Ghost Giant is a new PlayStation VR adventure game by the studio who brought you Zombie Vikings and Flipping Death, and is definitely a must-play.
The intimacy of first-person VR games grants a sense of involvement to the player, sometimes in a way that feels like cheating. Just being physically immersed in the idea of an environment, then given the most meager of interactive cues — is this what’s considered a robust modern gaming experience? It’s a difficult question to answer, but with the exquisite closeness and simply enthralling story of Ghost Giant, less may very well feel like more, largely due to its inspired patchwork visual design, minimalist yet effective plot and characters, and sincerity.
You take the ethereal form of a massive ghost creature that has suddenly manifested itself to help Louis, a young anthropomorphic cat reminiscent of an Animal Crossing denizen, who toils on his mother’s homestead and farms sunflowers. Louis is most certainly the fulcrum of the entire game, and while his cutesy chirps and insecurities risks a kind of saccharine heaviness, this critique passes quickly. By the end of its three- or four-hour run-time, Ghost Giant’s main character manages to feel like a well-rounded personality, and a worthy main character with layers to explore.
Ghost Giant looks absolutely stunning, and its exquisite visual detail feels custom-fit for PlayStation VR. Its world is made to look as if it was stitched together with wood and fabric, which adds a certain heft to its dimensional feel; interestingly, few assets within it appear two-dimensional at all, and there’s very little else to compare it to in this respect. The closest thing may be the non-interactive and far less technically advanced Allumette, a short VR experience from 2016 that is the equivalent of a stop-motion animated film based on a Hans Christian Andersen story. In that one, its lack of interaction is replaced by a sense of fully inhabiting the story, peering through cut-outs to determine the various details and developments.
Similarly, although Ghost Giant can be played while seated, much of the game involves moving your body around to find all the points of activity. In an early scene, Louis is rummaging through his house looking for a lost key, and you can get right down on the ground to peek through his window during the search. The game lacks any kind of crouch function, strangely, and its turning ability is always rigidly limited within a given scene, but the drive to seek out all the content makes this physicality a pleasure that also connects you more closely to the story.
What that story lacks in complexity, it makes up for with nuanced, genuine friendliness, duly contrasted with a mostly-unspoken darkness under the skin. There is something immediately relatable (at least for some of us) in Louis’ lonely moxie and scrappy attitude, and even the very presence of the Ghost Giant, being this idea that there is a benevolent force present to help with problems and protect those who happen to have more of them than they can bear on their own. In turn, the player becomes a kind of imaginary friend — no one else in the game can actually see your character, though you can lightly spook and interact with the other anthropomorphic town folk in playful ways — implying that this is all fantasy. At one specific moment after Louie stops being fearful, he asks that you physically bring yourself closer down to him for a better look, a movement which felt uncanny to perform in real life. The game is full of these tiny magical micro-moments.
The whole thing is also a walk in the park, and can be completed briskly, though the story is memorable and there are collectibles which can be sought out in another play-through or via a level-select feature. In practice, each scene of the game presents a pleasing, detailed diorama to poke and prod at, and there are secret achievements available in their nooks and crannies. Any hats found can be placed on other characters, which is undeniably amusing; placing hats on flower shop owner Monsieur Tulipe positions each of them on a single antler, and you can even make your very own tacocat.
The lightness of the storytelling, Louis’ dialogue, and the rambunctious soundtrack frame a rather touching, disconcerting, but redemptive story. The specific details are being withheld in this review as they are definitely worth discovering for yourself, but they inform an array of contrasting textures, including whimsy, graven devotion, and the defensive theatrics of adolescence, all of which make Ghost Giant feel much grander and more meaningful than its relatively sedate gameplay may occasionally imply. The mechanics themselves aren’t as novel as, say, the reality-bending elements of A Fisherman’s Tale, but the narrative thoroughly trumps that game outright.
Another important component of Ghost Giant is its soundtrack, a dream-like collections of pieces that somehow invoke equal parts The Legend of Zelda’s Lost Woods theme and the piano compositions of Claude Debussy (interestingly, Louis’ music teacher is himself named after the French composer). The voice-work here is of the highest caliber, and every little character’s life feels fully realized in their delivery and performance quality, details which are made even more effective by the tendency to wear headphones during VR play.
It’s quite possible that fans of Ghost Giant’s presentation will find themselves returning to each scene to look for hidden collectibles and interactive achievements. It’s a story that’s not going to have quite the same punch the second time around, but it remains lovely down to its finer details, and it’s a pleasure to effect simple actions in its world, just to witness how each character gamely reacts to them. Ghost Giant gives players a wonderfully interactive story to lose themselves in on a weekend afternoon, but don’t let its cute appearance fool you — there’s more here than meets the eye. Highly recommended.
Ghost Giant is available now on PlayStation VR, both digitally and at participating retailers. Screen Rant was provided a copy of the game for purposes of review.