Ghost Parade Review
Lots of rain on this parade.
Ghost Parade is Lentera Studio’s debut, and it shows, but not for the right reasons. Its unique Indonesian folklore setting has potential, but the overall result is hindered at almost every turn by baffling design choices, lack of polish, and a bloated list of features.
In this Metroidvania platformer, you play as Suri, a young student that missed the bus home from school and finds herself in a spooky forest. Every ghost in the game is inspired by (surprisingly dark) Indonesian folklore; most of the time you’ll be trying to get home and help them protect the forest from environmental threats along the way. It takes a long time to get into any substantial lore or story, and the slow beginning of the game extinguishes any excitement for diving deeper.
My slow start was mostly thanks to a complete lack of tutorials in the first few hours of the game. There’s an inventory system complete with potions and crafting, and you also get skill points every level which you can allocate to boost your defence, offence and ghost powers. None of these features is organically introduced and each come with their own set of problems – there is no way to use potions without opening the menu, the crafting system is a trial and error affair which results in lost items if you don’t use a recipe, and the skill points are mostly passive stat upgrades that don’t offer meaningful choices.
Fall damage is another mechanic that rears its ugly head. After a few bosses, you get a parachute which mitigates the issue but including it in the first place is irritating in an early boss fight and ends in a glut of cheap deaths. There are countless bottomless pits anyway, so fall damage feels tacked on to create arbitrary difficulty. And for some odd reason, your ghost selection screen is relegated to its own menu outside of the regular one but is only accessible by dropping an interactive object inside the hub town.
Ghost Parade would still struggle even if it only focused on being a solid platformer. Your character has no weight to their movement, and you’ll encounter many frustrating deaths thanks to lack of precise feedback. There are typical movement abilities to unlock like a dash and wall jump, none of which make platforming feel any more satisfying, or help to overcome a lack of jump forgiveness.
Copious amounts of backtracking come with the Metroidvania frame but none of it feels earned or exciting here. Fast travelling is a chore and the map is as needlessly time-consuming to use as the rest of the UI.
The repetitive combat ranges from slow to downright infuriating. You swing a lantern to damage enemies, and your ghost companions have a variety of abilities that damage or defend, none of which are particularly interesting. The game promotes 30 companions but half-way to the max level I only had five. There are ultimate abilities that are unlocked by combining the right ghosts, but you need to invest the time trying every combination of ghost companion to discover them.
Oh, and speaking of repetitive, prepare to hear the same high-pitched audio yelp from Suri for every… single… attack. The sounds of the forest are not so serene either, with dull impacts or mismatched effects like an axe chop resembling a carpet scraped by fingernails.
The lack of an invulnerability window is unforgivable in a platformer where many enemies and obstacles hurt you on contact. Without the ability to make an escape, I was often knocked upwards and juggled relentlessly to an instant death many times.
The multiple boss battles are slow and monotonous, with no attack variations or stages, just a decreasing health bar to whittle away at. Most bosses are immobile, throwing projectiles or regular enemies at you, and approaching them often leaves you hurting for your effort. I found myself waiting for my ghost powers to recharge and picking them off at range for more than five minutes at a time.
Most characters are gorgeously drawn but ugly when in motion. The environment has its fair share of issues too, especially the interactive elements that get lost in the background. If you look each art asset (especially the ghosts) on their own they’re not bad, but they’ve been poorly animated and pasted haphazardly in each level without considering how you interact with it.
On the Switch, both docked and handheld play sees frequent dips in framerate and a noticeable number of low-resolution textures. Loading times are also an issue between stages and after deaths. At £34.99, it’s exorbitantly overpriced compared to other, better performing, platformers.
I’ve barely managed to talk about every feature Ghost Parade offers yet fails to deliver on. Sadly, a host of ideas have been thrown into the pot, none of which have come out cooked.
[Reviewed on Switch]