PlayStation VR has at times been guilty of offering a catalogue of games that just feel the same, whether it’s just another wave-based shooter, first-person puzzler, or interactive narrative-based adventure. Sure, this isn’t always a bad thing, but with the technology on offer I just wish I could play something a bit more original at times.
Ghost Giant, the PlayStation VR-exclusive puzzle adventure from the team at Zoink Games, isn’t just a game that manages to feel original and unique in design, but it also just so happens to be absolutely wonderful too.
Ghost Giant casts you in the role of the titular ‘Ghost Giant’ – a huge being that can only be seen by a youngster named Louie. Whilst he’s initially terrified of you and runs away in fear, he soon realises that you’re actually there to help him out. I mean, who else is going to pull the dying sunflowers out of the family farm’s fields? With a new friend in tow, Louie looks to plant all new sunflowers on the farm, but quickly finds that his seeds have been eaten by rats. Thus, your adventure together begins as you head to the town to find more. Of course, nothing is ever that easy and what should have been an ordinary day ends up turning into one of the most eventful and emotional ones of Louie’s life.
The narrative is incredibly touching, with Louie seeming like a happy-go-lucky lad on the surface but actually harbouring a lot of sad emotions inside. It’s something that gets touched upon the further you progress through the story and it’s hard not to find yourself totally absorbed by what’s going on (and hoping everything turns out alright in the end).
It helps that the colourful cast of characters you meet on your adventure are full of personality though, with each one not only playing an important role in Louie’s life but also helping guide you along. I’ve got to give some credit to the voice cast who help bring them to life, though the writing of the game will keep you smiling throughout too – it’s certainly one of the most heart-warming narratives that you’ll encounter in a video game, even if all of its themes aren’t necessarily happy ones.
From a gameplay standpoint, most of your time in Ghost Giant is spent solving environmental-based puzzles by using the items around you. These puzzles tie into the jobs that Louie is tasked with completing, some of which can be pretty unusual – whilst trying to find a piano for your best friend Maurice or helping lure business to a chocolate shop might not be too out of the ordinary, trying to paint a hot dog, faking the appearance of a ghost, or blowing up an advertisement board with a firework aren’t the sort of things most kids end up doing. There’s a wide range of tasks to complete that tie into the puzzles though and they’re all fun to solve, with Ghost Giant doing a good job of keeping the player challenged throughout.
Anything you can interact with in the game is marked with a brass object, so it’s always clear what you need to keep an eye out for when solving puzzles. Ghost Giant isn’t always forthcoming in telling you what to do, but the fact that you’re fixed in one spot and can only look at the environment from three different angles means that your objective is never all that far from you – you just might have to experiment a little bit to find it. One thing I particularly appreciated was pulling off the roofs from houses and peeking in, whether it’s to find a piece of a puzzle or just nose at the everyday activities of the world’s inhabitants. Sure, it might not sound all that special, but doing it in VR and feeling like you’re actually peeking down into this quirky little world never stopped impressing me throughout… the game certainly lives up to the task of making you feel like a ‘Ghost Giant’.
I don’t want to go into too much detail about the puzzles or how you solve them not to spoil anything for the player, but one thing I can confirm is that they’re all fun to tackle and never feel too obvious in design. Whilst I’ll admit I never really found any puzzle in the game too difficult to solve, they all managed to balance out inquisitive thinking and environmental exploration in a way that never starts to feel boring. Everything about Ghost Giant’s design is just very laid back and it’s hard not to feel like you’re a part of this unique world – of course, the fact that you’re playing in virtual reality helps this, but I think the development team deserve a lot of praise for designing the game in such a special way too.
Oh, and I’d be remiss not to mention two particular scenes that stood out to me that involved clouds and stars. They were some of the most enchanting experiences I’ve had in my PlayStation VR headset so far, but hey, I won’t detail them too much here so that players can discover them themselves…
It only took me around two and a half hours to complete Ghost Giant which was a bit of a shame, but that was without finding all of the collectibles scattered across the game’s levels. There are things like hats to find, spinning wheels to blow at, little bugs to spot, and even a basketball hoop that you’ve got to throw a ball into to uncover across each level, and it’ll take a real keen eye to find EVERYTHING. Going back and finding these adds a sense of replayability to the adventure and even after playing through twice I’ll admit that I haven’t found everything just yet. It just gives me a reason to play through again (not that I needed one)…
Ghost Giant delivers in all areas of its design for the most part, though I did have a couple of issues as I played through the game. Sometimes I’d find that items would get stuck in the environment, meaning I’d have to either just keep grabbing and potching with them until they were set free or restart a level to access them. I only had to do the latter on one occasion, but it was certainly frustrating. There were also times when I’d accidentally drop an item out of reach and struggle to grab it again, though these instances could’ve been blamed on my VR setup as opposed to the game itself. Fortunately, most key items will teleport back to their original spot so they don’t out of reach for long, but it could still prove to be a minor annoyance when trying to solve puzzles.
Whilst I’ve got a lot of good things to say about the gameplay of Ghost Giant, I’d be remiss not to mention how beautifully presented it is too. The diorama style landscapes are not only packed full of detail but look stunning throughout, with the wondrous sights of the world never failing to impress. Whether it’s on your family farm, in the local town, or even in an eerie graveyard, you’ll constantly be in awe of Ghost Giant’s fairy tale-like world. The fact that the music is beautiful helps out too – whilst the original pieces themselves are fantastic, I can always appreciate the presence of Debussy’s Clair de Lune in a video game too.
Developer: Zoink Games
Publisher: Thunderful Publishing
Platform(s): PlayStation VR