Silver Falls is a series I've become a huge fan of over the past year. It's an indie horror series made Sungrand, a one-man studio based in Australia, that focuses around the quaint little town of Silver Falls. This quaint little town isn't quite as normal as it looks, though; strange things keep happening, and strange creatures keep appearing. Each game in the series has a very distinct feel and style that matches the time period when the game takes place, and the fact that everything about the games from the visuals to the coding to the audio is all done by one person gives each entry a real labor-of-love feel that big studio AAA games just can't replicate.
Ghoul Busters takes place in the early 1990s and, as such, has an aesthetic intentionally reminiscent of the original Game Boy (that's also why the game's initials are "GB"). It follows two young best friends forever, Starlin Allerdyce and Atticus Longdraw, on their adventure-turned-nightmare in the woods. The two boys had gone to the woods one night to play Ghoul Busters, pretending to be the heroes from their favorite television cartoon, but they quickly stumble upon real monsters lurking in the woods as well as adults from the town who seem to know more about the strange goings-on than they're willing to admit. Now their playtime has turned into a very literal fight for survival.
The game is a 2D platformer although one that makes heavy (and excellent) use of the 3DS's stereoscopic 3D effect. It's totally playable in 2D, but like Super Mario 3D Land, there are obstacles - like blades swinging between the close foreground and the background - that the 3D effect makes easier to see and dodge. Each of the two characters - Starlin and Atticus - plays somewhat differently. Starlin is a bit slower in jumps, attacks with a hockey stick, and seems to deal a little more damage with more knockback. Atticus, on the other hand, moves much faster in the air, attacks with a slingshot, and trades some of that damage and knockback for attack range. Personally, I preferred playing as Atticus, although Starlin felt more useful to me in the last few levels. The action takes place on the top screen while the touch screen holds items in your inventory that can be used by tapping as well as a pocket pet toy that emits a sound that causes a particular spinning spike enemy to retract its spines for a brief period of time.
The game isn't very long, but what it lacks in length it makes up for in quality. There are nine levels and three bosses (one at the end of each three-level stage), and they are, as one might hope, increasingly challenging. On level 1-1, for example, I only died once; by level 3-3, you'd have thought I was playing Super Meat Boy. By the time I had cleared the final boss, I had died 421 times during my playthrough, and it would have been a lot more if I hadn't had items to use. Between levels, you get the chance to spend the bottle caps you collected thus far to buy items for use later, and fortunately, you're able to go back and replay levels to grind more bottle caps if you find that you're in need of items but out of funds. There are box tops hidden throughout the levels, as well, and each level that you end with three box tops gives you a special item that you can't normally buy.
The coolest thing, in my opinion, about the Silver Falls series as a whole is the connectivity between games courtesy of the Code Linker system. Jerrel, the developer, really went out of his way to make sure that his games connect with each other in some way. The way it works is that one Silver Falls game - let's say Episode Prelude on Switch - gives you a blue code in its Code Linker menu. You then plug that blue code into the Code Linker menu in Ghoul Busters on 3DS, and it spits out a yellow key code. Plug that yellow code back into Episode Prelude, and a character from Ghoul Busters is now playable in Episode Prelude. That's just an example - I'm not sure if that particular example is actually viable - but that's the gist of how it works. Jerrel designed it to be like amiibo but without the need for an additional purchase and as a sort of bonus for buying the other games, although he's stressed multiple times that he actively encourages folks' sharing codes with friends who may not have all of the Silver Falls games; he just wants people to play and enjoy what he's made.
Silver Falls: Ghoul Busters is really an extraordinary platformer. It's short and extremely challenging at parts, but at no point does it ever stop being fun. It's got its moments where you can tell you're being directly trolled by obstacle and enemy placements, but it's never to the point where you rage quit; it's always just reasonable enough to make you say "One more try." There's also just this unexplainable magic that comes from a game made entirely by one guy who's genuinely super passionate about gaming and making games that people want to play. It's made in Unity for 3DS, so it's got some random and impossible-to-replicate-on-command bugs and crashes here and there, but the game's got a good auto-save system, so I've never lost any progress from crashes, and it doesn't take long to load back into the game. The music is absolutely phenomenal, and while you'll hear the low-fi voice saying "Bummer!" every time you die in your nightmares, it's a wholly satisfying, enjoyable, and charming platformer from start to finish. I enjoyed this game more than any other indie platformer I've ever played and for reasons I can't quite put my finger on, but regardless of why, I honestly can't recommend this game highly enough. Releasing at the very end of the 3DS's life span puts a quickly ticking timer on its availability, so make sure you don't sleep on this one.
My Rating - 5 Neps
I'm a teacher.
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach high school history; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.