Ghost Giant

I am rarely if ever excited for going to the cinema, as I personally find it more comfortable and convenient to just sit at home browsing through different streaming services, digitally rent or downright purchase movies to own. Because of this, and all the reasons The Unusual Suspect listed in his “25 Reasons Why I Hate Movie Theatres”, I only go there if someone invites me. Shows in traditional theatres on the other hand, are something that I am always excited for. I have still to this day wonderful memories of going to musicals in London and getting my mind blown by amazing performances in choreography, singing and acting, all done live. This is for me both more impressive and something I would gladly sacrifice the convenience of watching at home on a TV-screen.

However, Ghost Giant tries to put up an interactive show with the use of the PlayStation VR. Utilising such device is a fantastic, yet risky way of creating immersion. Some titles are outright brilliant at it such as SuperHot VR and Tetris Effect, but they also clearly understood the VR’s limitations. Not only was this Zoink’s first attempt at a VR game, but it had a different art style and tone compared to their previous titles. They did not take too many risks, however, as they still stepped into familiar territories by having Ghost Giant being a story-driven point-and-click, similar to Stick It to the Man and Flipping Death. In fact, these titles are almost like puppetry themselves, so my hopes were high for this one as well. I decided to strap on the VR and get ready to go to the theatre, while still sitting on my comfy couch.


You will not carry your burdens alone anymore

Through the tears of a kitten named Louie, you came to life as a giant ghost. Louie is rightfully terrified of your presence at first, but after you help him with his gardening and show that you mean him no harm, he slowly warms up to you. It becomes quickly apparent that Louie’s life is a troubled one, as he is suffering from panic attacks and general anxiety. However, perhaps you can make his life a little easier?

Ghost Giant deals with themes of such difficulties and to an extend: depression. All of these aspects are presented in mature and relatable ways, which is great since it has a clear foothold to the overall plot. Louie is the star of the show and is a likeable character that does everything he can to be helpful and supportive. Despite this, he tends to resort to actions that many would deem wrong, yet are understandable as they are just his ways of coping with the situations he finds mentally difficult. It makes for a fascinating and relatable protagonist to both study and empathise with, with the plot wonderfully exploring the themes of such struggles to the very end.

This connection you will create with Louie is strengthened further beyond as a passive study. Not just because you will be joining him on his everyday life, but also due to that he is the only one who can directly see you and you have to work together to progress this story. It makes for an interesting relationship where you can only communicate with him through your actions, never by voice. It can be making it rain so his garden blossoms, look for objects that an acquaintance of Louie lost or simple perform acts of joy, such as making high fives and fist bumps. I really love how you play as his invincible guardian that tries their best to support this child, yet you both try to learn about each other and how this world around you works.

Speaking of, the rest of the cast is also entertaining and memorable, be it the seagull captain who apparently has a hearing problem or Missouri Toulipe who runs a flower shop and is heavily against plastic. All of the characters’ quirks come of as only minor traits, as their personalities get to shine clearly. Everyone has enough diverse personalities to make them into believable characters with varied emotions, which is simply wonderful.

You will be able to explore and see this world thoroughly, with Louie acting almost as your guide of sorts. The themes of his struggles will be a main aspect of the game’s story, but it also showcases that life is not just dark or negative. Ghost Giant evens itself with diversity in emotions such as aspects of joy and wonder, making it all believable. I am also pleased to see that Zoink’s clever humour from previous titles is sprinkled throughout this story. I love the ongoing joke about the thieving magpie, how characters are heavily expressive or Louie’s moments where he simply plays like how an imaginative child would. Because of how genuine the tone is by presenting both good and bad sides of Louie’s life with a fantastic progression, it is easy to be immersed in every activity, even if you are simply picking up some flowers.

Like a magnificent show, I was sitting on the edge of my seat for the whole duration, which was about two and a half hours. There were so many characters to witness and the bond I had with the little guy simply grew stronger and stronger. The whole adventure ended on a lovely note that did not truly resolve anything, but showed that it is never too late to take the right step for better days. It was a marvel to go back to a theatre, but for a puppetry to make me emotionally invested and on the verge of tears on multiple occasions, was something I did not expect. 

Story Score: 10/10


The guardian ghost

Utilising the VR headset and the Move controllers, Ghost Giant plays out like a point-and-click that focuses on both puzzles to provide solid brainteasers, and simple interactivity for the sake of storytelling and immersion. You will venture through 14 scenes, each where you must interact with elements around the world in order to progress to the next one. With the Move controllers in each hand, they function as your left and right hands where you reach out to grab or point at anything.

Since you are restricted to scenes, you will only look around in one location where you must turn your head, tilt and lean in order to look around thoroughly. This helps not just to make exploration focused on one area and create immersion as you peek inside houses through windows, but also to make the best use of the VR in order to not make you deal with deadzones or uncomfortable turns. While you use your head to mainly get a better view, the face buttons are conveniently there for letting you turn left and right without any hassle.

The puzzles in Ghost Giant are relatively easy, but creative nonetheless. Since you are a giant, you can interact with the environment in intriguing ways. You might have to remove boulders from the road, use a mop as a paintbrush or create wind by blowing, giving every solution an imaginative setup. No puzzle became obtuse, but none where much of a challenge to figure out either as they relied more on you finding the right tools to use, instead of figuring out what to use them for. The creativity and entertainment was always on a high level, but the answers to the puzzles were quite obvious.

This I believe came from the game’s bigger focus on creating an immersion. The game is presented as a mechanical puppetry with props to interact with, houses to turn around to look inside, and levers to pull. It really wants to use VR to create the illusion of witnessing small puppets coming to life and telling a story, with you interacting and doing what you can in order to help. Since everything is interactable in some way, it is easy to be engaged and entertained by this alone. A form of atmospheric exploration in a sense. Everything is also done with the mindset that you are a giant to this world as you can take off rooftops, grab clouds, and much more.

This form of interactivity makes it clear that Ghost Giant is more of an experience, which it succeeds at being with its creative and intriguing ideas, and great use of the VR’s capabilities. I do wish the puzzles were more challenging, but that is rather a nitpick. Though one issue that bothered me, was that the throwing was always finicky. This comes from that you will often hit a deadzone in this regard, due to that you have to hit something far away towards an upper angle. Despite this and how simple the challenges could be, Ghost Giant definitely wants to take you on a show where you can explore and get sucked into its creative form of interactivity. It is hard to fault the game on such when it provides a clear focus on this idea. Fun should not come from just how difficult a game is, but through what differs it from other media. In other words; the interactivity. Thus, Ghost Giant succeeds tremendously.

Gameplay Score: 8.5/10


Putting up a great show

This game’s presentation is truly what I wanted to talk about the most throughout this entire review. While both the interactivity and the story are great, the presentation is the glue that holds it all together. Presented as a puppetry, everything is designed to look like they are made out of theatrical properties, just with a clear touch to showcase that everything was handmade. The simple houses have walls you can pull off, stars hangs from the ceiling by threads, and the mechanics are interactable and effects the scenery. It is all impressive and immersive, with the character models containing strong colours, expressive designs and unique touches to them, yet all have a simple and down to earth design. In fact, they remind me of old wooden dolls where limbs were connected by strings, which hits my nostalgia right at home.

Being set up like a theatre, effects are heavily important for the extra immersion and this attention to detail is presented here as well. For example, spotlights will focus on specific characters for enhancing the storytelling while everything else will darkens. This is wonderfully done, and you can tell everything was made with a superior attention to details. The cultural style Ghost Giant is going for is a simple town that could have been mistaken for a location set in Central Europe, which is definitely possible due to the French accents. Speaking of, the transition between French and English is fantastic and every voice is memorable. Everyone has a unique and distinct tone with perfect direction. There are even some subtle takes on storytelling for children, such as how I can tell someone is an owl by the darker tone. It is simply beautifully heartwarming and impressive. 

Then we have the soundtrack, which is just as gorgeous as the visuals and compliments the French tone. Plenty of string instruments are used and are accompanied by a piano or even a clarinet, giving the music a sophisticated tone. You could say it has a “French vibe” to it, due to its slower rhythm and varied use of instruments to give it a calming tone. The variety is fantastic, with every song fitting perfectly for the events unfolding. To end my plenty of praises, even the loading screens gives you the ability to make waves, similar to a psychedelic dream. Art has rarely been crafted this well.

Presentation Score: 10/10


Almost like visiting a museum. With hats!

There are certain elements you can try to find in every scene and the game always lets you know if you have lost some collectables. These ranges between a hidden worm to tickle, finding pinwheels to blow, plenty of hats you can put on the characters (including Louie), and throwing basketballs into hoops. Finding these items is entertaining for the simple, yet intriguing exploration and helps highlight just how well designed the scenes are. Unfortunately, throwing is awkward as mentioned and the same can be said for getting the basketballs in the hoops. The rest is nice for some light exploration and for getting up close to admire the details Ghost Giant‘s world has to offer. Besides, I cannot help to play dress up whenever the offer comes. What is up with this randomly jogging bear though?

Extra Score: 8/10


Verdict

This is such a lovely title. Just like going to an actual theatre with a great cast and a deep story, Ghost Giant succeeds at presenting a memorable and wonderful tale full of atmosphere. Through actually being a video game, the game provides fun interactivity for the light immersion and lasts as long as it needs to. All of this is topped off with a brilliant and impressive presentation that I do not think I can properly describe in short amount of time. While it could use stronger puzzles, there are still vast amounts of creativity and details to witness through your interactivity. This is really one of the best shows I have ever been a part of. 

90/100

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