Are you in the mood for a retro styled, pixel art, semi Metroidvania action platformer? Well, in that case, pull up a chair with GINSHA from PolarityFlow and Adrian Zingg. You see, it is almost exactly as I described. With a strong artistic style and the promise of more action than you can shake a platform at, I was quite excited to get to grips with GINSHA.
The story seems like a good place to start with our examination of GINSHA, even if things are somewhat odd. We start the game as a duo of alien lifeforms – Gin and Gon. When we land on a planet, Gin quickly finds a clone body to reanimate and inhabit, while Gon becomes a kind of robot drone, helping out as best they can. From there, the story is somewhat disjointed and hard to follow. But it seems to revolve around exploring the places we find ourselves in, gathering resources and having fights with the inhabitants. The ultimate goal seems to be to ensure the survival of our species, and if that happens to be at the expense of some other species, well, it’s a dog eat dog universe! And that’s about it, in a nutshell.
It is a lot easier to talk about the presentation of GINSHA. The game’s art style is described as being pixel art, and that is a very fair description. It definitely has a strong visual style, with multiple enemies, all subtly different. The way that the levels adjust and change as you reach new areas is also very nice. From there come bosses, again a very varied bunch, and with mini bosses called “Guardians” to encounter and defeat as you go, there is always something new to see.
The sound is also as you would expect, with the usual pew-pew sound effects and explosions as enemies are defeated. While there is no speech (GINSHA’s dialogue is presented via the medium of text boxes) the rest of the sound effects are very effective. All in all, nothing to grumble about as regards presentation. Although whether we need another retro styled Metroidvania platform game is another question, of course…
As with any Metroidvania, the gameplay is split right down the middle and divided almost equally between combat and exploring. We’ll have a look at the exploration side of things first, as there are a huge amount of places to visit and things to find and collect. As we continue to explore, we will find new items that can be equipped to our clone body, and the most useful of these, arguably, is the first one, which is a double jump. With this platforming staple unlocked, the rest of the getting around and traversal is pretty standard.
There are however two further additions that deserve a mention. The first is a dash move that can be performed in the air. In certain places there are “dash gates” (my name, and I’m sticking with it) that allow you to cover a wide area in a single dash. Using these gates also resets your jump count, so to clear a long distance you can jump twice, dash into the gate, and then jump twice again at the far end, letting you cover bigger gaps. At least, that’s the theory, as in practice I seemed to always fall short, usually to my death. It is telling that there is an achievement to unlock for dying twenty times.
The other new method for getting around is that of a shield. Weird huh? Well, not really as this can act like a parachute in reverse, allowing you to ride streams of air upwards to new heights. Between these two methods, getting around the areas of GINSHA is actually quite good fun. And exploring every nook and cranny is part of that. With promises of secret areas tucked away off the beaten track, wandering around can be very beneficial.
Another new feature is the scanner that we are equipped with. This can be pointed at various objects in the background to reveal new bits of the story or hints about what is to come in the next room. Scan everything is my advice! But while you have your scanner equipped, you can’t have a gun equipped, and this leads us neatly onto the other section of GINSHA.
That is the combat system. GINSHA uses firearms to be the main weapon of choice, and there is a weird kind of twin-stick element to the shooting action. You can aim freely with the right stick to direct the bullets where you want (and some puzzles are solved this way) while the LT button also acts as an auto aim button, allowing you to concentrate on not getting hit by the enemies as you attempt to survive.
There are a wide variety of weapons to be found, and I’m currently rocking a little pistol for weaker foes, a shotgun for those up close and personal moments, and a charge weapon for longer range encounters. The enemies don’t tend to stay at long range though, so it’s lucky that you can swap between the weapons at a moment’s notice by using the Y button. Finding new gear, crafting upgrades and even new drones is all part of the gameplay loop, and this helps to keep you engaged with the game.
And to be honest, GINSHA does need a little help. While the world and the look are all great, what is a bit frustrating is the combat side of things. Enemies close in on you so fast that you have little-to-no chance of aiming at them, let alone killing them before they remove what is left of your health after trying to traverse some platforms. The overall feeling I had was one of annoyance as I died yet again. I don’t mind a hard game, as long as it’s fair, but there are elements of GINSHA that cross the line a little too much.
Be sure that there is a challenge on offer in GINSHA. If that’s your bag, then knock yourself out.