Gravity Ghost Review
Iona is a precocious young girl who lives in an island cabin with her two sisters. After the mysterious death of their parents, Iona’s older sister, Hickory, becomes the matriarch of the family. Unfortunately, Iona and Hickory’s relationship is wound tight with all the usual sibling rivalries and childhood egocentrism. Then Iona dies, and all that sisterly bickering feels like lost time. Gravity Ghost is a simple platformer with a children’s book aesthetic, but the themes and subtext at play have a hefty gravitational pull.
Gravity Ghost begins with Iona awaking, for the first time after her death, in a kind of spiritual astral plane occupied by small planets, floating flowers, and tiny animal spirits. As Iona platforms across these constellations, she discovers that different planets have different properties that can be used to her advantage. The young ghost bounces off Jupiter-like gas giants as if they were pinball bumpers, while planets composed entirely of fire send her rocketing into the sky on a jet of steam. Some worlds offer a greater gravitational pull than others, so Iona constantly has to navigate these invisible gravitational fields while collecting stars that open up new worlds.
The biggest problem with Gravity Ghost is its core platforming mechanic. In theory, Ivy Games’ adorable indie platformer sounds like a 2D version of Super Mario Galaxy, but where Nintendo’s iconic platformer features pitch-perfect controls and a series of unique platforming challenges, Gravity Ghost’s oddball gravity system is extremely difficult to get a grip on. This invisible force pulls Iona in multiple directions at any given moment, which constantly threw off my intended trajectory. Unfortunately, knowing which planets exert a stronger force is impossible; sometimes you are close to landing on one planet only to get yanked back towards an identically-sized sphere on the other side of the screen. No matter which direction Iona was moving, I always felt like I was fighting with the universe to get her there, and I regularly had to take half a dozen passes at a collectible before finally nabbing it.
Adapting to Gravity Ghost’s tumultuous invisible sea gets easier as you progress. Iona learns new skills like double jumping, increasing her mass, and phasing through objects. This is where things start to get interesting, because Iona also learns to terraform planets, mutating icy globes into watery wonderlands or barren desert worlds into tiny suns. As she remakes the universe, Iona is able to better navigate the ether and collect floating flower petals, which fuel her terraforming magic.
Just when Gravity Ghost is hitting its stride, it comes to a quick close. The puzzles are never too challenging, but if you can relax and go with the flow, the simple platforming sequences have an almost zen-like tranquility. Still, Iona’s heart-wrenching story is clearly the game’s heart. I loved piecing together Iona’s history and watching this coming-of-age tale about a young girl trying to find her place in the universe. Unfortunately, the universe isn’t easy to navigate.