Odd and Otherworldly: A Gravity Ghost Review
If you had to imagine a papercraft ghost girl with magical hair and the power to slingshot her around the galaxy to save animal spirits, restore them to their bodies, and usher them into the beyond... your first thought may not necessarily be of Tiny Tina.
But that's almost exactly what you get when you dive headfirst into Ivy Game's spectacular new physics-based puzzler, brought to life by such vocal talents as Ashly Burch, the lady behind BL2's Tina, and Logan Cunningham, the narrator from indie gems Bastion and Transistor.
With a distinct and downright beautiful art style, Gravity Ghost offers a low-key challenge in a relaxing bed of melody.
This was the first game in a long time that I plunked down the money for a digital copy of the soundtrack for, and I haven't regretted it. Composed by Ben Prunty, the man behind the award-winning FTL: Faster Than Light soundtrack, the musical backdrop manages to be at once pleasant, tranquil, and a little lonely.
From the first, this game took me by surprise and only hooked me tighter as I played on. I'm not sure what I expected, but after watching a short gameplay trailer, I had the impression it would be a singular, if atmospheric, kind of experience.
This was not the case.
At first, I was annoyed - the contrast between the dreamy gameplay and the quirky shadow puppet cinematics was like a slap in the face. Was this what I had been promised? From the website:
"Gravity Ghost is a game to soothe your senses. There's no killing. No dying. No way to fail. Just hours of blissing out to buttery-smooth gravity goodness."
Was listening to Ashly Burch's extremely distinctive voice giving a Simpsons-like delivery about ham (it comes up a lot) a catalyst for blissing out? Was the extremely ordinary and rather gloomy smear of gray on more gray a sign of soothed senses at work?
"I want to sleep under the stars. With a rifle. To shoot things. For money."
But then I got curious. What was the story behind our little flying ghost girl, and how was it all connected to the choppy deadpan humor of the early cutscenes?
It is an interesting sensation to have a game teach you all over again that it does not have to play by whatever arbitrary rules your initial expectations dictate.
A very satisfying story unfolds quite rapidly, spliced in through the hundred or so quick puzzle levels in the game - and while it is an unfortunate truth that many indie games don't always have the best voice acting as a general byproduct of shoestring production budgets, Gravity Ghost only raises the bar, delivering a spot-on punch to the feels.
Meanwhile, the gameplay lives up to its promise - a whimsical dance through space that has you hurtling in crisp, swirling patterns as disproportionately small planets exert their inexorable pull on your little ghost body.
When the game first appeared on the scene circa 2013, early reviews called Gravity Ghost the little 2D indie Super Mario Galaxy that could. In spite of its deep space motif, I would shy away from describing it as a platformer and actually focus in on its aspects as a puzzler.
Most of these are fairly simple, and the game does a very good job of teaching you the basics of play cleanly and without becoming obnoxious.
It's also important to address that if you were concerned that this was another Chinese Room-esque foray into interactive fiction a la Dear Esther or Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, have no fear.
Although there may not be deaths or time limits, there is still a distinguishable success/failure mechanic - at all times you feel like you are playing, and when you complete a level, you feel that sense of accomplishment too.
Available now on the Gravity Ghost website or on Steam for $14.99 USD, this is a splendid release supported by a talented cast and utterly worth the long wait. For those of you who have fallen in love with the music as much as I have, the soundtrack is also available from both outlets for an additional $4.99 USD.