Slicin’ My Way To Heaven
HIGH Finally finding that Gherkin.
LOW Going crazy trying to find all the Gherkins.
WTF Finding out about the fishfolk that live on the island.
This is the third game in a row dealing with ghosts and the afterlife that I’m reviewing, so I guess this makes me an expert in the field by now? Jokes aside, I Am Dead is the new game by Hollow Ponds and Richard Hogg, developers of Hohokum and Wilmot’s Warehouse.
In I Am Dead, the player guides the ghost of Morris Lupton, the recently-deceased curator of the local museum on the Island of Shelmerston. Apparently, all is not well and it’s up to Lupton and his ghostly dog companion, Sparky, to find the island a new guardian. In order to do so, Morris will have to seek out the memories of deceased locals and bring them back to “life”.
This task is carried out by using ghostly x-ray powers to visually splice through buildings and objects. It’s a simple idea but an effective one, due to the rich details the developers put into designing objects and locations. Each building the player will splice into looks full of life, with characters moving around, little insects flying, and an array of quirky objects to look at.
The player must find a person holding a memory of interest (shown with bubbles over their heads) and then “decipher” the story related to the deceased person of interest. This is done by a ‘storybook’ gameplay mechanic — each page of the story contains a distorted image that can be corrected by using the ZR and ZL buttons. Once the image is clear, the story continues. It’s a simple mechanic that, for me, didn’t add much of value.
Each memory will reveal an item that’s usually located in the vicinity. Once all items related to the deceased have been collected, the ghost will appear in an incomplete form. To commune with the ghost, Sparky will have to work her doggo magic by going around and collecting scattered “fragments” of the ghost. Once those have been carried back, Morris can finally talk with the potential future guardian. This gameplay sequence doesn’t add much, offering neither challenge nor depth.
While hunting for items, Sparky will sometimes sniff out Gherkins — tiny little spirits that hide, and are harder to find than ghost-related items. By following hints given by the dog, the player will have to slice and rotate a particular item until it matches perfectly with a vague shape shown in the lower right corner. While this might sound difficult, I Am Dead gives plenty of hints and the Switch’s vibration intensifies when close to the right position. Unfortunately, the reward for finding all the Gherkins in each location is nothing of value, and doesn’t make the time spent doing it feel worthwhile.
The narrative in I Am Dead is… mostly okay? While revealing the memories of some ghosts was fairly compelling thanks to uncovering the human aspects of characters that initially appeared tough and unkind, not all of them were equally interesting. Still, it’s easy to appreciate how most of the memories leave space for the player to try and connect all the dots.
Unfortunately, with I Am Dead being pretty short, there’s not enough time to flesh out all the characters and make them equally intriguing. The voice acting shines, though, with the actors for Sparky and Morris being especially memorable. It’s always a pleasure to hear them going back and forth remembering old times.
Overall, the keywords for I Am Dead would probably be ‘charming’ and ‘quirky’. It isn’t a horror adventure nor a sad one, even though there are little doses of melancholy here and there. Instead, it’s a light puzzler that features some interesting game mechanics, and others that feel more appropriate to a casual mobile title — an easy recommend to casual players who are short on time and don’t mind a bit of repetition.
— Damiano Gerli
Disclosures: This game is developed by Hollow Ponds and published by Annapurna Interactive. It is currently available on PC and Switch. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on Switch. Approximately 4 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: The game is rated E for Everyone by the ESRB for Fantasy Violence, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco and Mild language.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: All dialogue is subtitled and the hints and provided via rumbling of the controller or Switch console. This game is fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: This game’s controls are not remappable. there is no control diagram. The player zooms in with the ZR button, zooms out with ZL, moves around with the L stick while rotating the camera with the R stick.
Years later, he got the idea that he was the most Sega-knowledgeable person in the world, so he opened a website in 1997, The Genesis Temple.
He's a sucker for great stories in gaming, he loves adventure and indie titles, but he never shies away from action and triple-A RPGs.
Damiano's been writing about videogames for 20 years, with no plans to stop. Say hi to him on Twitter at @damgentemp, or on his blog https://genesistemple.com (now dedicated to the history of video game design).