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Ghost Rider Retrospective

Ghost Rider Retrospective

Celebrating its 15th anniversary this month, the Nick Cage-led Ghost Rider movie (Hell)spawned a tie-in game, also released 15 years ago. Or games, really, because it was released on the PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, and Game Boy Advance.

Ghost Rider acted as a semi-sequel to the movie and was developed by Climax Studios, the studio behind Silent Hill: Origins, Assassin’s Creed Chronicles, and Crayola Scoot, as well as a bunch of racing games on the PS2/PSP. The Game Boy Advance version was developed by Magic Pockets, the studio behind Cartoon Network: Battle Crashers, two Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles titles, and a whole bunch of game ports. The story was written by veteran comic book writers Garth Ennis and Jimmy Palmiotti, who also scripted The Punisher game by Volition a couple of years prior. While Palmiotti hadn’t written the character much, Ennis and artist Clayton Crain had been responsible for bringing the comic book Ghost Rider back to prominence in 2005.

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PlayStation 2

The game follows Johnny Blaze, AKA Ghost Rider, as he joins up with Mephisto to stop demons from escaping Hell. Along the way you meet several other characters from the comics, as well as the vampire-hunter Blade. Fun fact, you can unlock him as a playable character, too!

There are two styles of gameplay; on foot, and Hellcycle. The on-foot levels are God of War-style beat ‘em up, with a few waves of enemies in each. The Game Boy Advance version follows the same plot and format with on-foot and Hellcycle, but it involves a lot of platforming, akin to many other GBA games of the time.

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Game Boy Advance

Hellcycle levels with chain and hellfire attacks, jumps and sliding under things. On-foot enemies can claw at you or shoot fire. Your attacks build up a combo meter, and you can upgrade them.

As you might, expect the two PlayStation platforms are similar, but they vary in a number of notable ways. For instance, in the PSP game you can move the camera to be the usual third-person “behind”, or more of a fixed angle. With the PS2 you only have the fixed third-person camera, because the right stick makes you dodge. To upgrade your abilities and unlock things like concept art in the PSP version, you have to collect skulls by completing challenges along the lines of “Use Penance Stare 2 times”. To upgrade in the PS2 title, you simply have to gather souls by killing enemies. The levels in the PSP edition are a lot more compact than the PS2, with each of the 40 sections being available in the level select. The 30 PS2 levels all follow one another as you’d expect them to.

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PlayStation Portable

Of course, it’s unfair to compare those two versions, which are basically the same thing, to the GBA one. It has 25 levels of platforming and racing, following the same story as the other two versions. Honestly, it’s pretty great how Climax scaled down the game for the much smaller platform, as on paper you can do everything in all of these Ghost Riders.

Upon release, Ghost Rider received middling-to-low scores. Most outlets complained that it was a knock-off God of War, and not a good one at that. I even saw mention that it was a budget title, and honestly it shows. Each music track is short and used repeatedly; there are a limited number of sound effects; even in the “full sized” PS2 version the levels are short: the first level took me less than seven minutes to complete. Oh, and Johnny Blaze looks nothing like Nicholas Cage.

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PlayStation 2

But never let it be said that cheaper games don’t give any enjoyment. Climax Studios and Magic Pockets both made fun games here! Movie tie-ins have always been a tricky thing to handle, and I’ve certainly played worse games. If you only get the chance to play one of them, I’d recommend the PlayStation 2 version. It certainly seems closer to Climax’s vision for the game, though the GBA one is worth a look as it looks pretty good on the hardware.

Go to Hell, 2007’s Ghost Rider for PlayStation Portable, PlayStation 2, & Game Boy Advance, and punch Mephisto in the face.

Andrew Duncan

Andrew Duncan


Guaranteed to know more about Transformers and Deadpool than any other staff member.

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