With the recent Ghost Rider movie hype about to explode onto cinema screens in New Zealand very soon, the introduction of the Ghost Rider game franchise was almost an expected event. We sat down with our favourite little handheld and had some interesting experiences with the PSP game version of the comic book anti-hero Johnny Blaze, otherwise known as ‘Ghost Rider’.
In the PSP version there are three difficulty levels: forgiving, challenging and punishing, with three different game modes as well: story mode, challenge mode and multiplayer mode. We decided to play at medium difficulty and figured story mode was as good a place as any to begin our descent into hell.
Story mode begins with a level called ‘Ghost Rider in Hell’ and is set up with individual levels that remain locked until you complete the previous level. For anyone unfamiliar with the background of the game, Johnny Blaze becomes the Ghost Rider after a deal gone wrong with the Demon Lord, Mephisto. Johnny sells his soul for love and in return must walk the Earth as human by day and the demon ‘Ghost Rider’ by night, doing Mephisto’s bidding. In the game, yourmain objective is to collect as many souls as you can by killing everything in sight, and to earn ‘skull points’ in the various skills and special abilities you get as Ghost Rider.
Each level has three set objectives to complete: ‘Soul Challenge’, which is to collect ‘x’ amount of souls (this changes every level); ‘Time Challenge’, which is to complete the level within a specific time frame; and the ‘Wildcard Challenge’, which changes each level and can require anything from killing a beast with only 3 hits to shooting 10 demons with your shotgun. The loading times are reasonable. The cut scenes are comic strips with narration that explains the story as you progress through the game.
The combat in the game is very similar to that in God of War and I was almost taken aback by the similarities between the two games. In Ghost Rider you get two attacks – a light and heavy attack. The square button controls the light attack and the triangle button controls the heavy attack. The ‘X’ button isused to jump and the right trigger button is used to both block and absorb souls more quickly. The circle button is used to grab dazed enemies. When you combine block, jump and attack modes you can use different combination moves on your enemies which deliver various levels of damage. These levels are called ‘Damned’, ‘Condemned’ and ‘Brutal’, with the brutal attack being the highest level. Some of the demons in the game use shields and therefore are invulnerable until you penetrate their shields. This is tricky but you can do so by reaching the brutal attack mode.
The game progression is fairly straightforward. Demons drop souls and charges. Charges are used to power up the chain weapon that Ghost Rider uses, and souls are used to beat level challenges. Once you complete a level you are awarded ‘skull’ points to increase your attributes which include movement, attacks and combos. The Caretaker is the man you have to see to do all of this. There is also a ‘Specials’ area where you can upgrade your Health, Spirit, Link Charge and Shotgun - all of which cost skulls (souls). From the same place you can also access extras like special movie trailers and comic book galleries that can only be unlocked as you progress through the game.
With the completion of each level you are ranked in all three challenges and may pass or fail all three. Regardless of this, you always have the option to upgrade your skills and special abilities or retry the level again.
For the most part, Ghost Rider is fun - if not a little on the repetitious side from a game play perspective. The demons don’t really differ that much throughout the game, apart from a few ‘boss’ level mobs that are slightly tougher to beat than the average demon. The best part of the game was getting to ride around as the Ghost Rider on his demon bike! You get to do this fairly early on (after about the fourth level), and it’s a lot of fun and breaks the monotony of just killing demons and collecting skull points and souls.
I just can’t fault the slick presentation and the beautiful and polished graphics. The sound and environmental effects are also top notch. As far as PSP games go, Ghost Rider will definitely entertain and it will easily keep you occupied for at least a couple of hours. There are also challenge and multiplayer modes if you’re able to hook up with some buddies and try this over the wireless network.