Extreme Exorcism is the type of game that perfectly illustrates everything that’s both brilliant and flawed about the PC indieverse right now.
For starters, it has what is easily one of the most interesting core mechanics I’ve ever experienced in any game, period. There’s not much in the way of story, as you’re dropped straight into the menu with the option of Arcade, Challenges, and Deathmatch (local only, I’m afraid), but what is obvious is that you play an 8-bit exorcist. There’s no pea soup and mother cursing here, though, as the game’s hook is that every move you make in a round comes back to haunt you—literally. The game actually records your behaviour while banishing the initial haunting—an animated, smiling chair. Once successfully landing an attack against the erratic moving furniture (which is both a challenge and a tragedy—he looks so happy!), a new round begins and you’ll be tasked with hunting a ghost version of your past actions—it literally follows your previous movements, moving, jumping and attacking when you did throughout the round previous. Each round, your most recent ghost (a clever play on the slang for a superimposed replay) becomes your exorcism target, but each ghost from previous rounds will also see a return.
This all plays out in adorably spooky 2D platforming levels, and has a wonderful cascading effect, whereby in the first couple rounds you may remember your previous actions well enough to ambush your past selves, but soon, inevitably, you’ll start to make mistakes. It’s only in the rounds to follow, however, that you’ll realize the consequences of those mistakes, as soon, errant swings, shots, explosions, failed jumps, and dodges will all cloud up your screen, leaving you in a frantic mess of a pickle. Essentially, the whole game is less of an arcade platform shooter and more of an arcade puzzler, whereby you’re creating each new layer of the puzzle by solving the ones previous. Brilliant!
On the whole, your repertoire of tools for destruction is rather limited at first, with more being unlocked by progression—each level is essentially an endless challenge, only limited by your three lives (because: retro) and how long you can maintain them in the mess of self-wrought bullet-hell mayhem. The more times you topple the crowned ghost (that of your most recent actions), the higher your score, and thus the closer you’ll come to unlocking new levels and weapons to fill them. There’s also a clever ‘Exorcism’ spell as a rare weapon pickup. It’s a long, slow animating radial cast that all but prevents movement for its duration, but any of your ghosts that are caught in it are permanently banished, thus clearing the level and hopefully allowing chances for higher scores.
Really, that’s about it. It’s a simple premise that’s executed perfectly. Between the Arcade mode, the Challenges, and the Deathmatch mode that supports up to four local players, this really is a brilliant little time waster, personal challenge, and party game, all in equal measure. Paired with the beautiful pixel art visuals, stunningly vibrant yet fitting graveyard-themed colour palette, and charmingly on-point sound and music, it’s hard not to come away from your time with it with a huge smile on your face.
For me, that’s a bit of a sad thing to see, as Extreme Exorcism exists—on the PC, at least—in a space that’s so saturated at the moment that it could never receive the attention it truly deserves. We’re so inundated with pixel art indies right now that it’s difficult for any one game to rise to the surface to be noticed, and that’s a real tragedy. There are plenty of games I review that I enjoy, adore, and occasionally even come to love, but few, if any, have left me with such a big, fat, stupid grin on my face. The chaps over at Golden Ruby Games have offered up something refreshingly unique that manages to still be intuitive and accessible, and I very much look forward to what they might come up with next. For now, though, Extreme Exorcism has brightened my day in a way that few other games have. That alone should be reason enough to check it out.