Like most games, Ghostrunner is a homogenisation of a number of already existing ideas, though if done right, as I feel it has been with this title, there’s no reason it can’t still be a unique experience. Ghostrunner takes the parkour of Mirror’s Edge, the first person sword play of Shadow Warrior and the ‘one more time’ instant death and retry gameplay of Hotline Miami or Superhot, all in a Bladerunner-esque cyberpunk setting. This mixture leads to some very stylish gameplay and tense encounters, and while Ghostrunner ultimately leaves something to be desired, I have been impressed by its short campaign.

You play as an unnamed protagonist, waking up in the middle of a cyberpunk city, not knowing anything other than to follow the instructions of the AI voice in your head. The city has been diminished and oppressed by the ruthless leader Mara (or, ‘The Keymaster’), and it quickly becomes apparent that, along with your AI companion, your purpose is to make your way through the city and its ‘tower’ to take her down.

Whoever you are, you are clearly gifted with innate abilities to run, jump and murder, and as you progress through the game you will relearn all of your old abilities prior to the point of losing your memory. Initially this simply includes running, sliding, wall running and dashing, however later on we get to use some special powers which include a blink ability (to slow time and slash through multiple enemies if they are lined up), a push power (like force push in Star Wars) and even the ability to turn enemies against each other temporarily.

These powers, however, remain a luxury throughout, and it’s more important to use them tactically along with your adapting to whatever setup the areas throw at you. Ghostrunner is a bit of a puzzle game in this sense, with each combat area being specifically laid out with enemies, billboards to wall run on, hooks to grapple to and slopes to slide down. You must figure out the best, or most stylish if you fancy, way of taking out all the enemies in the area while avoiding getting hit.

Much like Hotline Miami, Ghostrunner employs a 1 hit kill system – working for both yourself and the enemy – and so any slip-up can throw you back to the beginning of the section, all enemies respawned. Thankfully the game is generous with the checkpoints, recognising that in some cases a bit of trial and error is necessary to figure out how to progress.

Managing to succeed in any of these areas is greatly satisfying, and this is as a result of the game’s fluid parkour and fast paced visceral combat. There are a number of enemy types in the game, ranging from simple thugs with laser pistols to shielded heavy laser gunners, swordsmen, and bi-pedal mechs; and successfully navigating them in combination requires you to play effectively with your surroundings. This means figuring out which targets to take out first, where best to run and dash, etc. Say you slide down a slope to take out the first thug, wall run along a billboard, jumping to grapple to a hook leading you to fall down on top of the next thug, all while under fire from a heavy laser gun – there’s loads of examples of stylish and skilful gameplay that can be used.

But this isn’t the only way to play, and sometimes just manipulating your dash slowdown, overusing powers or even deflecting shots as you run head on to an enemy can work as well (there’s a few situations where I barely cleared an area – no thanks to my own skilful planning). And what encourages this as an option is how the game’s basic skill/upgrade system works. You have a choice of upgrades which are gradually unlocked as you progress. All are passives relating to either the various abilities in the game or just for general use. For example, you can apply an upgrade that gives you an additional dash before cooldown, you can extend the range of a power, or you could apply the upgrade which shows you where the collectibles are on your minimap or the one that highlights enemies to make them more visible.

The catch here is that you can only apply a certain number of the upgrades, needing to turn and rearrange them to fit on a Tetris-like screen. When you unlock a new ability you may want to try this out with some of the accompanying upgrades, but in order to do so – despite a slightly increased upgrade slot space – you may need to switch out some of the ones you’re currently using. It’s all fairly limited, but if you have a preferred playstyle or a weakness in some area then this allows you to compensate somewhat.

The way in which you unlock the new abilities reveals the other nature of Ghostrunner. Aside from its parkour hack and slash combat, there’s also a lot of puzzle platforming thrown in to break up the pacing. These tend to take place in a virtual world with you jumping through and over obstacles while your AI friend explains how your new ability works, but also you will find yourself blazing through the city and enduring even more difficult platforming events towards the end of the game. Recalling as an example from mid-way through, you are in pursuit of someone on the top of a moving train and need to dash, duck and jump out of the way of the lights and beams that come hurtling towards you. It can be very challenging, but like with the combat in the game it is satisfying to pull off, and there’s frequent checkpoints to rely on.

Ghostrunner also offers a few boss fights. This might seem a bit risky given the nature of the gameplay, but I was pleasantly surprised by how they all played out. Each boss has a health bar, though fights aren’t as long as you might initially worry. They follow a pattern of attack which you must learn and adapt to before taking your strike. There were a couple of occasions where I was convinced that one of these encounters would be took tricky for me, but with a little persistence they are doable after all.

The thing that tops everything off for Ghostrunner is the music and overall aesthetic. The catchy beats of the soundtrack fit perfectly with the fast paced gameplay and its cyberpunk world, and while the beginning of the game takes place in some less visually interesting environments, as soon as you emerge again to the city and its neon lights you get a better sense of the world and can enjoy it for all its dystopian futuristic stylishness.

I wouldn’t say there is anything egregious about Ghostrunner that upsets resulting in this not receiving the highest of ratings, however something that disappoints at least, is that the experience feels ultimately rushed. Ghostrunner is a short game, clocking in at around 7 hours. Perhaps this isn’t massively short by single player standards in general, but if you consider the amount of repetition from dying then this will be shorter still (in the game’s most difficult area I died a total of 102 times). I feel there were not only more levels capable of squeezing out of the game, but also other directions to take the abilities and meld them with the combat. Even with the few abilities you end up with by the end of the game, I didn’t feel as though, at least with the latter two abilities, that I had adequate chance to use them in new situations.

But having said that, Ghostrunner may be short, but it is also very sweet. There’s a really cool style of gameplay on offer here which should be a delight to some – also plenty of speedrunning satisfaction to be had – and the story is interesting if a tad predictable. Much like its combat, it’s a fast paced, in and out experience which will challenge and exhilarate – just unfortunately leaving you wishing for more.