The Ghost and the Tower: Cinematic Platformer In Development

Hey all, I just want to give thanks to all the help I've already received on this forum in the month-ish I've been developing for the Playdate. It's been quite a ride so far! I'm making some progress on a Metroidvania-style action platformer with a bit of Ninja Gaiden inspiration and I wanted to share. The working title is The Ghost and the Tower, in which you play a slain warrior on a quest to avenge your death by scaling the formidable cyberpunk Archangel Tower. Your killer waits on the top floor—but all is not as it seems.


So far development has been a blast, and I especially enjoy working in 1-bit graphics. Keeping the scenes and animations readable is a fun challenge! Looking forward to keeping everyone posted on my progress :smiley:


looks good, excited to see where it goes!

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Not sure this was your intention, but I like how the character looks like someone wearing a ghost costume. Overall the game looks like fun.


Definitely intentional :grinning:

Here’s a video clip of the gameplay so far with some sound effects:


Looks pretty slick. What's going on with the black circle? Is that sort of like a way to find things hidden in the level?

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the movement looks so smooth and snappy, nice job. Love the legs on the ghost.

Really looking forward to this one. Excited to learn the secrets of the tower :ghost:

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Yes, the black circle is a sort of “ghost vision” that reveals hidden things. Most importantly it shows you electrical circuits you can use to travel through walls and floors, but there are other secrets as well!


ah that's so cool. I can see it working to reveal circuits in the gif now!

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I had the chance this week to do some playtesting, with a nice representative sample of a 40-something friend and my 6-year-old daughter.

Turns out I have a lot of work to do :sweat_smile: The game is much harder and less intuitive than I intended. Everything I’ve heard about developers being too good at their own games is turning out to be true!


Updates: I found a few ways to hopefully make the game more approachable. I've added tutorial text to explain some potentially confusing mechanics:
And I added one-way platforms to ease vertical movement. Up until now it was incredibly difficult to do a simple jump up to the next vertical level since the background doesn't scroll, but this makes it much more straightforward:
I changed the interiors to have a mostly black background and white foreground, which really helps the player stand out and should make the platforming easier to judge:
I also added a hidden area with a shield power-up and a new turret enemy. Figuring out how to make the latter work was fun challenge and I'll write about it shortly!


the additions and changes look great. love the respawn animation!

the rain and lightning are such a cool vibe to bring to the console too.

you're inspiring me to continue posting about my game in progress

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I was able to get a few more people to playtest (not super easy when I have to physically hand the console to someone :stuck_out_tongue: ) and I soon realized...I needed to throw out the entire first level I was building and start from scratch. Kill your darlings, folks! Luckily LDTK makes it super easy to create new levels and so I was back in business in no time.

Now the level is quite a bit longer but serves as a much more gentle introduction to the mechanics. I went from asking new players to wall-jump to exit the very first screen to now only requiring them to run to the right a la Super Mario Bros. I also try to introduce hazards in very low-pressure ways before using them as an actual threat.

Here's a little capture of a run-through of what I have so far. The last part is probably a little too advanced and I'll want to move it to a bit later; introduce a shorter wall-jump ascent in its place. But I like where things are headed!



I'll play test on my device if you'd like.

I love that the ghost respawns basically right where they die, that seems like a uniquely crispy feature. I don't think the end of the level is too advanced for a first level. I think there's a natural progression towards that puzzle. I suppose base it off of your own personal taste for challenging the player.

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After playing a bit of the wonderful season one game Forrest Byrnes: Up in Smoke, I was inspired to try a simpler visual approach to tutorial tips in the game. This way I can have more of them without it feeling too disruptive, and I think this is better than my text overlays from before.


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Not sure if this is the place to ask but how to you create your rain effect? Is it an image or line vectors? It looks cool . Thanks.

It's a simple tiled image with an animated offset, and I gradually switch to images with more raindrops to suggest the rain getting heavier. It actually took me a while to get it to work correctly, because drawTiled doesn't wrap the texture when you apply an offset—so I essentially draw two screen-sized images on top of each other, and as soon as the lower one moves offscreen to the bottom, it jumps to just above the top of the screen, and they keep cycling like that.


I've just developed a new, moving enemy for the game, which has the same wall-jumping abilities you do and will keep respawning until you destroy its dispenser. The AI is extremely simple but I'm liking the new element of chaos it brings to the proceedings! I allow it to detect the player below it and try to drop down on you which makes it seem a lot smarter than it actually is.

I don't know about you all, but I find nothing more tedious than creating the UI for my game. Unfortunately, very few things are more important than creating the UI for your game! So I somehow convinced myself to spend this evening sprucing up the main menu and allowing the player to choose from a series of levels on starting the game (as well as adding the confirmation dialog so you don't accidentally erase your progress). Pretty happy with the results!


I finally added a system for showing cutscenes, which is another thing I'd been putting off. It's not fun work the way designing levels is fun, but it really helps justify the "cinematic" part of the cinematic platformer label. The story for the game is meant to be pretty slight, so there won't be a lot of these, but they help establish some stakes and set the stage for (what I hope will be) a satisfying ending.


Adventures in pathfinding! I spent the last couple weeks creating a new assassin enemy type that has the same moveset as the player. I'm using the built-in Playdate pathfinding API, which is super convenient, but not exactly designed for platforming. This led to some pretty significant wonkiness at first :stuck_out_tongue:


After creating some helpful debug visuals, I was able to work out the more egregious issues. I will say that as much as I love working in Lua, the whole arrays-indexed-on-1 thing coupled with pixel coordinates that start at 0 can be SUPER confusing.


The current behavior isn't perfect, but it's pretty solid! And now that I allow entities to follow the player from room to room, this expands a lot of possibilities for the game.