From time to time, I adore a walking simulator. Sitting back and being told a well-weaved narrative – with interactivity to accompany – is enjoyable. What Remains of Edith Finch and The Stanley Parable are my picks of the genre because they nail their respective atmospheres while forcing me to ponder what I’ve witnessed. They also tend to have art styles that embrace the artistic rather than the realistic. So, when I heard about Ghost on the Shore, I wondered what it could bring to the table. Would it showcase a beautiful art style, an enticing narrative, and the ability to learn about the world?
In Ghost on the Shore, we see everything through Riley, the protagonist. The game begins with Riley at sea on a boat, by herself, taking a break from her ordinary life. She encounters a ghost named Josh, who suddenly invades her body, seeing through her eyes. Throughout the narrative’s course, Riley and Josh work together to uncover Josh’s past and the history of the Rogue Islands.
From start to finish, the story is compelling with a good pace. Nothing moves too suddenly as the player uncovers the mysteries and history of what happened to the inhabitants of the Rogue Islands, Josh included. In classic walking simulator fashion, the player must click on plenty of objects and listen to the comments of characters. I do enjoy how it is not just Riley and Josh who comment on objects. On occasion, flashbacks occur in which we see the significance of characters who owned said items as we gradually uncover the past. I also appreciate how the player can skip over pieces of information if they wish, although I recommend you don’t do this on a first playthrough. This is great for completionists because on a second playthrough, you can fly through the game, if you wish.
Speaking of optional information, the dialogue wheel is interesting to note because you only have one chance to learn certain pieces of information. This feels more natural than the dialogue options in a lot of games, in which you can ask question after question and effectively interrupt a game’s flow. In many situations, you will have up to four dialogue options to choose from, so it really depends on what you think is a good answer or what you want to learn about a character. This can sometimes affect your experience, notably the ending you get. Yes, there are multiple endings!
Voice acting overall is quite good, especially for Riley and Josh. Other characters you encounter can sound a bit artificial but not often. It mostly feels natural given the context, which definitely adds to the immersion. However, there are moments where you choose a dialogue option in which Riley and Josh’s relationship suffers. Yet, this does not show in interactions with items. What also doesn’t aid in the immersion, however, is the occasional bug in which dialogue cannot be heard. I had this happen once during my playthrough, and I’m aware of other players experiencing this. Aside from this, you can immerse yourself in the story and, in fact, the world.
Remember what I said about the artistic rather than the realistic? Well, Ghost on the Shore creates an atmospheric world through water colour aesthetics. Some textures look quite flat, but it’s forgivable since it takes very little away from the narrative. Nonetheless, views from the top of mountains are marvelous, while the dark textures in the background create just the right amount of eeriness for the game’s tone. After all, you’re on an abandoned island with nothing but birds singing (and the occasional ghost).
While on the subject, sound and music do their part in effectively establishing the atmosphere. Birds sing and rivers flow to imply the Rogue Islands have been taken back by the wild. Sudden musical changes altered the tone and my emotional response throughout. These often happen when a character appears or there is a key narrative beat; it is necessary for maintaining the correct tone.
Ghost on the Shore adds other small things that improve the package. For example, I loved how Riley sketches in her journal to remember certain landscapes. It’s a small charm that allows the player to learn more about the protagonist, whose face is never seen. The idea that Josh is in Riley’s body and that only she can hear him is another nice touch. It plays on the idea of hearing voices in your head, thinking you are going insane. In fact, there is an instance of this in the game with another character. Self-awareness in this case is good.
While nothing revolutionary to the gaming industry, Ghost on the Shore is a short yet interesting title. Its narrative, atmosphere, and characters are pleasing, while the journal is a lovely touch for character development. Having multiple endings creates replayability, and so do the dialogue wheels.
The occasional bugs and repetitive clicking on objects (this is more of a complaint with the genre rather than the game) hamper this title slightly, and so do some textures, but these problems are small. I would recommend waiting for a sale since the game can still be considered a bit pricey given that it takes under three hours to complete. Nonetheless, it is one of the better walking simulators out there that is worth one playthrough.
Developer: Like Charlie
Publisher: Application Systems Heidelberg
Release Date: 24th February 2022
Gaming Respawn’s copy of Ghost on the Shore was provided by the publisher.