Getting By With A Big Help From My Friend

HIGH It feels like living in a cartoon.

LOW Throwing isn’t fun in VR. Please stop asking us to do it, devs.

WTF The benevolent destruction of entire neighborhoods.

Louis was a young boy carrying a heavy burden. Born of his tears, I arose as a friend that only he can see, and whose size matched the size of Louis’ problems. As his own personal Ghost Giant, I need to help bring happiness back into Louis’s life by helping him overcome one problem at a time. 

Louis is a child on his own, struggling to keep his family farm running while his parents are absent. While there are helpful adults around, what Louis needs is someone to help with the difficulties of facing loneliness, abandonment, and depression. Ghost Giant explores these themes via the VR equivalent of a point-and-click adventure. However, instead of focusing on puzzles, Ghost Giant features interactivity within the environment.

Each level had me standing in a locked, central position looking down on the scene, so the majority of Ghost Giant required me to be a nosy (but benevolent) intruder into the lives of its characters. I’d pluck the roof off of a house in order to hunt for items or hidden collectibles, or I’d grab a crank and spin a house around so that I could listen to the conversations inside. Other situations had me using my huge stature to do things like grabbing two clouds and rubbing them together to bring rain for crops.

While rarely difficult, the solutions to many puzzles often yield simple, delightful results — some tasks helped Louis get a job done so that his family’s farm would survive.  Others helped Louis rebuild relationships with lost friends, and some served as a pick-me-up to remind Louis that despite his troubles, he’s not alone.

From plots of fabric “grass” nailed into the hillside to stars and clouds dangling by thread from the sky, the miniature world of Ghost Giant feels like an arts and crafts project come to life, and the playful sense of scale had a charming way of contradicting itself.  While the daisies I would pluck from Louis’s farm came up to my giant’s waist, the paintbrush I found resting in a mop bucket fit perfectly to scale in my hand. For every miniature basketball or windmill I found, there would also be a gigantic clam or an oversized pencil to shake up my perception of size within Louis’s world.

Ghost Giant is filled with a cast of fully voice-acted anthropomorphic animals that bring charm to the experience with distinct personalities and humorous dialogue.  Whether I stopped what I was doing to listen in on the conversations or just let the characters in each scene buzz in the background, the interactions made the world feel alive.

Unfortunately, while the world and characters were great, the connection between Louis and I felt forced.  After a couple of tasks, Louis would ask for our secret handshake — a high-five fist-bump combo — but the timing of the request always seemed a bit random. Also, instead of working directly with Louis, much of the my time was actually spent ignoring him while I perused the environment for collectibles, hunted for pieces to solve the next puzzle, or looked for something to throw at a distant target for the twentieth attempt.

Speaking of throwing things, PSVR games rarely do throwing mechanics well, and even then, they rely on them sparingly and give generous margins for success. Ghost Giant had me shooting hoops and hurling garbage with random results as the PSVR camera had trouble tracking my controller in front of my headset.  While these particular tasks didn’t crop up too often, they brought progress to a grinding halt as these technical issues wrenched me out of the experience.

At its heart, Ghost Giant is a story centered around mental health struggles and the necessity of seeking help from others. Unfortunately, the developers do little to explore the issues beyond using them as a pretext for the Giant to solve Louis’ external, superficial struggles, leaving little opportunity to bridge the emotional gap between Louis and I. Luckily, Ghost Giant has a beautiful world full of charm to help fill that gap.

— Alexander Pegram

Rating: 7 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed and published by Zoink. It is currently available on  PSVR.This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PSVR. Approximately 5 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E. Although the game deals with serious issues such as depression, there is nothing violent, gruesome, or scary in the game.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The game has subtitles for all dialogue. Audio cues are not required to solve any of the puzzles. This is fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: This game’s controls are not remappable. The game is controlled via hand tracking with the Move controllers. The trigger button picks up items for each hand, and the Move button is used to “poke” and “prod” items and characters in the environment.

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