October 22nd, 2016 - Jason
There was a time when games were big into platforming. To many, it was the pinnacle of games. They still exist of course, but where it more or less began, it’s stayed – Nintendo. There have been exceptions over the years; there are always exceptions. Cue Drakhar Studios, with a new entry into the genre with Ginger: Beyond the Crystal.
It’s not often we get games like this nowadays, so when they come along, I get excited. After all, I grew up playing games like Crash Bandicoot, Gex, and naturally Nintendo’s entries into the 3D world. Booting it up gives you a nicely painted story that you’ve heard plenty of times before. There’s a goddess, someone brings evil and corrupts the crystals, and you must save the world by purifying the crystals. Ginger was brought about by the goddess before the evil took over, but is there something deeper going on here? Perhaps there is a connection between the evil and Ginger?
Sadly, it goes downhill from there. This is a minor gripe, but when trying to continue the dialogue after reading it, you can’t. By that I mean unless you want to skip the conversation altogether, you have to wait for the allotted time designated for the conversation to pass. Like I said, a minor gripe, but having to watch a character go through the talking animation after you read the sentence 20 seconds ago is a bit disheartening. From there you do the tutorial, unless you skip it. And let’s just say it’s a bit wonky. Hit boxes are unclear, enemy attacks override your own, and the tutorial wouldn’t let me attack during the final round of combat. It kept bringing up the instructions to start the battle when I pressed any of the buttons. Not a great start.
Past the tutorial and one of the many long loading screens you’ll encounter, you come across the first of three villages you’ll be renovating. Amongst the village you will find pieces for reconstruction of buildings, people with quests that give materials as rewards, and levels to complete. Let me clarify what I mean by quests – running to part of the map to grab an item that’s in plain sight, killing a few enemies, or doing one of those races where you “collect the *insert item*” to completion. Three or four quests show up after each level, and they’re always the same. Collection may include minimal platforming.
Levels include what first appear to be 2.5 dimension platforming sections, with “lanes” as you cross horizontally, but there are also sections that use the z-axis. You won’t be rotating the camera, as what you see is what you get during the levels, unlike the village exploration. Levels hold materials to collect as well, sometimes off the beaten path and other times requiring you to have a certain skill to obtain it. In addition to these levels, you’ll get a crystal clearing level to match after each completion that is reminiscent of the special stages in Sonic and Knuckles. Your objective: hop around floating platforms until you change all the crystals from red to blue.
As previously mentioned, you will be earning abilities throughout the game by acquiring new outfits. Each world holds a couple, and then the Goddess will also bestow you with some you’ll find useful. Abilities include shooting flames from a dragon suit and shrinking to the size of a mouse. Don’t expect to use these abilities willy-nilly though, as they are in predetermined spots that tell you what you are to use. And to be honest, that seems to be an issue throughout the game – it holds your hand way too much. I understand tutorializing parts of a game nowadays because people don’t figure things out for themselves – but this game is so simple in objectives, it almost feels like it’s for kids. And it very well could be, as the visuals certainly are kid friendly, and what do kids know about hit boxes or unfairness? I remember playing through old games over and over without complaining about difficulty. But this game isn’t difficult – it just takes cheap shots.
While the levels themselves aren’t inherently bad, nothing about them was all that exciting or standout. I also ran into quite a few glitches, where I’d be moved off the map and killed instantly when doing my jump stomp attack. It was more amusing than annoying, to be honest. But definitely not something you want to be running into if you don’t have any checkpoints. As with most games, it could really benefit from some additional QA. But the game isn’t all bad, despite the absolute teardown this review has been. The art direction of the game is very fitting for the story, and the music is lighthearted and upbeat. The costumed abilities are a neat touch, but I wish that aspect was explored more than it is. I also enjoy rebuilding villages, but I wish it was meatier and held more purpose like Dark Cloud. Quests as they are would be fine if it involved more than merely following the compass on the village map – if you had to backtrack to different levels and open up new areas with the abilities you acquired, it’d add a whole other level of depth. While you will be doing backtracking to get all the materials for rebuilding the village, it’s not very satisfying.
If you’ve got young ones around the house and want to show them what it was like playing this genre on the PS1, this is a nice looking version of that. Unfortunately, it’s not much more. I really wanted to like this game. After the first level I had to keep telling myself that it’ll get better, that it had to. The bosses are the best part, but they’re nothing you’ll rack your brain over – I didn’t die once fighting them, whereas I’d die multiple times against regular enemies. It has neat ideas and good visuals, but poor execution.
- Cute Aesthetic
- Costumed Abilities
- Hand Holding Throughout
Ginger: Beyond the Crystal was developed by Drakhar Studios and published by BadLand Games. The game will be available digitally on PS4, Xbox One, and Steam/PC on Oct 25th for $19.99. It will also be available as a boxed retail version on October 28th in select markets for PS4 only for a few bucks more (€24.99 /£19.99). The game was provided to us for review on X1. If you’d like to see more of Ginger: Beyond the Crystal, check out the official site.
Here at FFoP we use a rating method that you may be unfamiliar with, so allow us to clarify. When we review a game, we see what sort of BRA fits. Buy, Rent, or Acquire is the rating we give out – we’ve boiled it down for simplicity. A Buy is worth the full retail value; a Rent is something you may want to try before you buy, or grab at a discount; an Acquire is something you can play, but we’d suggest borrowing it from someone, grabbing it in a game bundle, or some other means. If you want further clarification, please feel free to get in touch.