Gravity Ghost is the ideal puzzler for those who don’t normally like puzzle games. For a genre that doesn’t usually provide absorbing narratives, the title’s non-linear, fragmented approach delivers an unexpectedly poignant storyline. But the most notable distinction is Gravity Ghost’s approach to its assemblage of 100+ conundrums. Instead of the typical ‘keep trying until you figure it out’ method, the game’s stages don’t have any kind of fail state, dispensing with the irritation that usually arises from a procession of errant attempts.
Gravity Ghost: Deluxe Edition centers on the exploits of a young girl named Iona, her trio of sisters, their parents, and a wild fox who all live on an isolated island. Revealing too much of the plot would spoil the emotional impact, but it’s probably permissible to state that the game offers an enchanting rumination on loss and acceptance.
While many games find enjoyment through destruction, Gravity Ghost centers on acts of restoration. Unsurprisingly, seeing characters once ingulfed by turmoil or rage break free from their anguish offers the kind of uplifting contentment that’s all too often missing from games. Told in a series of vignettes that encapsulate the range of human emotion, these short sequences employ a deliberately amateurish art style that’s contrasted against the game’s attractive in-game visuals.
Dialog from voice actors like Ashly Burch (Horizon Zero Dawn, Life is Strange) and Logan Cunningham (Bastion, Transistor) is largely competent, but it’s Ben Prunty’s soundtrack that the obvious sonic highlight. Once the strings emerge on “Welcome to the Afterlife”, it’s clear Gravity Ghost isn’t just a sequence of sterile brainteasers. It’s the rare experience that stimulates brain and heart.
Each one of Deluxe Edition’s 113 stages sends Iona travelling across a stylized version of space that likely represents a purgatory-like afterworld. Recalling Super Mario Galaxy, the protagonist circles around each celestial body, with a jump able to help her break orbit. But this is where the similarities with Nintendo’s platformer ends.
Instead, Iona floats through space freely, often in wide elliptical shapes, her trajectory influenced by the gravitational pull of any planets. Fortunately, you’ll never break free from the attraction of these spheres. Instead, Iona can remotely revolve around planets, her long mane following her path like some kind of celestial ribbon.
At first, your tasks are duplicitously easy, as you grab a star before exiting through a door situated atop a planet. Even reuniting an animal spirit to its former body isn’t too hard, as you chase the spirited creature across the ether. But much like Iona, Gravity Ghost resists staying still for too long, and adds a steady amount of variation to its formula.
Over time, your navigational abilities will incorporate traits like bring able to increase your weight, double jumping, dashing, and even weightlessness. Interestingly, each of these capabilities make navigation easier, but you’re never required to use any of them.
As such, Gravity Ghost’s shirks solitary solutions, encouraging players to use the tools at their disposal to guide Iona around. Occasionally, you’ll have to crash through fragile orbs, revealing stars, or terraform a planet but using your hair to lasso the globe. By collecting geoms that float around the galaxy, you’ll lengthen your locks, making the process a bit easier.
While there’s no shortage of navigational challenges on Iona’s trek, there’s a delightful absence of frustration. Coupled with the game’s stirring soundtrack, Gravity Ghost: Deluxe Edition is a thoroughly enjoyable and surprisingly existential title, certainly worth of your time. Remarkably, that’s even true for players who aren’t usually enamored by the puzzler genre.
Gravity Ghost: Deluxe Edition was played on PlayStation 4
with review code provided by the publisher