What are ghosts, anyway? For one person it’s a floating white sheet creeping through a castle hallway, for another it might be a string of memories, unfulfilled desires or unprocessed regrets desperately clinging on to our physical world. Both can be scary, on vastly different levels.
Whatever your interpretation and fear level of the ethereal, one thing is undeniably true. Ghost on the Shore, the commercial debut of our proud member like Charlie is out today, and there’s nothing scary about giving this narrative video game a shot.
Ghost on the Shore tells the story of Riley, a young woman that finds herself stranded on a deserted archipelago after a sudden storm throws her ship off course. If that wasn’t a bad enough situation, she gets very unlikely company: a ghost called Josh that’s stuck in her head and for the love of anything that’s holy will not shut his trap. It’s up to the player how the relation with this unwanted intruder will develop, which will ultimately influence Riley’s fate and the outcome of the story.
It mashes up a lot of the good bits from top class narrative works – the deserted feel of Dear Esther, the intimate one-on-one conversations of Firewatch, and the family intrigue of What Remains of Edith Finch – and sprinkles some of that unmistakeable like Charlie story flavour on top. They have a real knack for creating places that feel real. Even though the islanders have long passed away, the characters come alive while you discover their stories. The marks left on the world – notebooks, drawings, letters – paint a very vivid picture of who they were and what they were up to. There’s a place and purpose for each and everyone of these characters, which makes for a very believable world.
To make sense of it all, Riley keeps track of everything she finds. While exploring the decayed history of the Rogue Islands, she will scribble down every little detail in her journal and often make drawings of the places she visits, and what they might have looked like back in the day. The logbook has an almost magical quality to it, both in the fairytale way new information pops up and the level of detail that went into the assets. Handwritten notes and letters – riddled with spelling mistakes when written by a small child – add a tangible quality to the storytelling and build the feeling that you know and care about these people.
It’s a trick like Charlie previously pulled off masterfully with Marie’s Room and now they’ve managed to do it on a bigger scale. While the beauty of the islands begs to be discovered freely, you can’t deviate very far from the beaten path. The more open environment also screws a little with the dialogue rhythm at times, and because of the increased scope not every line is able to stick the landing. Ultimately, that’s nitpicking at what is a well constructed and beautifully written narrative experience. Safe to say: if you liked Marie’s Room, you’re going to love Ghost on the Shore.
This has been one of those video games that’s been a long time coming, and we couldn’t be happier for the team that release day is finally here. We’re keeping our fingers crossed for a succesful release so all their hard work will finally pay off.