An initial glance at Extreme Exorcism yields a familiar impression; the game looks rather similar to the likes of fellow arena battler games such as Towerfall: Ascension and, to a lesser degree, the recently released Paperbound. Where the two-man developed Extreme Exorcism differs from its supposed peers however, is in the ghoulishly gratifying ghost mimicking system which represents that crux of its appeal. The fact that the game has enough local mulitiplayer customisation to refloat the Titanic (or rather, whatever’s left of it), also doesn’t hurt – but more on that in a bit.
Extreme Exorcism has a wonderfully basic premise – its a 2D pixel-art arena battler where the objective is to rid the stage of crown-wearing enemy ghosts before proceeding onto the next stage. Where the game really comes alive however, if you’ll forgive the pun, is through its use of a superb ghost mimicry mechanic which really sets it apart from any other game out there.
How this works is whenever you kill a crowned enemy ghost (regular ones don’t count but can still hurt you), its successor in the following round follows your exact same pattern of movement; right down to the weapons and tactics that were used. Brilliantly, this effectively weaponises every decision that you make, meaning that an especially vigorous bout of screen filling gunfire in pursuit of your foe can literally come back to haunt you as your ghost follows your act, step for step, in an effort to put you in the ground.
Where this neat little twist really comes into its own is when you discover that it can be used against your ethereal opponents as well. Stand still for example and fall your foe with a single strike and the next ghost will proceed to do exactly the same thing; standing still for the same of interval of time and setting themselves up for an easy kill in return. It’s gloriously satisfying and refreshing stuff.
Speaking of kills, the creative latitude afforded to the player in Extreme Exorcism is impressive. From wooden sticks, knives and unarmed strikes through to shotguns, rocket launchers and even magical weapons, the range of ghoulish battery available is both varied and satisfying. Further cementing the myriad applications of violence is the fact that two ranged weapons and one melee armament can be used at any one time, creating some truly overkill-reeking combinations which, again, can come back to bite you in the behind when used against you by the ghosts.
A big part of what makes Extreme Exorcism works as well it as does, is just how responsive and pixel-perfect everything feels on a fundamental level. Rare is it that a mistake ever feels like it should be anything other than your own responsibility with the game aptly supporting all manner of 2D platform shooter acrobatics with little issue. Indeed, fans of ultra-low latency platformers from yesteryear will find a lot to love here.
In terms of selectable heroes, a quartet of different characters are available from the offset, though somewhat disappointingly, they only vary in terms of aesthetic and are not distinguished by any other significant metric. A missed opportunity for sure. Happily though, the stages in which you wage your supernatural scraps fare a lot better, being a functionally varied bunch with a number of bespoke hazards such spikes, moving platforms and shifting scenery to name just a few to keep things sufficently spicy.
On the topic of the stages, they are interestingly infinite in length, allowing players to kill as many ghosts as they can before they eventually fall themselves. This is a key feature because not only does a set score have to be reached before other stages open up to the player in arcade mode, but also this allows players to keep killing their ghoulish foes for as long as they can; unlocking new weapons with each milestone reached and providing incentive to keep on going.
In the absence of friends, Extreme Exorcism keeps the lone ghost smacker busy with a number of tiered challenges that extend the single-player experience. Set around specific objectives, these challenges include such tasks as having players vanquish ghosts with a particular set of weapons or fulfil some other condition within a set time limit. For the most part, these challenges provide decent entertainment and extend the longevity of Extreme Exorcism for the lone player quite admirably.
Where the challenges come unstuck a tad, is in those tasks which require use of a specific weapon to defeat a certain number of ghosts. The issue here is that because weapon spawn points are entirely random, you can often you can be left waiting, sometimes for minutes at a time, for your desired ghost masher to make an appearance.
If Extreme Exorcism makes a positive impression with the single-player side of things then, it’s in the game’s multiplayer offering that it truly impresses, with both local co-operative and competitive play available. Ostensibly, it’s in the game’s competitive deathmatch mode where the majority of the fun can be found, offering a wide variety of parameters that can be tweaked from ghost spawns to even the strength of gravity and speed of movement. Add onto this a ton of different modes such as ‘Kung Fu’ where everything slows down and only unarmed moves are available, and ‘the hyper zone’ where attacks and movements are both massively sped up, and it’s clear that a rich and a staggering amount of choice exists.
Where the multiplayer offering really comes into its own though, is in how the whole ghost routine is handled. Here, the person who kills the other player gets a ghost of their own which mimics their movements much like the ghosts in the regular game do. The upshot of this is if a player falls behind on the kills it can be quite difficult to pull themselves back as the undead army of the opposing player grows, yet the flip-side is that you can actually be killed by your own ghost, creating a huge amount of unintentional hilarity as a result.
Sadly, if you don’t have friends around that often and were looking to get stuck into some multiplayer over the good old PSN, Extreme Exorcism bafflingly doesn’t have your back as the game supports local multiplayer in what can only be described as a glaring omission to say the least. Hopefully a patch will address this in the future, allowing the game to realise its true potential.
Elsewhere from a technical point of view, Extreme Exorcism anchors its blissfully entertaining proceedings with pixel art visuals, all the while caressing your eardrums with a range of 16 bit-styled serenades and sound effects. Its aesthetic offering is one that many folks will no doubt used to by now, but its arguably one that suits the game perfectly.
In the end, while the lack of online multiplayer and real functional diversity between selectable characters might grate, such flaws aren’t ultimately enough to subtract in a meaningfully substantial way from what is one of the most uniquely entertaining multiplayer experiences out there right now. Extreme Exorcism is a game which is impossible to not have fun with. With that in mind, I can think of a no more potent recommendation to those looking for their next fix of frenetic multiplayer mayhem.