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Gravity Ghost Review (PC)

2015-03-11_00004Gravity Ghost is a charming thing. No matter what criticisms I may level at the gameplay (and I have a few), I can’t deny that it makes a good first impression. A triple gut punch of great art, great music and perfect presentation make the opening minutes impossible to resist. This is the kind of game you pause immediately, then run around your house looking for someone to come watch the opening with. Friends, children, neighbors. Even strangers. Come watch this. Look how lovely it is.

As you set off into the weird world of Gravity Ghost, you’ll come across a pleasing blend of Danny Elfman-inspired music and disarmingly earnest but somewhat enjoyable Saturday morning cartoon voice acting. This is a game that appeals to kids and adults rather than a kids game, but nonetheless I felt liked it’s wide eyed, bittersweet story was a little lost on this jaded 34 year old writer. I’d have loved to play it along with some younger gamers to see if they enjoyed it. I suspect they would.

The actual gameplay is both pleasingly simple and deep. It’s a 2D platformer, and you’re trying to collect stars in each small stage and escape out the door. Each of these levels is pretty small, but the dynamic camera sweeps in and out intelligently to give the impression of space. And “space” is exactly what you’ll be floating in most of the time, as you try to maneuver yourself to planetoids to collect items.

2015-03-11_00002Inertia and gravity are your key concerns. There’s a really solid physics model underlying Gravity Ghost, and timing your jump (then minutely adjusting it as you soar through the cosmos) is key. When you get it right, it’s really satisfying.

When you get it wrong though, Gravity Ghost can be a curiously offputting experience. When you’re hurtling through the void at high speed, missing your target again and again, it can sometimes feel like luck plays more of a part than it should. At it’s worse, you can start to feel like your input isn’t having much effect, and at times I would lose interest and leave my sofa for a while, only to come back having made a coffee or something to find out where my little avatar had finally landed. If she was still hurtling through space, more often than not I’d feel an overwhelming urge to play something else.

2015-03-11_00005Gravity Ghost isn’t a hard game; there are few penalties for the mistakes you make other than frustration. It’s not a game that really gels together either though. The soporific soundtrack is delightful, reminding me of the music used in kids television programs when you’re trying to lull them to sleep. The games art has a lovely pastel style too. So there’s an incongruity between this sleepy, delightful style and the hardcore physics model that has you constantly struggling, pushing and pulling and battling gravity with your heart in your mouth.

And ultimately it’s a very simple, repetitive game too. You’re really only doing one thing – jumping from sphere to sphere. Sure, spheres of glass or water with different properties mix up the gameplay, but even then they only subtly change your strategies. Indeed, the best thing about the water levels is the sound effects, with some really satisfying wooshing and glugging noises.

In short bursts, or for younger gamers, Gravity Ghost is worth a look, but considering the style and polish applied to such a basic central concept, I’m far more excited to play Ivy Games next game rather than this one.

3 Ghosts of future games out of 5

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