Game: The Outbound Ghost
Genre: RPG, Adventure
System: Nintendo Switch (Also on Steam (Windows), Xbox and PS4)
Developer|Publisher: Conradical Games | Digerati
Age Rating: EU 7+ | US Everyone
Price: US $24.99 | UK £22.49 | EU € 24,99
Release Date: December 1st, 2022
Review code provided with many thanks to Digerati.
The Outbound Ghost is a turn-based RPG with a spiritual premise but a cuddly, family-friendly feel. The Paper Mario vibes are strong with this one, with the game’s light-hearted appearance and battle system. The Nintendo Switch seems an ideal platform to enjoy this adventure into the afterlife, especially if you’re looking for a fairly casual RPG experience. Unfortunately, ghostly niggles in the form of performance issues on the platform make it hard to recommend at this stage.
The town of Outbound has several resident ghosts who are having a bit of trouble ascending to the afterlife. Initially, you play as a ghost suffering from amnesia. It seems even in death; no video game character is safe from this most awful and common of ailments. With the help of your fellow spirits, you’ll explore Outbound, discovering the mystery surrounding the town and helping other ghosts resolve their pent-up issues.
The story is presented in text boxes, so parents remember to have those funny voices at the ready. The game’s general feel is family-friendly despite the overarching theme of death. You’ll encounter a variety of ghostly NPCs of varying personalities, many of which will share the odd joke whilst accompanying you on small stints of the adventure. As you progress to future chapters, you’ll take command of other ghosts, but I won’t spoil the plot any further.
Battle With Your Psyche
The general gameplay loop is the light exploration and battling ghostly foes. To do battle, you use figments which are manifestations of your psyche, such as Regret, Solitude, Corruption and many more. Not the nicest of names, but the sprites sure look adorable.
You can have up to four of these in a party at once and each one has its own speciality such as healing or defence. As you progress through the game, you will unlock more figments, but you also discover secret ones by finding hidden gravestones scattered through the world.
As you explore the world, you can see enemies patrolling. You can choose to engage in battle directly with them. Or alternatively, make use of a variety of foliage like hedges to hide and get the jump on them, giving you a starting advantage in battle. When you hide, the screen will dim, and the game’s sounds will muffle, indicating you’re out of enemy sight, a useful mechanic, especially if you dislike stealth mechanics.
Once battle commences, it’s a turn-based affair. Each turn, you can select an action for one of your figments, such as an attack or use a special skill. Each time you select an action, a slider activates, wherein you must stop a cursor in a specific zone to achieve the most damage. The pattern for this is easy to follow with a standard attack but for some of the skills, the cursor will swing very fast and unexpectedly, making it tricky to achieve a successful hit. Other than this, I liked the battle system. The player is given many options to approach each encounter, whether you want to experiment with various skills or keep things simple. Your figments level up as a group, even the ones not in the main party, which nicely reduces a tedious grind.
Outside of battling, the exploration feels a bit light. You can explore the world to find hidden chests, find crafting materials and create new perks for your figments, but there is not much else to do. You can, of course, talk to NPCs and engage in a small lock-picking mini-game, but I guess I was expecting to see a little more variety in the gameplay, like additional mini-games or gameplay variation. The formula here keeps things pretty simple.
Sit and Meditate
The graphics are just delightful. Sprites are presented as 2D paper-like figures inhabiting a 3D-like world. There is something rather soothing about the environments you explore. Every now and then, you’ll come across a place to sit, where you can sit back and appreciate a nice view or sunset. While you’re doing this, you can take in the calming soundtrack.
Unfortunately, things don’t fare so well with performance. When you enter into battles, the game cuts to a pretty long black screen before things initiate, making me wonder if the game had crashed. Textures are notably blurry in handheld mode, making the text in battles practically unreadable. To top it all off, the game also randomly crashes to the Switch dashboard so remember to save often to avoid the heartbreak of lost progress.
Customize Your Challenge
I played the game on the base medium difficulty and generally found combat to be pretty straightforward except for the boss fights, which require a bit more thought. Even if you decide to keep combat simple and stick with general attacks, you’re not likely to encounter too much trouble.
You can save the game at designated save spots which appear pretty frequently. If the difficulty is a problem, you can tweak various features in the options menu using sliders, such as experience earned and damage dealt. If you find things too easy, these sliders can add extra spice to the mix. Either way, you can tailor the game to your liking without penalty.
Conclusion – Cute and Casual
The Outbound Ghost has the right ingredients for a delightfully wholesome RPG on Switch, but it’s not quite at its prime on this platform. In its current state, it’s certainly playable, but performance issues, blurry text and irritating loading screens between battles make it tough to recommend here.
Patches look to be on the horizon, so this may be one to keep on the wishlist for later. If you have access to other platforms, you may also want to consider those options. Looking past the issues, I felt something warm and moving playing this game. It’s probably a feeling that won’t click with all gamers. As I played and talked to the NPCs dealing with their difficult emotions and just trying to make sense of their lives. I felt a lot of empathy, reflecting on some of my life experiences. If you like your RPG cute and casual or want something wholesome to enjoy on the sofa or maybe with a youngling, then I still recommend this ghostly adventure. Just maybe not right now.
Final Verdict: I Like it