The Outbound Ghost is cute, but falls flat

Coming from the indie game studio Conradical Games, “The Outbound Ghost” is a charming game just in time for the spooky season. Led by developer Conrad Grindheim, “The Outbound Ghost” is an impressive feat. Grindheim was joined by only two other team members, composer Kimmo Savilampi and character artist Clay-zulah.

After being crowdfunded in only 32 hours on Kickstarter and going viral on social media, many gamers have been eagerly awaiting “The Outbound Ghost” to release. Now the wait is finally over. But was it worth it?

“The Outbound Ghost” was released on Sept. 20 to the Nintendo Switch, Xbox consoles, Playstation, PC, and Mac computers. It can be purchased for $19.99. 

In “The Outbound Ghost,” you play as an amnesiac ghost who has found their way into a town full of ghosts of freshly-murdered people, clinging onto emotional baggage from their previous life. Throughout the game, you try to figure out the cause of your death while helping others free their spirits to the afterlife. 

The game begins with you waking up on the outskirts of the town Outbound. It is quickly revealed a serial killer murdered everyone within the town. Many of the victims are struggling to pass over to the afterlife and are stuck in purgatory. 

You meet another amnesiac, Adrian, in hopes of discovering the reasoning behind your amnesia. However he ends up running away, leading the player on a goose chase to try and find him and get to the root of the mystery. 

The general premise of “The Outbound Ghost” is an intriguing murder mystery but it falls short in a few aspects. The story beats are paced weirdly and the writing feels flat at times.

The button mapping also feels awkward playing on PC and there is no way in the settings to change this. “Continue” binds to the escape key and can lead to you needing to alt-F4 to force quit the game after confirming something when trying to back out. While this isn’t the biggest issue in the world, it can still be annoying. 

Additionally, while the combat is interesting at first, it becomes repetitive and tiring somewhat quickly. While exploring the world of Outbound, you run into apparitions that you must fight in turn-based battles. 

What is unique about the battles is that instead of the player character taking on the apparitions, you send out Figments representing different aspects of the character’s emotions. You begin with one, Regret, but acquire more as the game progresses.

Each Figment comes with its abilities, and the player needs to try and use the Figments wisely. You need to be cautious of how many health and Skill Points (SP) each Figment has to win the battles.

When attacking or using a skill, you must perform a quick time-based skill check for attacks to do the most damage. There will be a slider above the attacking character’s head and the player needs to hit the interact button while the slider is in the green to do the most damage. Land in the orange and you will do a little less damage and landing in the red will have you miss the attack entirely. 

Each move has a different rhythm to it, but once you have it down, it is easy to land in the green every time. Unfortunately, this makes it tedious to do the combat early on in the game and the combat doesn’t expand much out of this mechanic.

Where the outbound truly shines is with its art style. Grindheim has expressed his inspiration from the “Paper Mario” series, which shows in “The Outbound Ghost.” The characters are drawn in 2D and have a paper-like aesthetic, while the surrounding world is in 3D.

The character designs are probably the best aspect of “The Outbound Ghost.” While the art style is simplistic, each character feels unique and it plays homage to “Paper Mario” nicely. 

As someone who was incredibly excited for “The Outbound Ghost,” it does feel disappointing overall, and it was hard to get very far into the game without wanting to go do something else. It is still a cute game to get you in the mood for the Halloween season and an impressive accomplishment from only one developer, but unfortunately it falls a bit flat.

With future updates and continued work on it, “The Outbound Ghost” has the potential to be something incredible, but at the time, it would probably be better to pick it up on sale.

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