Charming, haunting, and clever.
Good news: it might be time for all you early adopters to dust off the PSVR! From the wonderfully twisted minds at Zoink! Games, Ghost Giant doesn’t by any stretch re-invent the wheel from the bulk of what we’ve seen with VR games. It does, however, use the gimmick of VR to envelop the player in a beautifully crafted world where they can experience a surprisingly poignant and heartfelt story of a young boy and his giant invisible helper.
Talking too much about the plot would spoil the reasons why this story that starts out as whimsically child-like and moves into far heavier territories. Suffice to say, there are elements of dealing with mental illness, trauma, difficult relationships, and the love between parent and child. All of this is wrapped up in a world that feels like something Media Molecule might cook up for a new LittleBigPlanet.
This is a miniature world in so many ways, not just because you’re a ghostly giant. The houses are made of pinned-together wood, the clouds are cardboard hanging from strings. Indeed, every aspect of the construction looks as it was created from materials gathered purely at a local crafts shop. And it’s absolutely lovely in every regard. The denizens of this whimsical world are animals of all sorts, but the player’s focus is on a young cat named Louis.
Louis is a clever (if overly stressed) boy, struggling to maintain any semblance of balance in his world. He’s having trouble with everything -friends, his mom, the farm where he lives, and the people who orbit around his life. Louis needs a helping hand, as any kid would in his situation, and thanks to you he gets two.
As the Ghost Giant, you’re really just two disembodied three-fingered hands. Louis is the only one who can see you, but you can affect noticeable change on the people and things in the world. Using the PS Move controllers (and you’ll need them specifically here), there are basically two play mechanics: pointing and poking with one finger and grabbing things. The giant doesn’t walk around, although you’ll have to lean and reach around in the world.
Ghost Giant does what a lot of VR games do: let you essentially do fairly mundane things but in a fantastical environment. At various points, you’ll pull up and plant flowers, fix a crane, find and turn keys, play with hats, and peek into people’s lives and buildings. Anything with a brass fixture on it is interactive. For instance, roofs with knobs can be removed and chucked into the background to find important puzzle items, hidden objects, and other interesting things.
Hats, in particular, are strewn all over the place and finding them is a fun side activity, as are the windmill and basketball hoop in each level. For bonus points, you can spin the windmill by actually breathing on it (using the PSVR’s built-in mic) or find the basketball and manage to make a frequently challenging free throw. Ghost Giant is designed smartly enough to always give the player interesting things to see and poke at outside the main level goals.
Just the same, the game also relies on an optimal setup for the PSVR. The giant doesn’t walk, but the odds are you’ll be moving and reaching around quite a bit. If there are any flaws in your VR space, the game can be a frustrating mess. At one point, for instance, you have to paint a canvas, which involves holding a brush, dipping it into paint, and then actually painting.
Most of this puzzle works fine, but one particular color requires you to reach into a river that is right at the cusp of the range of the PlayStation Camera. Several times when I played, the brush got lost in the water and was an absolute beast to retrieve. There were a number of trouble spots like this, although the game tries to make sure that most key items actually just respawn to their original spot if they get too far. Of course, this isn’t a flaw unique to Ghost Giant, but a general problem in many VR games.
Ghost Giant takes place across 13 chapters, each with their own distinct charms and features. The whole game will only take about five or six hours to play through, but outside of the story, there are plenty of other aspects to just play around with. Since the game moves only in transitions – instead of smoothing rotating you to a different camera angle – it’s also an excellent choice for introducing people to VR without a huge risk of motion sickness or disorientation.
Zoink! has a terrific track record for creating weird worlds with clever gameplay and surprising stories. Anyone who enjoyed last year’s tragically underappreciated Flipping Death will find a lot to love in Ghost Giant. It’s easily one of the most charming VR games out there, with clever puzzles and a surprisingly layered story. The characters and world are fantastic, and while the VR gameplay can sometimes be problematic, this is definitely a game worth hooking up the PSVR’s myriad of cables for.
[Reviewed on PS4]