Ghostory by RigidCore Games
Ghostory starts off with your character lost in the woods, being chased by a pack of wolves. Upon successful escape, you come across a lake and decide to have a sip of its water, whereupon you immediately turn into a ghost, and soon learn that you can switch between a human form and a ghost form at will.
Clamoring along the landscape, desperate for answers, you promptly arrive at a cabin, where a strange old woman tell you that since you drank that lake’s water, you’re going die within a week. She says she can cure you if you bring her a mushroom from a nearby cave. Upon finding said mushroom, the cave suddenly collapses, leaving you trapped inside. The only way out is to proceed through the cave, solving the many puzzles it contains to find a way out.
Switching Forms, Flipping Switches
Despite its title, Ghostory’s narrative is sparse, giving only a simple setup to get you started, and then only touched upon via sections between levels. It’s not a very compelling narrative, but it quickly becomes clear that the main focus is on the game’s puzzles.
The game’s main hook is the ability to use your human or ghost form intermittently to solve the many puzzles of each level. When you change into ghost form, however, you drop your backpack. Since you can only pick up and store keys with your backpack on, a great deal of the puzzles involve guiding your backpack through them.
The standard tropes of puzzle games are here: colored keys that unlock specific gates, pressure-activated switches, movable boxes, specific spaces moving and disappearing platforms – it’s all familiar if you’ve played a 2D puzzle game before.
Thankfully, the ability to turn into a ghost lets you easily fly around levels to get a better view and possibly flip switches that would otherwise be out of reach. This helps mix up the game to where it feels fresh enough to curb that “been here, done that” feeling.
Ghost of a Chance
This is the type of puzzle game that will leave many feeling frustrated. It’s challenging because it takes into account your timing and platforming skills.
Besides the obvious – figuring out how to get keys to unlock gates – the game often requires you to quickly make precise jumps. You need to be able to quickly change forms, since a lot of levels involve a sequence of events, and missing one jump can result in having to redo sections over again. This is a warning just in case this type of puzzle game experience isn’t your cup of tea.
Levels can also not be designed to stop your mistakes. During level 10, I pushed a wooden box off a ledge instead of using it to jump over a swarm of flies. There was nothing there to safeguard me or let me know I messed up, and I had no means of getting the box back onto the ledge I pushed it from. This is not a major knock on the game, but keep in mind that you may have to restart levels over again, because it seems that many puzzles have only a single specific way in which they can be solved.
As a result, puzzles in this game are not as dynamic as I would have liked, as there seemed only one way to solve each puzzle. Thankfully levels aren’t too long, but having to repeat complicated sections can get a bit tiresome.
The developers did their best to help alleviate frustration, by allowing you to skip up to two levels and come back to them later to acquire those skips back. The best feature, however, is the ability to watch a YouTube video walk-through of any level, linked directly from the game’s pause menu. This is a very helpful and convenient feature if you find yourself stuck.
Controls feel fine, but it’s more natural using a controller. Controls are simple and allow for quick mastery. But I often wished the game had more actions – like an ability to throw my backpack to make things easier. I thought it was a shame that the game tended to rely on its form-changing mechanic a little too heavily, given that the game has over a dozen levels.
The game’s pixel art is simple, and not as varied as it could have been. The game features icy terrain, volcanic landscapes, and an overall nice color variety. You’ll see small details like falling snow, moving torch flames, and tiny cave bats that fly around. These things do a good job of adding some atmosphere, but there aren’t details to make environments come alive. Environments end up feeling like palette swaps, and less visually appealing as a result.
Ultimately, Ghostory is a good puzzle game for those looking for a challenge. It’s the type of experience that makes you think as well as hone your timing and platforming skills to succeed. Its puzzle design may feel familiar, but it has enough thought-inducing puzzles to keep you entertained.
Ghostory is available via Steam.
Watch the official trailer for Ghostory below: