Mini Ghost

A game by unepic_fran for PC, originally released in 2017.
Mini Ghost is a retro-style metroidvania that acts as a prequel to the Ghost 1.0, which was released in the year prior. The game removes the body-swapping mechanic and strips out most of the weapons, equipment, and upgrades in favor of a focused bite-sized adventure that can be completed in a couple of hours. In a comic book-style introduction involving a couple of the characters from the original game, a space station is hacked and Ghost is called in to take down the station’s central computer.

The game is made up of a series of interconnected single screen environments that the player is free to explore, although upgrades are required in order to properly navigate certain areas. For instance, one powerup allows you to see in the dark, which allows you to get through otherwise pitch black rooms, and another upgrade allows you to spot hidden landmines that would otherwise destroy you. Access to each section of the space station is gated by one of four keycards, most of which are acquired by defeating bosses.

Ghost has a 3x variable jump and moves slowly by default, but an early upgrade speeds her movement somewhat. Her primary weapon is a blaster with a short range, but projectiles can be fired as quickly as the player can press the button, and there are a couple of upgrades to be purchased that extend the blaster's range and double its damage output.

There are also several secondary weapons to be found by destroying enemies, but their use is limited. Enemies will occasionally drop a secondary weapon icon when destroyed, and touching it adds the weapon to your inventory. However, these secondary weapons can only be fired once before they disappear, and the player can only carry three shots at the same time. In addition, the player can’t pick up secondary weapons of another type until he uses up the ones he has.

Secondary weapons include a wide beam, a trio of heat-seeking projectiles, a forward-firing rocket, an expanding ring of projectiles, a concentrated laser, and floating mines that destroy enemies when they walk into them. Secondary weapon drops are usually related to the ability of the destroyed enemy, such as rockets being dropped by rocket-firing enemies and lasers from laser-firing ones.

All of the item pickups necessary for making progress are found by exploring the environment, but each of Ghost’s optional upgrades must be purchased. At the start of the game, the player can only carry 40 energy cubes, with early shops offering items for sale at 10 cubes each. One early item is a metroidvania-style map that shows the outline of the space station, which areas remain to be explored, and which shops still have items for sale (each shop carries a single item, which can only be purchased once).

Other upgrades include the ability to carry more cubes – which is required to buy any items that cost more than 40 units – as well as permanent health extensions, additional health restoration when killing enemies, and the aforementioned gun powerups. Also, by default, Ghost cannot move while shooting, and this ability is unlocked via an upgrade as well.

Health restoration is very limited, as there are no restoratives to be found in the environment and only a couple of dedicated health restoration locations in the entire game. Instead, each time the player kills an enemy, a unit of XP is added to a meter at the top of the screen, and when enough enemies have been killed, a single unit of health is restored. As such, recovering from a major health loss can be difficult. However, the player has the ability to teleport back to the starting room at any time, which is near a health restoration room.

In addition, the player can save the game wherever he likes (as long as there are no enemies left in the room), and getting killed gives the player the option to reload a previous save or return to the first room with all of his items intact, but none of his currency. Given the price of some of the later upgrades, it’s generally best to reload a save, lest you find yourself in a position where you need to grind for currency later in the game.

The player is free to go where he likes at the start of the game, with the only locked areas being those that require higher level keycards. The rest of the space station is blocked organically, requiring a certain powerup in order to navigate properly. This design guides the player into the easiest section first, where he then earns some valuable upgrades as well as the Level 2 keycard, and exploring the next section unlocks the Level 3 keycard, and so on. Players are free to backtrack to any previous area, and there are a few upgrades that allow the player to reach previously inaccessible paths that generally lead to optional upgrades.

There’s a good amount of variety to the enemies, with each themed area offering a couple of unique foes. Given your limited moveset and the danger of losing health, most enemies pose some level of challenge, particularly those that can strike from a distance, so players need to prioritize their targets. It can be difficult to dodge densely-packed sprays of bullets, and the player’s short-range weapon means that he needs to get close to enemies before engaging, or attack them from behind to avoid retaliatory strikes. Most enemies have easily recognizable patrol paths allowing the player to properly plan his attacks, although there are some popup electrical traps that are not telegraphed, which can cheat you out of a bit of health until you memorize their locations.

Bosses are tough, but their behaviors are simple, with only a couple of attack types for each. Since the game can be saved in any empty room, players are advised to save immediately before boss encounters, which allows for an instant reload should they fall in battle. It generally takes a couple of attempts before the bosses’ attack patterns are evident, but the penalty for failure is extremely low. Once the proper strategy is learned, it’s easy to land hits, but it can still be difficult to dodge attacks, requiring that players stay on the move.

The game features a level editor with the ability to create your own tilsesets, a character editor, and the ability to enter your friends’ games and troll them by making enemies harder or creating fake platforms. In addition, there is a leaderboard for speedrunners, which encourages players to skip nonessential upgrades and do a bit of sequence breaking.

Mini Ghost was developed by unepic_fran, named for a combination of the studio’s lead, Francisco Téllez de Meneses, and its first released game, Unepic, a D&D-style metroidvania. Mini Ghost was released as a prequel to Ghost 1.0, a metroidvania of a considerably larger scale, also starring Ghost.