LifeisXbox’s Ghost on the Shore review | I’m always excited when I get to play another Belgian game, mostly because I usually know the devs and their previous titles pretty well and I can’t wait to see how they’ve evolved. Like Charlie, the developer behind Ghost on the Shore, made their first foray into gaming with Marie’s Room, a short (and free!) narrative title that delivered a shocking twist.
I knew then that they’d be a studio to keep an eye on when it comes to telling interesting stories and Ghost on the Shore is their first full-length commercial title, with hopefully many more to come!
In Ghost on the Shore, you play as Riley, who discovers a mysterious group of islands in the middle of a storm and in the process, picked up a ghost hitchhiker that keeps telling her what to do. Will you help him? Is there a way to get rid of the spiritual parasite? Let’s find out by diving in!
Most Memorable Moment
This is actually a collection of moments: chatting with the devs over the course of a few years and seeing the game evolve after player feedback and having it shape up towards a full release. I’m always thrilled to be part of the journey, even if it’s just as a far-off bystander. A Ghost, if you will…
ℹ️ Reviewed on PC | Steam Review code provided by the developer, this review is the personal opinion from the writer.
What we Liked!
- The concept | Having a voice tag along for the ride that you can’t see isn’t a fresh concept in videogames, but I don’t recall it ever being a ghost before. It makes you wonder how he died, what secrets the island he called his home has to hide and most importantly: why did he attach to me as the player?
- The soundtrack | I’ve been a huge fan of the soundtrack ever since I first heard it at the end of an early demo. I’m glad to see the final release actually starts with it and it does a great job at setting the tone. The music is wonderfully composed, but other than the opening song and the end credits, I have to admit I didn’t pay too much attention to it.
- Authentic elements | The game is full of handdrawn art by the developers, but also scribbles and drawings by their young family members and I think it’s awesome that their art will live on forever in this game.
- Branching choices | Usually when a game offers branching paths, they all converge towards the same results. And while the structure of the game is mostly linear, I did play through it twice in a row and noticed considerable changes in tone and dialog. In my first run, I was the kind, helpful partner to Josh (that’s our ghost’s name by the way) and the second time around I did a speedrun ignoring all non-vital stuff and acted mean to him. This reflected realistically on his behaviour and even resulted in some funny situations where Josh berated me for ignoring certain locations and items.
- Narrative surprises | There were a lot of “surprise twists” that I could see coming from a mile away and that I won’t spoil here, but anyone that has played games with ghostly elements or who has seen/read plenty of dramas will see them rearing their head well before the official reveal. But at the same time, there were two major plot moments that completely caught me by surprise. The explanation for them even more so, though admittedly, I had to call in a lifeline and ask the dev, who explained the inner workings to me and blew my mind.
- Replayability | Ghost on the Shore has four different endings, depending on your choices in the game and how you interact with Josh. Usually, a narrative adventure like this is once and done, but I had two very different outcomes and according to the achievements, I’m missing two more. I love it when games do this, as it makes them a lot more interesting to talk about with friends who’ve also played it and it lets you compare your outcomes.
- Lots of lore | The islands are littered with journals, pictures, letters and casette tapes for you to discover. Each one contributes to the story in a meaningful way. And what’s even better: you can ignore them in your second playthrough and you won’t have to sit through the same content twice. In fact, there is even a cheeky achievement for ignoring the other ghost on the island, which gave me a chuckle.
- Minor Sequence issues | While obviously you’re not meant to ignore all of the items you can interact with, it is an option (except for a handful of forced ones for the plot). In my second playthrough, where I did just that: beeline towards the next plot-point, I noticed a few times that both Riley and Josh were assuming I had seen or read things along the way that I had actually ignored in that playthrough. (MINOR SPOILER ALERT: though the final big reveal does give the developers a cop-out when it comes to pre-existing knowledge, but I’ll let you figure out why I say this for yourself.)
- The Graphics | The game has a nice use of pastel colours and often feels like a waterpainting come to life, but at the same time it didn’t manage to wow me that frequently. Sure, the supernatural elements looked great, but when the world was behaving and not pulling off any ghostly tricks, I wasn’t as impressed with the vistas as much as the characters themselves were. An example: early on, Riley says “what a nice little cottage” when looking at a time-worn house and I couldn’t help but think “is it, though?”
- The voice acting | While overall, I liked the performance by the main voice actors (especially the ghost, Josh), there were moments where the timing was off or I didn’t feel the emotion that was needed for the moment. I noticed it more frequently at the start of the adventure and most often in Riley’s lines, but also one moment where Pixie, a young girl that appears as a ghostly apparition, was able to accurately quote something she heard someone else say once, word for word. The emotions can also rear up during some conversations, yet characters let each other finish their sentences and that kind of gives the feeling your watching a rehearsed stage play.
- Mostly linear exploration | While the story has a few branching elements, the actual traversal is mostly linear. You’re walking from point A to point B, usually along a narrow path. It’s a typical trope for the walking simulator/narrative adventure genre, so it’s easily forgiven, but I would have appreciated even more secrets to discover, off the beaten path.
What we Disliked
- Performance | Take this with a grain of salt, because the difficult part of PC reviews is that everyone has a different hardware configuration, but my Surface Book Pro 2 struggled to keep a solid 30fps going and the fan started blowing like crazy trying to cool my laptop down. The game had picked all the highest settings to run on and turning it down to a lower resolution and lesser quality helped somewhat, but I still experienced some stutters here and there.
- Forced responses | While the game starts with giving you dialog choices that range from easygoing to giving your tag-a-long ghost a hard time, near the ending I found my freedom often reduced. SPOILER ALERT: I had to go along with Riley’s rage towards Josh, because she kept stubbornly assuming that he left his family behind by choice, whereas to me it was obvious early on that he had died on the island somehow (I mean, he IS a ghost…)
How long to beat the story | ~3 hours
How long to get all achievements | ~10-12h
Robby lives and breathes video games. When he’s not playing them, he’s talking about them on social media or convincing other people to pick up a controller themselves. He’s online so often, he could practically list the internet as his legal domicile. Belgian games-industry know-it-all.