You know that feeling when you finish a game and have no idea what the hubbub about it was, as you not only feel like you missed something, you do not feel any substantial emotion about any aspect of the game. The feeling where your time may as well have evaporated instead of playing the game despite the game not being actively boring? Well, despite going in optimistically, that is what I felt about Gravity Ghost, a year old puzzle game I decided to play because it was recommended by the lovely Laura Kate Dale.
Gravity Ghost Review
Platforms: PC(Reviewed), Mac, Linux, PS4
Developer/Publisher: Ivy Games
Gravity Ghost is about a young, I believe to be, Native American girl who died, became a ghost, and is left to explore a series of planetoids in search of stars, not actual stars, the five pointed ones, while solving various gravity based puzzles. Granted, I use that term very loosely, as I truly did not feel like I was solving puzzles while playing Gravity Ghost. If anything, it felt like I was going through very simplistic platforming stages and fumbling my way to victory, which was oddly made an increasingly easy task as the game went on and the main character receives new abilities.
Just about every stage revolves around you locating a star, jumping for it, manipulating the gravity of planetoids, collecting the star, and then leaving. It is simple, and I never felt like there was any extensive thought or challenge to the gameplay, excluding a few sections that were either based on positioning objects in the right location, or hitting a string of objects in a given allotment of time. Is it fun? Well, it is for a few stages, but I quickly became disinterested about a third of the way through, and the new abilities only bore me as I received every one of them.
You can eventually control your weight while flying through a voice, becoming heavier or lighter, do an infinite number of jumps, dash, or phase through entire objects. I’m not entirely sure if there is a single stage where you need to use these abilities, and aside from performing certain speedrun feats, I see little point in the lot of them. I feel similarly about the elemental powers you obtain, which allow you to change the composition of any planetoid, when most elements are completely unnecessary to complete the game aside from unlocking the ending, where you need to use all six elements once, but do not take advantage of the mechanics they introduce.
Or in summation, the gameplay is very humdrum, easy, and does not make use of the mechanics it introduces. It can be relaxing, true, but the mellowness of the gameplay is often counteracted by the potentially finicky gravity mechanics, which can become annoying in certain stages. Heck, I am tempted to use the damning word of boring to describe the gameplay, as I was going through the motions as I went through the final third of the game, barely thinking about the puzzles or registering them before I grabbed the star and left the stage.
At times, doing so was a shame as the game does try rather hard to captivate the player with its visuals, adopting a distinctive art style that reminds me of chalk drawings for the characters, and a wide array of colorful backdrops for the main game, at least if I exclude the stages where the background was a black screen. I do like the general designs as well, which draw on sources not commonly seen in games, and there is a sense of grandeur given to the experience by the main character’s ever growing hair, which follows her path, albeit a bit jaggedly. Yet, for whatever reason, the game chooses to zoom in and focus on the human characters in its cutscenes, who are the least interesting looking character, placed against an often monotone backdrop, and have limited facial animations and lip movements.
Naturally a story comes with these cutscenes, and I honestly did not get what its appeal was intended to be. It is told fragmented, and lacks a proper introduction to its cast, or anything that truly explains their situations or roles. Heck, I barely understand what happened given how events can easily be discovered out of order. I had little clue where the story was going until the final quarter of the game, and I stopped caring around that point. I did not care about any of the characters, let alone remember their names, and what happened to them was not interesting or striking enough for me to care. The story was not bad, it was just forgettable and disinteresting for the most part.
Actually, I do remember some of the dialog and inflections made by Ashly Burch, who voices several characters in the game. Partially because I like her as a voice actress, and partially because her voicework is not very fitting for a game supposedly set in 1946, as the terminology and manner of speaking are discerningly modern. In fact, this problem extends to much of the script, which is written in a very modern dialect.
I feel like I am being dismissive when I feel this apathetic towards a game, like I’m missing the big picture, or not quite getting what the creative team intended to express. While there can be some interesting ties to purgatory and perhaps some deeper meaning in the story, I nonetheless found the game to be a slog in regards to actually playing it, which is rather concerning given how I doubt it took me a full three hours to clear. I do see a sort of charm to its tone and overall presentation, but I feel like gained little to nothing by playing Gravity Ghost.