Review: Extreme Exorcism (Wii U)

An indie ghost hunt that is scary close to greatness.

By Andy Hoover. Posted 10/01/2015 09:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Clever and unique gameplay mechanics, cool haunted house pixel art and bit tunes, lots of customization in Deathmatch
Poison Mushroom for...
Some of the arsenal feels useless, color palette can make the game hard to follow at times, feels like it's missing one special little thing that could have made it great

Nintendo’s increased emphasis on attracting indie developers has led to a growing library of interesting, and often time innovative, titles from teams that make up for their relative lack of resources with an abundance of creativity and enthusiasm. Extreme Exorcism from Golden Ruby games is the latest title to try to join this crowd with some unique ideas and retro visuals, but it’s questionable whether that will really be enough.

Extreme Exorcism is a relatively simple game that’s made difficult to describe by the virtue of its originality. The objective is to eliminate the ghosts that populate the single screen, 2D levels, and as you clear each wave the number of ghosts increases. But here’s the rub: each new ghost actually mimics your actions, including movement and attacks, from the previous round. This creates an interesting dynamic, as you need to be very aware of everything you do, lest you end up having to chase a previous version of yourself running around like a mad man while shooting grenades all over the place.

And that brings us to the other, really interesting idea, the weapons. You start each round with no means of attack, but weapons spawn in at clearly marked spots on each stage and you can carry up to three at a time; however, they all fire in unison. This can lead to some interesting combinations, such as swinging a sword, laying a mine, and firing a rocket all at the same time. The more you play, the more varied your arsenal becomes because new weapons are unlocked at predetermined number of kills, but I actually found this to be something of a detriment. The weapons become more unique and creative, but I personally found many to be less useful and more difficult to use. It’s entirely possible that someone at a higher level of play would be able to make great use of the shuriken, which are thrown at downward angles from either side of your character, but I found them almost entirely useless. Despite having a plethora of crazy weapons spawning around the map, I tended to stick to the more basic, yet effective shotguns, swords, and harpoon guns that unlocked much earlier.

As creative as the core gameplay is, the structure is really quite normal. There are three major modes of play, Arcade, Challenges and Deathmatch. Arcade is the closest thing Extreme Exorcism has to a campaign as you play through different parts of a haunted house, earning points that unlock even more levels. It’s fun and the amount of points needed to unlock later levels will likely force many players to replay earlier stages to boost their scores, though people who quickly master the game could potentially steamroll through the Arcade mode pretty quickly. Challenges is somewhat simple as you are given specific objectives and certain limitations with which to achieve them; for example, one level might just give you one life to defeat a certain number of enemies, while another will limit you to a single weapon at a time or give each weapon a single use before it is automatically discarded. The early Challenges were quite easy, but there are 50 in total, and once you get past 20 they really start to ramp up.

I get the feeling the developers focused a lot on the Deathmatch mode, but I’m not sure it really paid off. You do have a plethora of modifiers that you can switch between to change everything from the types of weapons that are available to the movement of the characters and the mechanic of having players’ ghosts from previous rounds show up to make the action more hectic is also clever, but it never really seemed to come together for me. Maybe it simply comes down to the fact that Wii U already has a plethora of outstanding multiplayer games, but for for one reason or another Extreme Exorcism simply couldn’t hold my focus when it came to Deathmatch.

Visually, the game is yet another example of the retro trend, with simple sprite based characters moving about some gorgeous, pixel art stages. I really loved the haunted house aesthetic, with matching spooky bit tune soundtrack, and the variety of environments, each with unique hazards, was also great, but the visuals also presented a major issue. First of all, your character is really too small. Combined with the fact that you spawn each round while falling into the level at a random place, it makes the start of many stages disorienting. It doesn’t happen all the time, but enough that it can be frustrating. Also, each character does glow a different color to help you locate them, but some of those hues can disappear quite easily into the backgrounds while the green character is actually somewhat difficult to distinguish from the equally green ghosts you are trying to kill. So Extreme Exorcism technically looks pretty good, but this is the first time I think I’ve ever played a game that really needs a palette swap.

Putting all these aspects together leaves us with a game that strangely feels almost like it is less than the sum of its parts. The gameplay features some unique concepts that are frequently fun, but at the same time weapons made to further enhance the combat just let it down. The game’s aesthetic is also very well done and yet another example of great retro inspired design, but it is betrayed by the color selection of all things. These might seem like small complaints, but together they contributed to a general lack of interest on my part. Even with everything Extreme Exorcism does right, I never really felt the need or desire to come back; I played it, I kind of enjoyed it, but nothing makes me want to hop back in. Maybe others will feel different, but ultimately Extreme Exorcism is a game with some good ideas, a few noticeable flaws, and the absence of that one thing that can make a good game great.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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