After playing (and loving) the virtual reality adventure Moss, I’ve got a fondness for adventuring mice. I mean, besides the fact that they’re absolutely adorable, they always make for brave little creatures that seem to be full of heart. Naturally then, I simply had to check out the stealth-adventure Ghost of a Tale – not only because it featured a mouse-protagonist, but also because the gameplay and the world just so happened to look so darn charming too.
Ghost of a Tale puts you into the small paws of Tilo, a mouse minstrel who finds himself thrown into the perilous dungeon of Dwindling Heights Keep. With no idea of when he got there or where his beloved wife is, Tilo heads on a dangerous adventure to escape his rat-captors and find his way to safety. Of course, there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes that the player doesn’t uncover immediately, with Tilo’s initial escape proving to be just the start of his grand adventure…
Whilst the tale itself is charming, the writing behind each interaction with the world’s inhabitants is what really brings things to life. There are plenty of quirky and charming folk to meet during your adventure, whilst the choices you make when talking to them can determine how they all react to you – the fact that each one was full to the brim with personality just made the whole thing a lot more enjoyable. It’s just hard not to find yourself totally engrossed in the adventure.
Tilo’s adventure in Ghost of a Tale is certainly dangerous and daring, but it’s one where you’ll have to use your wits rather than your brawn if you’re going to survive. There’s no combat to be found in the game, with the player instead focusing on sneaking their way around their enemies and outsmarting them in order to reach their goal.
It plays like just about any other stealth adventure, with the player having to follow the rat-guards’ movement patterns and carefully stay out of sight if they want to survive. Thankfully, there’s an indicator in place that shows if an enemy can hear or see you, whilst you’ll also have plenty objects to quickly hide in if an enemy does end up on your tail (literally). Tilo doesn’t have to just run and hide though – he’s got tools at his disposal such as his projectiles that he can throw at an enemy to get them in a daze or distract them, oily fluids that they’ll fall over when chasing you, and even a candle that can burn objects in the environment to act as a distraction. All of these things will come in handy and can often be imperative to your success, so you’ll want to master their use and keep your inventory stocked up if you want to keep evading the sight of your foes.
Sometimes you can just hide in plain sight though, something which is made all the more easier when you start to unlock some disguises. Not only do they change up your stats to help you out, but they allow you to blend in and walk around restricted areas with minimal fuss – it’s nice not to have to worry all the time, you know.
If it wasn’t obvious, you won’t enjoy Ghost of a Tale if you don’t enjoy stealth. Whilst there’s plenty of exploration to partake in and even the occasional puzzle to solve, the meat and bones of the game comes with avoiding enemies and sneaking past them without getting caught. Sometimes you’ll feel like you’re just constantly running and hiding all the time, whilst the in-game objectives typically just task you with finding a particular item and taking it somewhere – it’s certainly not the most creative game in the genre in that sense, so it won’t do anything to blow away those who’ve already taken part in a few sneaky escapades. That’s not to say it doesn’t have some real neat ideas though such as the day and night cycle that genuinely changes up how quests play out, whilst the game manages to get the core mechanics spot on to make for an entertaining experience too. From a general gameplay perspective alone though, there isn’t really anything about Ghost of a Tale that you wouldn’t have seen done before in other stealth adventures.
It shouldn’t take players too long to work through the game if they focus on the main quests alone, but those who invest themselves in the world of Ghost of a Tale will find plenty of different side quests to complete. Some take some work to uncover too, be it finding the right character to speak to, saying the right thing to them, or even just wearing certain costumes, so it’ll take a bit of exploration to uncover them all. Besides offering fun little endeavours that are joined by some quirky character interactions, you’ll actually earn XP from completing side quests – there aren’t skill trees to unlock new abilities in the game, but you can level up and see things like your health and stamina increase. It certainly makes it all the more worthwhile just to give the player an easier time, though I’ll be the first to admit that I think they’re worth completing just to spend more time talking with each of the world’s brilliant inhabitants.
Visually, Ghost of a Tale looks bloody impressive with the luscious world full of detailed textures and the fantastically designed character animated fluidly throughout. Each of the animals you encounter are brought to life with the mannerisms you’d expect from them in real life, whilst the fact that they’re so colourfully designed just makes them all the more impressive to look at. It’s clear that a lot of care and attention has gone into ensuring Ghost of a Tale looks the best it can, and between the vibrant world, the lifelike lighting effects, and just how much personality is jammed into everything, it’s hard not to find yourself left in awe.
Whilst it’s very impressive to look at though, Ghost of a Tale does suffer from a few performance issues. Besides Tilo occasionally getting stuck in the environment, you’ll also see the frame rate take a drop in certain busy areas. In fairness, the game is mostly consistent and it never seems to drop to levels where it feels unplayable by any means, but it does have its moments where it’s hard to be taken aback by how good it looks thanks to the fact that everything seems to be stuttering along.
Ghost of a Tale offers an enjoyable stealth escapade that doesn’t only stand out thanks to the charming adventure it offers, but also how wonderful the world manages to look. It’s hard to believe that it’s an indie title from such a small team at times with the game easily standing tall amongst the releases that we’ve seen from AAA developers – it’s very impressive.
It does stutter along the way thanks to an often sketchy frame rate whilst the in-game objectives can feel a bit run of the mill too, but overall Tilo’s journey is a thoroughly entertaining one that any stealth gaming fan will want to embark on.
Platform(s): Xbox One (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, PC