, leaving you with plenty of options to take out the competition. Weapons range from the serious, like a rocket launcher, to the silly, like the Wand of Doom which creates a spectral skull for your enemies to get devoured by. The best pickup by far are the exorcism wings, which create a pink aura around your character that permanently removes any ghosts it comes in contact with from the field and from future rounds as well, meaning you can extend your play by having fewer enemies to contend with in the next round.
Of course, if competitive multiplayer is more your speed, Extreme Exorcism offers a deathmatch mode. This mode is extremely similar to Towerfall in the sense that it just drops the players in an arena and has them battle it out while grabbing random weapons. Deathmatch is also highly customizable, with a dozen pre-set game modes to choose from, as well as the ability to customize nearly every aspect of any of those modes for your own custom game. Sitting down with your friends and knocking out a few matches seldom feels stale, thanks to how many ways you can tweak the game modes. Deathmatch really is Extreme Exorcism's bread and butter. It would have certainly benefitted from having online capabilities for this mode, but it's hard to fault it for lacking connectivity when the core gameplay is so much fun.
In contrast to the brilliant arcade and deathmatch modes, challenge mode feels perfunctory. The objectives feel like they're there solely to flesh out a game that doesn't need to be further fleshed out. Achievement hunters may go after these, but as Extreme Exorcism doesn't offer any type of achievement or reward system, aside from rewarding kills made in any of the game's three modes with weapon unlocks, challenges just don't feel necessary, nor are they all that fun.
As a complete package, however, Extreme Exorcism is among the best of Nintendo's rapidly expanding indie lineup, and with games like Shovel Knight in that library, that's no small feat.
Extreme Exorcism is an excellent example of why Nintendo's recent moves to embrace the indie scene are so great. Its quick, fun gunplay partnered with a fitting, if not groundbreaking soundtrack make for a game that's perfect to sit down and enjoy with three friends. It's a must-have title for Wii U indie supporters and fans of split-screen multiplayer.