First-person platformers can be one of the most underrated genres in all games. His entries are few and many, but Ghostrunner is proof that the genre deserves more attention. Ghostrunner takes away all the precision and skill that is usually limited to 2D platforms, and attracts them first-hand without ever making you feel like you’re missing out on precision, while adding all the speed and intensity that 2D games can struggle to convey .
For a game to fall into the category of “first-person platforming”, it must be more than a first-person game that requires jumping from time to time. A game like Halo has jumps, but it would be very difficult to say that platforming is crucial to the game. Instead, you need to make precise platforming a key element appearing throughout the experience.
But even most games that meet this definition use platforming only as a side dish to give players a break from the basic mechanic. There have been similar games in the last few years Doom Eternal, where the platforming only serves to distract from the simple joy of launching demons. In other cases, such as Dying light ̵
Rarity makes sense. The platformers are related to information: how far is your next jump and where you will have to go after you do it. The perspective in the first-person game is limited to what’s right in front of you, while 2D platforming can allow you to see more jumping puzzles before you start, or even while you’re in the middle of it. This lack of information in first-person games can make platforming difficult and, in the worst case, feel like a trial and error, without the ability to correct mistakes in motion.
But Ghostrunner finds a clever way to get around these promising problems thanks to a brilliant mechanic. Players take control of a cyborg ninja racing through a futuristic tower. It has everything you could expect from a first-person platformer, such as running on a wall, sliding, dashes in the air, and even a grappling hook. But the best and unique mechanic of the game allows me to briefly slow down the time while I’m in the air. This is great for battle, allowing me to dodge bullets and capture the full fantasy of a cyber-enhanced ninja, but that’s not his only goal.
When things turn to platforming, slowing down time allows me to make small micro-corrections once I’ve made the jump. Although I may not have been able to see the whole bouncing puzzle the moment I entered a room, I am gaining the ability to tune in on the go. This makes the platforming a combination of carefully executed moves and sudden improvisation to save a crappy jump that was further than I originally thought.
Ghostrunner integrates this mechanics into its limited battle. It’s all a one-time kill, whether I cut a guard in half or die from a stray bullet. This means that every encounter with an enemy is really a platform puzzle in which I have to figure out how to free a room as safely as possible. This forces me to start looking at obstacles in many different ways. If I jump straight at someone, I’m probably dead, but if I grab them and then run back, I can reach them before they can point right at me.
Battles with bosses also focus on the platform, like the one in which you fight a giant computer. Instead of a simple battle, the meeting involves platforming around the computer’s laser security network. This is extremely challenging, especially compared to everything else in the game at the moment, and requires a perfect moment for dozens of jumps in a row. I miss only an inch and go back to the beginning of the phase. Exactly the type of boss would be perfect at home at the end of a particularly difficult 2D platformer, but I’ve never seen him try it first hand and it works brilliantly.
The later levels feel like the perfect culmination of everything I’ve done in the game so far. There are dozens of walls to run on, grappling points and roofs to explore to find the perfect routes. Enemies are often mixed together for the most difficult combinations possible; finding a way around their pistols, shields and swords requires me to come up with strategies I have never thought of before.
There is something extra special about throwing through space from one wall or platform to the next from the first person. Compared to a 2D platformer, the movement seems faster, the time is tighter and the penalty for missing a jump – this feeling that the ground rushes towards you when you fall – is much more intense. Ghostrunner is a perfect example of what happens when a developer works within the constraints of an underrated genre and gets the best out of it.
Ghostrunner will be released on October 27 on the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One. The game was viewed on a computer using a download code provided by 505 Games. Vox Media has partnership partnerships. They do not affect editorial content, although Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased through affiliates. You can find more information on Polygon’s ethics policy here.