To the Stars: Gravity Ghost: Deluxe Edition Review
On first glance, Ivy Games’ Gravity Ghost: Deluxe Edition appears to have been ripped straight from the pages of a child’s book. The art style is reminiscent of pastel sketches and drawings you’d find in Where the Wild Things Are. Underneath the surface is a 2-D physics platformer with a message about loss and finding purpose in the afterlife.
Created by Erin Robinson Swink and Michael Stevenson, Gravity Ghost originally released on Steam in 2015. Ivy Games has returned to bring their game to PlayStation 4 with a few new bells and whistles.
You find yourself in the role of Iona. Voiced by the acclaimed Ashly Burch, Iona wakes up and finds herself surrounded by stars, planets, and animal spirits. After a tragic accident, Iona lands herself in the afterlife. Her version of purgatory is much calmer. Rather than venturing through the seven layers, Iona is whisked through a series of constellations, completing collecting flowers and completing puzzles.
Gravity Ghost: Deluxe Edition is comprised of over 100 levels, each puzzle ranging from pretty darn simple to slightly more difficult. You must fly, bounce, and swoop your way through the level to grab a star, unlocking the door and advance to the next. Some levels could take a mere few seconds, while others take a couple of minutes to become acclimated to the gravitational pull the planets possess.
Gravity is a core mechanic in the game. Each planet has its own gravitational pull that affects Iona’s trajectory. This mechanic takes a bit of getting used to at first. I was most successful when navigating each level using the D-pad as some of the puzzles required a level of precision the sticks could not offer. You will often have to drift around the map until you find your rhythm. As you progress, you’ll encounter new planets, such as a bouncy planet, and have the ability to terraform them with your hair.
As crazy as it sounds, Iona’s hair has the ability to convert planets. Some are entirely made up of water, which may hide a star inside. Others will drastically affect the gravitational pull. These new surprises are distributed evenly throughout the game so that you never feel overwhelmed. Terraforming comes at a cost. Replenishing your hair length via flowers found amongst each level never becomes a burden. I had started my campaign obsessively collecting but quickly found that the game is rather forgiving. Seeking out flowers is never a priority. Gravity Ghost focuses on puzzle solving and never lets the busy work get in the way of that.
On occasion puzzles will deviate from the simplistic ‘grab-it-and-go’ star collection. My personal favourite harkened back to the Labyrinth marble games. Every time you encounter a one of these puzzles, the maze becomes more elaborate. It escalated to a point where I needed to get up off my seat and begin tracing the path over my TV. Another memorable one requires you to walk Iona around a crank-like planet in order to power a star and collect it before the “power” runs out.
Orbiting around the afterlife was snappy and fluid, but there was still a story to be told throughout. As the narrative unfolds, you begin to parse through the happenings that lead up to Iona’s death. Living on an island, Iona was a very cordial child with siblings and loving parents. Following the accidental death of her parents, a divide between Iona and her sister, Hickory. You’re also given insight into the relationships Iona has with the other members of the island. Story beats are laid out upon speaking with a guardian spirit and by reuniting an animal spirit with its lost skeleton. The themes that are touched on are heavy. Iona is dealing with death, loss and the broken relationship she had with her sister. With how short the game is, there wasn't enough time to deeply explore a number of these subjects.
While the narrative itself never completely dug its hooks into me, the art style and music composed by Ben Prunty really took the spotlight for me. Unsurprisingly, Ashly Burch’s performance as Iona was endearing and stood out to make her character well rounded.
Due to the rapid nature of level progression, Gravity Ghost is a quick outing. My playtime concluded close to four hours. Ivy Games added in a series of Challenge Levels that pad out the playtime while also providing a refreshing boost in difficulty. The new 13 challenges require you to utilize all the power-ups and knowledge you’ve built thus far.
Another addition to Gravity Ghost: Deluxe Edition is the inclusion of a new playable character. Iona’s fox friend, Vox, was added along with three new music tracks.
Gravity Ghost: Deluxe Edition is comforting, almost like a warm cup of hot chocolate. The musical score is calming, the agency within the gameplay is never alarming nor applies pressure to the player. Although the narrative never gets a chance to truly flourish, Ivy Games created a uniquely fun game. One that hinges on a mechanic seen in many games, but not focused in on in such a capacity you'll find in Gravity Ghost.
If you’re looking for your next rainy-day title, or a soothing experience to cap off your day, Gravity Ghost: Deluxe Edition fits the bill.
Available: August 6th, 2019
Platform: PlayStation 4
A code for Gravity Ghost: Deluxe Edition was provided for review purposes.