A Ghost of A Chance
Since its debut in 2005, the God of War franchise has been hacking and slashing its way into the hearts of gamers. Although Kratos himself is quite unlikeable, his antihero persona and his pure badassery has resonated with gamers. In 2008 Ready at Dawn Studios crafted the first portable entry in the series, Chains of Olympus. Now two years later, they're telling yet another tale of Kratos' storied past with God of War: Ghost of Sparta. Is yet another God of War needed, or is this series merely a ghost of its past self?
When Kratos was a child, his brother, Deimos, was abducted by Ares under the Gods' instructions. Now that Kratos is an adult and now the God of War himself, he gets surly visions of the past and the future. To soothe these savage thoughts, Kratos must head to Atlantis, Sparta, and even into Death's Domain to search for his long-lost brother, destroy the God of Death, Thanatos, and make it out of there with his life. The story in Ghost of Sparta is told through flashback sequences and cutscenes featuring the haunting female narrator that fans of the series have known to love. There's much less story to get in the way this go around, and what there is doesn't intrude on the experience.
The God of War series is known for its visceral violence, hack and slash action, perplexing puzzles, and non-deep stories. Ghost of Sparta is no exception. While the puzzles in this game are rather simplistic and the game itself only lasts 4-5 hours, there's plenty more to do once the game is beaten. The first time the game is completed, you unlock God Mode, the highest difficulty imaginable for the game. Then there's the a battle mode where you encounter battles with set winning conditions. In addition to these modes, there's a place where you can earn treasures from the red orbs earned during Kratos' campaign.
There's three types of orbs in Ghost of Sparta: red, blue, and green. Red orbs are sacrificed to power up Kratos' weapons and magic spells. As they level up, Kratos learns new moves that can dish out more damage on his foes. As mentioned already collecting red orbs in mass can also be used in the Treasures menu to unlock hidden abilities. Blue orbs power up the God of War's magic meter whereas green heals his health bar.
If you've played a God of War game before, you probably know what to expect from this handheld entry. The square button unleashes weak attacks while the triangle button strikes down with heavy attacks. Enemies that are weakened enough can be grabbed with the circle button. In Kratos' journey he'll face off against a menagerie of monsters and foes such as minotaurs, cyclops, harpies, and other unworldly beasts. Some enemies have protective armor on them that can only be destroyed by holding the R button while attacking. This sets Kratos' weapons on fire to dish out massive damage. However, while the R button is held down, the fire gauge goes down. If it empties all the way, you'll have to wait for it to restore.
Many times during the game whether during a set piece or during battle, you'll be prompted to press a button to enter a mini-game of sorts. God of War was the franchise that made quick-time events popular, and there's no sign of them going away in this game. Whether you're jamming on the circle button to open doors, pressing the correct button at the correct time to save yourself from impending doom, or hitting the right button(s) to kill off a gigantic beast, you'll be using the QTE a lot in Ghost of Sparta.
As Kratos progresses through his adventure, he'll come across new skills and abilities. One bestows upon him a conch shell that can freeze enemies in the area around him for quick kills. Another gives Kratos a spear and shield. With the spear Kratos can attack enemies from afar while the shield is perfect for blocking attacks as well as walls of fire that would otherwise cook Kratos' goose. Along with new abilities, there's treasure chests hidden throughout Atlantis, Sparta, and Death's Domain. These house items such as Gorgon Eyes, Phoenix Feathers, and Minotaur Horns. When five of these are collected, a sacrifice is made, and the God of War's health, magic, or fire gauge is increased by a bit.
A God of War game wouldn't be complete without big and bad bosses to beat down, and Ghost of Sparta does not disappoint in this arena. Conflicts between bosses pull out all the stops. In one battle you'll be avoiding a creature that was once Kratos' mother while another will have you free-falling from the sky in a mad attempt to catch up and kill a gigantic harpy that is retreating. Rest assured QTEs are aplenty in these encounters.
Ghost of Sparta is a gorgeous, jaw-dropping game. It's no surprise either as we're at the end of the PlayStation Portable's life, so Ready at Dawn pulled out all of the stops on the graphics for this game. Rain, wind, and fire effects are impressive, character models and levels are richly-detailed, and backgrounds are full of life. The audio features a pumping orchestral score, perfect for slaying baddies to while TC Carson once again gives off a wonderful performance as the God of War. Overall, there's no complaints when it comes to the presentation that Ready at Dawn gave this game.
While Ghost of Sparta is a short game, there's enough content to justify multiple playthroughs. Higher difficulties earn Kratos new costumes, collected treasures give Kratos new powers such as unlimited magic and ten times the red orbs, and the bonus content gives new meaning to the word "incredible". While not as influential as the original God of War, Ghost of Sparta does its job and does it well, even if the God of War formula is in serious need of spicing up.
[SuperPhillip Says: 8.75/10]