Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Indie Impressions - Gravity Ghost

Gravity Ghost

Now Available on Steam

Developed by Ivy Games

In each of the far corners of this dreamlike galaxy are the spirits of guardian animals, whimsical creatures that seem close and sentimental to a wandering soul of a young girl who explores ceaselessly through the cosmos. Floating between planets with the most graceful elegance and encountering this realm's many colorful entities, each with their own history and past of mysteries for the playful space girl to discover.

Each node on our galactic map presents the player with a single stage of different planetary arrangements, some solid, some bouncy, some composed of water for you to splash through to the other side. Each maze of differently sized planet obstacles hides one shining yellow star to obtain and bring to the exit through skillful navigation and manipulation of gravity. Different plots on the sprawling and sparkling map hold the key to important elemental powers allowing you to become light as a feather and floating at a consistent level or heavy as a rock and plummeting towards the surface of a nearby planet. Successfully harnessing the power of these natural elements guides you easily through the galaxy.

All forms of inventive mechanics are slowly brought into play as the stages progress and they seem to add just as much to the colorful and calming visual appeal as they do the fluid feel of playing, from expanding circles of light that expand as you coast around their radius revealing new items to elegant clockwork puzzles of complex moving gears.

Gravity Ghost strikes just the perfect balance of visual wonder with fresh interactivity to keep your mind, heart, and fingers all equally busy. Some levels will test your reflexes and your accuracy with concentrated shots into clusters of small planets to reach that one important star, whereas other levels feel more relaxing in nature and entice the player into losing themselves in the flow of gravity and take in the sights and sounds.

The deeper you go and the more you clear, the more stars light up the interconnected galaxy and awaken the spirit animals whom reside in each of its corners. As you complete each level and free each lost animal spirit the pathways behind you glow radiantly until eventually the entire map is alive with the twinkling of stars signifying your completed trail. The sense of satisfaction from watching your cold unlit surroundings resurrect from the ashes into a beautiful booming system of lights is a most euphoric reward.

Scattered throughout each of the different systems belonging to a different animal spirit are the skeletal remnants of the once magnificent beings, and its your task to connect the wandering spirit with its earthly remains. You can then lead these now free spirits back to the center blackhole hub where they stay giving life and color back to the galaxy, reminding us that death is not just a gloomy end but a hopeful start of new beginnings.

Gravity Ghost is clearly a game made by the free-spirited for the free-spirited, a potpourri of concepts so lighthearted anyone of any age or background could enjoy. You'll glide around effortlessly to the flow of gravity,  terraforming colorful planets to your liking and collecting bits of star to grow cosmically charged hair. Gather the remains of your spirit animals to reignite their creative energies in order to soar into the cosmos with new found powers.

The space-y and emotional atmosphere given by the music is strongly evocative of the sound in FTL, and if you were a fan of Ben Prunty's masterful soundtrack there you are in for a serious treat with the sounds of Gravity Ghost. Prunty has really outdone himself with the soundtrack and I feel like I can hear his growth as a musician into different styles since past works. We are treated with a much wider range of sounds and instrumentation beyond just the synth-y soundscapes, with natural elements presented from the strings of guitar painting colorful melody across this galactic landscape. This evolution in his style makes me insanely excited to see where his music is headed in the future.

Despite the lack of any real threat, the lack of challenges or the prospect of death I was still heavily drawn into the gameplay in a way no other game of casual nature has hooked me. It could be the fantastically vibrant and almost psychedelic visions of a spiritual and magical Outer Space, or the fact that instead of the usual throwaway plots of casual games have been replaced with a deep and effective story containing rich characters ranging from the comedic to the downright tragic.

Forget brain eating zombies, forget lazer-blasting spaceships or epic boss battles. Gravity Ghost is a game that shines in areas where gaming should be all about to begin with; light hearted fun with the freedom and expression of imagination. It's a display of pure creativity and has the power to stir powerful levels of said imagination in those who hold it.

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