Casper: Spirit Dimensions (PlayStation 2) Review


Casper: Spirit Dimensions marks the latest title completed in my quirky quest to experience underappreciated (and often critically panned) PlayStation 2 releases. This joyous journey was spurred by the ever-excellent Jimmy Neutron: Jet Fusion, which you can read about at this link.

Of all the games I’ve played so far, Casper was the one I expected the least from but was ultimately most surprised by. What I thought would be a total jank-fest ended up a rather decent action-adventure romp that, while not devoid of flaws, may actually deserve more recognition among the gaming populace.

With all that silly stuff out of the way, please join me on this magnificent Monday as we dive into a satisfying séance starring everyone’s favorite spectral spook. (Just make sure to temper your expectations. I’m honestly overselling the experience to a degree.)

Who’s ready to do this thing?

Casper: Spirit Dimensions

Developer: Lucky Chicken Games

Publisher: TDK Mediactive

Release date: September 30, 2001


Gameplay

At risk of being vague, Casper: Spirit Dimensions is best described as an aerial action-adventure game. Because this classification is so darn broad, I’ll do my best to clarify my thoughts throughout the rest of this section.

Starting out at Casper’s house (the bona fide, Super Mario-64 hub world), your primary goal is to travel to various dimensions and save the respective inhabitants from the oppression of antagonist Kibosh.

Each spooky dimension poses its own set of parameters to restore peace. While these objectives mainly boiled down to item fetch quests or enemy horde encounters, there were some unique challenges that threw me for a loop every now and then.

The overarching conflict comes to a head thanks to the intermittent boss battles. I have to give the developers major props for A) the deranged designs of your opponents and B) the unique patterns they possess. Bosses were a ton of fun to beat.

Due to the spectral nature of the protagonist, the entire game feels more or less like a series of underwater levels—but not necessarily to the detriment of the overall experience. I appreciated the freedom of movement afforded by the unconventional level design.

Casper’s ghostly form affords a number of other skills beyond merely flying through 3D space, including the spirit blast, ghost wave, “Casper comet”, and ethereal shield. (The manual notes quick turns, target locking, and talking in addition to the aforementioned main repertoire.)

The spirit blast was certainly the most frequently useful power, allowing me to shoot projectile particles at enemies. The act of zipping about and pew-pewing dudes was pretty exciting and often felt akin to legitimate aerial combat.

Despite its potential aid in enemy encounters, I never once used the ghost wave because I simply forgot it was an option. Though I read through the instruction manual early on, little things like ghost waves typically fell through the cracks.

The Casper comet provided a temporary speed boost dictated by a recharging meter in the bottom-left corner of the screen. I would sometimes use this ability to charge into enemies and knock them off-balance, but it was generally more applicable to puzzles, challenges, and progression than anything else.

The ethereal shield turns Casper into a “gaseous substance” for a few seconds so that I could pass through metal bars or avoid enemy attacks. This ability was most pertinent for level progression and boss battles.

A slew of items scattered throughout the environments do a fairly good job of enhancing Casper’s already admirable abilities. Some recharge meters, such as ghost speed, which fills your Casper comet meter; lifeforce, which fills your health meter; and ghost power, which gives you a point to use on an ethereal shield or super spirit blast.

Other items alter the attributes of your spirit blast. The ice enhancer produces frozen blasts; the fire enhancer produces burning blasts; the homing enhancer sends blasts directly after enemies; the double enhancer allows you to shoot two blasts simultaneously; and the bounce enhancer lets blasts ricochet off surfaces.

For full completion, you’ll need to nab all the gems (many of which are hidden in chests) in a given level. Gems sprinkle a bit of collectathon goodness into an otherwise fairly straightforward experience.

The (admittedly very minor) RPG elements were also a nice touch. After resolving certain quests, an NPC will offer Casper his choice of one of three upgrades: speed, health, and power. I chose health every single time to compliment my defensive play style.

All things considered, I rather enjoyed the core gameplay loop. Those more familiar with the action-adventure genre might find completing a series of menial taks…well, menial, but I found it genuinely compelling.

Content

Casper: Spirit Dimensions is one of those packages that just works. While I can’t in good conscience call it a very long game—you’ll probably knock it out in fewer than 10 hours—I’ll be forthright in saying that I would’ve gotten terribly annoyed if it had dragged on any longer.

Not including Casper’s house, there are 15 areas divided into four “Spirit Dimensions” to explore. These sandbox landscapes, while not the most vibrant to grace a video game of this nature, were still lively enough to pique my interest for extended periods of time.

As satisfying as this campaign was, the replayability was admittedly quite limited. The only true collectibles are gems, most of which I picked up on my first go-around by keeping a keen eye out. I ended the game at 92 percent completion and felt no real desire to continue.

Seeing as how I purchased this game for $0.99 plus $2.99 shipping on eBay, I squeezed all the fun out of this thing that I could possibly need. Assuming you’ll purchase this forgotten release under similar circumstances, the short lenth of Casper: Spirit Dimension decidedly works to its advantage.

Controls


I’ve been praising Casper: Spirit Dimensions quite highly, haven’t I? You’d almost think this was some unearthed masterpiece left to die in bargain bins across America. Sadly, it’s time we talk about this game’s one dooming fault.

Though I can’t quite put my finger on why, my initial exposure to the default control scheme felt downright dreadful. I suppose my qualm has everything to do with the difficulty of maneuvering in a full 360 degrees.

You see, the default analog stick setup felt a tad…unconventional. The left analog controlled turning and pitch, and the right analog stick controlled moving forward and backward and strafing left and right. I was nearly certain this configuration was the exact opposite of most other games I’d played.

Naturally, I had to spend a few hours bumbling about to just to come to grips with this straight-up baffling decision. Although I eventually mastered the controls (if I do say so myself), I would’ve rather not had to deal with this inconvenience.

On a lighter note, I’m proud to relay that the rest of the controls performed without a hitch. Locking on with L1, “Casper comet-ing” with L2, and firing spirit blasts with R2 felt fine—great, even.

Every other function was mapped in a way that seemed comfortable and intuitive to me, with the ethereal shield on the square button and interaction on the triangle button. There were some more “advanced” movement functions, such as quick turns, that I probably should’ve used but didn’t really bother with.

If you can get past the immediate shock of the janky analog controls like I did, there’s a gem of a game lying beneath. I urge you to consider my criticism—because it’s important—but to not let it hold you back from something special.