It may be hard to imagine now but, before the days of the internet, the only way to play multiplayer video games was to invite your friends round to your house for shared screen action. While the rise of Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network saw a huge decline in the amount of titles with sofa-based multiplayer support, there has been a small resurgence in recent years. The latest offering in the split-screen revival is “Extreme Exorcism” – a 16-bit paranormal action-platformer from New York-based indie developer Golden Ruby Games.
In Extreme Exorcism, you play as Mae, a tiny medium at large, who is tasked with ridding a haunted house full of evil spirits. Instead of using séances and crystal balls, Mae uses a kickass arsenal to get her point across. However, there’s an M. Night Shyamalan-esque twist: with every ghost she kills, another takes its place copying everything she did the round before, as her previous actions come back to haunt her.
This mimicking mechanic provides an appealing and refreshing take on the classic combat arena platformer, with players having to strategically plan their kills. The all guns blazing approach may be the easiest and quickest way to defeat your foes, but it will inevitably come back to bite you on the backside, as the longer players survive each stage, the more challenging the game becomes.
As for your arsenal, Extreme Exorcism boasts a wide range, from melee weapons (basic punches, planks of wood, swords) to long-range weapons (rocket launchers, razor-sharp boomerangs, magical staffs). To enhance the mayhem, these can be combined, with players able to carry up to three at any one time. While there isn’t anything particularly special or unique about the available arsenal, the variety on offer is fairly substantial.
Another considerable element of the game is the wide range of ghostbusting characters to choose from, with four (including Mae) available from the outset, and a further four unlocked via progression through the game. Regrettably, the only variety in the characters is in their aesthetics, and you can’t help but feel that the developers have missed a trick by not introducing differentiating stats (such as speed and levels of accuracy), which would have added another dimension to the title.
Extreme Exorcism comprises of three main game modes in total: Arcade, Challenge and Deathmatch, each of which offers slight deviations to the gameplay. Arcade is the main single player draw, tasking players with reaching a certain score in order to progress through to the next stage. It is heaps of fun (in both single player and multiplayer) and the arcade machine feel will be cherished by retro gamers.
For those looking for tougher battles, Challenge Mode offers fifty different trials for players to overcome. The tiered challenges, which increase in difficulty, feature specific rule setups that encourage extreme play (e.g. having players vanquish ghosts with a particular set of weapons or fulfilling a specific condition in a set time limit). Despite the lack of any satisfying rewards, with the exception of trophies, Challenge Mode is a strong inclusion, providing players with fast-paced, ghost-killing action.
However, it’s during the multiplayer aspects of this paranormal action-platformer where Extreme Exorcism really excels. In addition to Arcade mode’s co-operative play, Deathmatch provides competitive multiplayer support for up to four players. The game mode is fully customisable, allowing players to tweak a wide variety of parameters from the amount of ghosts spawned to the strength of gravity and speed of movement. The results are chaotic and it makes for incredibly fun gameplay. It’s just a shame that the multiplayer support is limited to one console, with the omission of online play coming as somewhat of a disappointment.
In keeping with its 16-bit theme, Extreme Exorcism adopts pixel art graphics with detailed environments and charming characters, although it’s the animations that really bring the visuals to life. These are accompanied by a 16-bit style horror soundtrack, as well as subtle, yet effective sound effects that provide a fitting backdrop to the gameplay.
Overall, Extreme Exorcism takes a familiar concept and transforms it into a highly intense and engaging action-platformer thanks to the solid mechanics and the frantic gameplay. The title’s dip-in, dip-out nature offers plenty of entertainment within the single player, although considerably more so in the local multiplayer.