Extreme Exorcism is a basic but fun sugar rush of manic arcade-style platforming, all built around an interesting and unique game mechanic.
Time mechanics have always been a hugely important part of gaming. From the stressful time limits of Super Mario Bros. and the ever-shifting world caused by time travel in Chrono Trigger, developers have used time as a device to bring plenty of ideas to the table. After all, what would Max Payne have been were it not for the slow-motion bullet time gameplay?
In recent years, independent developers working on smaller titles seem to have taken up the mantle of making time important. 2008’s Braid gave players a unique and mind-bending time manipulation mechanic, leading to not only fiendish puzzles and platforming but also a memorable, bittersweet narrative. Meanwhile, Super Time Force gave retro, side-scrolling shooters like Contra a bit of a modern update, resulting in an explosive and replayable experience.
Now, the independent development scene has another addition to these ranks in the form of Extreme Exorcism. The ghost-hunting title, which was developed by Golden Ruby Games, may look like a run-of-the-mill platformer, but it has one very interesting mechanic: the player’s own movements become an enemy to defeat. Each time a ghost is defeated in one of the single screen levels, the next ghost to appear will copy the movement pattern of the player from the previous round.
This makes Extreme Exorcism into an interesting hybrid of sorts. Alongside the obvious comparison to the aforementioned Super Time Force, perhaps Extreme Exorcism’s closest cousins come in the form of multiplayer title TowerFall and platform classic Bubble Bobble. The single-screen platform arenas are the game’s only environment, with the player in question having to defeat an ever-increasing number of ghosts.
With multiple, fast-paced enemies on screen at any time, and little room to maneuver, the gameplay is suitably action-packed and frenetic. Meanwhile, the title gives the player multiple weapons per stage, with a limit of three weapons chosen at any given time. With all three weapons firing simultaneously, each round has to potential to become a glorious mess.
There’s a level of strategy required, however, as players will need to make sure that they keep track of their own movements for the following round. This results in the player having to keep a focus on the past, the present, and the future. A good memory of what happened three rounds before is vital, but equally important is the ability to plan a movement pattern for three rounds in the future.
Thankfully, each round does not require that the player take down all of the ghosts on screen. Instead, defeating the ghost created from the last round completed will end the round prematurely. Find the ghost wearing a crown, and the rest of the undead army will be exorcised along with them. This gives a brief respite for the player, adding a little bit of precision to the otherwise chaotic action.
Thankfully, Golden Ruby Games’ aesthetic choices mean that Extreme Exorcism never feels too confusing. The title has a wonderful retro feel akin to fellow 8-bit love letter Shovel Knight, with clear and bright sprites, and a good variety with regards to stage design. Players unlock ten different rooms of a haunted house, each with its own distinct backdrop.
Unfortunately, in spite of the different stages to unlock, Extreme Exorcism does not bring much to the table in terms of longevity. The title can quickly grow tiresome to play, and is unlikely to be the catalyst for any day-long gaming sessions. In effect, Extreme Exorcism is akin to the sugar rush after eating too much Halloween candy, a wonderfully fun experience but only as a short, sharp burst.
Perhaps the main reason for this is the lack of gameplay variety on show. Each round of Extreme Exorcism follows the same pattern, and although the different movements of the enemies mean that a player’s attention can never quite be pulled away, it still feels like a little bit a waste for such a great game mechanic. The only real change comes in the form of a battle with the final boss.
Thankfully, Extreme Exorcism gives plenty of local multiplayer choices, and with that comes at least a spark of replayability. Deathmatch is chaotic fun akin to the previously mentioned Towerfall, and allows four players to simultaneously play. The player who wins the round earns a ghost partner of their own, adding another element to the frantic, closed quarters combat.
The entire Arcade mode campaign is also available for local co-op play, and is a wonderful addition given recent gaming trends that have seen a decline in couch co-op choices. The co-op mode throws some of the strategic elements of Extreme Exorcism out of the window, however. Co-operative play makes mapping out the movements of your enemies a little trickier, due to there being an additional set of ghosts on screen. This brings with it an additional level of confusion, although the fun of playing the title with a friend is certainly worth it.
Thankfully, the co-op mode has its own rewards, bringing its own enjoyable moments through the sheer chaos that is on screen at any given moment. There are also some tweaks to the way in which the game works. Alongside the player’s health bar, the additional ability to revive a fallen player by killing a certain number of ghosts is a useful one.
The multiplayer does not filter through to the game’s final mode, however, as Extreme Exorcism’s Challenge mode is a single player experience only. Although the challenges do bring a level of difficulty to the title, they do not add all that much to the overall gameplay. Completionists may want to power through and complete every one of the fifty challenges available, but there is little by way of reward for doing so.
Nintendo fans should also note that the Wii U version of the game does not quite make the best use of the console’s functionality. Although the game may have a very pleasing retro feel, it also seems as though the game’s options have also been left in the past, as the port to Nintendo’s console does feel a little on the basic side. The lack of off-TV play in particular is frustrating, with the Wii U gamepad’s screen merely showing the Extreme Exorcism logo during sessions.
All in all, however, Extreme Exorcism is a joy to play, and those after a frenetic indie fix with plenty of action should get themselves hooked up with Extreme Exorcism pronto. Players after more longevity and replayability may not find enough to keep them occupied, but the title packs a punch into its short bursts of action, and is ideal for those after a hectic multiplayer experience.
Extreme Exorcism is out now for PC, Wii U, Xbox One, PS3, and PS4. Game Rant was provided with a Wii U code for this review.