Also available on 3DS
Silver Falls is 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. Not only that, but the series represents a wide array of genres, and it boasts an impressive number of entries considering that the first game, 3 Down Stars, was released only four years ago. That number is even more impressive if you include ports and remasters. This is one such remaster; Ghoul Busters was originally released in mid-2022 for the 3DS as part of Sungrand's last hurrah slew of 3DS and Wii U games, and it's actually the one that got me into the series. When the 3DS eShop closed, however, Ghoul Busters became unobtainable despite being an excellent game. As such, Sungrand made the decision to answer the prayers of fans and give the game a Switch remaster, now sporting HD visuals as well as a slew of visual effects and screen color schemes.
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. Armed only with their toys, the two children have to use their wits, agility, and the luck and survivability that comes with being the main characters to make it to morning.
The game is a 2D platformer although one that was obviously designed with the 3DS's stereoscopic 3D in mind. As such, there's a little bit of a learning curve on Switch. There are obstacles and traps that swing back and forth between the foreground and the background, and there are platforms that spin around in circles so that you have to time your jumps for when the platforms are along the X axis and get off before they rotate to face along the Z axis. It's definitely doable - the high resolution graphics make it fairly easy to get a feel for the movement of these obstacles - but it's not as naturally intuitive as playing on 3DS with the 3D enabled. 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 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 - the game's currency - 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 best part about the game's transition from 3DS to Switch is the visual effect options. Some add to the atmosphere of the game, like the fog and rain effects, while others actually make it a little harder to see but are there simply because they look cool, like the wool and retro graphic effects. Others, like the old TV effect, don't enhance the horror vibe of the game but do add a distinct vibe of their own. My personal favorite, the old movie effect, simulates the anaglyph 3D effect by adding the blue and red effects. It's nowhere near as effective as the 3DS's stereoscopic screen, but it does give a subtle 3D effect to a non-3D screen. In addition to the visual effects, there are numerous color effects that you can enable. Don't like the green look of the original DMG Game Boy? Make it pink. Wish you were playing on a truly black and white screen like the Game Boy actually produces? There's a grey color. Wish you were playing this on a Virtual Boy? There's a red color. Want it to be generally radical? There's a neon blue color. Mixing and matching different screen colors and visual effects was one of my favorite parts about playing this remastered version of the game for the first time.
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. Now that four games are unobtainable due to being on Wii U and 3DS with Jerrel adamant about never porting White Inside Its Umbra due to being designed specifically for the Wii U's control scheme, that encouragement to share code linker with other fans is important.
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 that 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, so it's got its unpredictable quirks, but those are significantly less common than in the 3DS original, and the game's got a good auto-save system just in case. 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. I'm thrilled that this game isn't trapped on the 3DS because it deserves to be played and enjoyed by as many people as possible.
My Rating - A
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.