Ghost Rider

Marvel movie adaptations have been a bit hit and miss over the years, but most of them had at least some entertainment value. Unfortunately, I can't think of a single thing that entertained me about "Ghost Rider", starring Nicolas Cage. He didn't even yell "How did it burn? How did it burrrrrrn?" at any point in the movie, which was, frankly, disappointing. Why is Nic Cage in such fuck awful movies, anyway? I'm beginning to wonder if he should've just quit after "Raising Arizona" or "Face/Off". "Face/Off" isn't exactly a 'good' movie, but shit sure does blow up some, and there's a few clever lines.

"Ghost Rider" the PlayStation 2 game is a vast improvement on the movie - a rare occurrence when it comes to movie-game adaptations. When you start with utter ass, however, the only way is up. That still doesn't explain why the "Howard the Duck" game on C64 wasn't better than the movie, though. In "Ghost Rider", you play the Johnny Blaze character, surprisingly enough, on a quest set after the events of the movie. It uses primarily comic book art, in some nice animated still shots (a style that'll be familiar to you if you've played a bunch of Wii games - stills larger than the screen which are scrolled over or moved around in dramatic fashions to make it not completely boring, just slightly boring) to establish story, although on the upgrading screen, there's a still of the Caretaker character from the movie.

The gameplay itself is actually a hybrid of two styles - one a combat racing game with extras, and one a shortbus-level simplification of Devil May Cry. Each stage alternates between styles. You start out in Hell itself, looking rather unlike Dante's poetry, running from room to room in an incredibly linear fashion with no puzzles whatsoever to solve (the camera focuses on the next location you have to go to each time movement stops for monsters to appear, for example, and anywhere where you have to do something beyond flicking a switch to proceed is done in an automatically triggered cut scene) bashing crap out of admittedly somewhat interestingly designed demon creatures. It's very, very much in the Devil May Cry or Onimusha vein, with repeated hits increasing a cool-o-meter ("Brutal!", etc), collecting orbs that come out of dead demons to increase your powers and abilities, and the occasional bigger boss. You even collect the equivalent of magic energy so you can do massive damage moves. It's nothing new, really, athough there is one neat touch - some monsters have a combo rating shield on them, meaning you can't damage them until you get your combo rating up to a certain level. It takes you a bit out of the realism of the thing to have a monster with a giant "BRUTAL!" floating around it, but it's an interesting variation on the theme.

People, please don't judge 'The Wicker Man' by the Nic Cage remake!

Alternate levels are the aforementioned combat racing game - you ride the Ghost Rider's bike, the 'Heavy Metal fan's Wank Fantasy' or whatever it's called, and can either whip to the left or right, "Road Rash" style, to attack other bikers, or fire your hell-o-gun-thing which is semi-homing to take out stationary demons along the path for bonuses. You also have to keep an eye on the road for obstacles you need to slide under, or jump over. It's quite fun, actually, even if the levels are a little dark initially.

The presentation is top notch for this kind of thing, with plenty of extras to unlock, including comic book scans and "making of" footage, that is if you can be bothered to play the game enough to get enough points to do so. Judging by how many points I got while I was playing, it wouldn't take too many plays to unlock everything. The graphics and sound are pretty decent, although the "you're getting attacked, champ" music gets very old after about two lots of fighting. Some of the moves you can do even look pretty impressive, like leaping up and spinning your chain around, blasting enemies. I have to admit I was quite amused by the way you regain health - walk near fire sources, and his head sucks up more fire to restore your life bar.

"Ghost Rider" the game isn't really that much better than mediocre, but the variety of the two mixed game styles, and the fact that no level is much longer than about 10 minutes, might suit people with short attention spans. If you're a fan of the film, you should probably fuck yourself, or jump off a nearby building, for the greater good of humanity.

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