The road to UploadVR’s Best of 2019 awards starts here! Every weekday for the next fortnight, we’ll be revealing one of the ten nominees for our Overall VR Game/Experience of the Year, counting down to the reveal of our full list of categories and nominees later in December. Kicking things off today, we’re heading back into the wholesome world of Ghost Giant.
Ghost Giant’s whimsy world of wonders casts pelicans as sailors and reindeer as florists, yet it hides a hefty dose of humanity. Between the gentle lull of its score and minutes spent marveling at its miniature miracles, there are splinters of sadness. They’re merely hinted at, at first; fleeting mentions of broken friendships and moments stolen to cry in private, but they’re enough to paint a more worrying picture beyond Sandcourt’s delightful initial charm.
And then it all comes to ahead.
A little over midway into the game, it all becomes a bit much for poor Louis. Up until now, you’ve indulged his distractions, providing invisible companionship as a secret friend he’s unconsciously willed into existence. But his struggles mount, refusing to be pushed down until the point that anxiety and despair take him. In that moment, you find yourself powerless, forced to bear witness. It’s a sickly experience, kicking your gut with a confusing cocktail of intrusion, frustration, and awkwardness. The only thing you can do is the thing that makes Ghost Giant such a poignant experience; you extend a hand (well, in a manner of speaking).
It’s the subtlety that hits the hardest. Ghost Giant is deft in its portrayal of how doubt and worry can seize the mind, not always telegraphed through a foghorn but intrinsically sewn into a person’s interactions. Unstitching that is your task and, again, its handled with care. There’s no magic switch to lift Louis out of his troubles, no enemy to beat to bring him back. It takes connection and companionship, something that, wouldn’t you know it, VR is rather good at.
A quick wave, a giant fist-bump, a rollercoaster ride atop a cloud; Ghost Giant’s puzzles are a dressing for its main mechanic of making a friend. Think of the bond you built with Astro Bot or Quill in Moss, but then putting that connection to greater use.
This isn’t quite that jovial puzzle-fest you might first think, then. It is, for my money, something more memorable, a carefully executed exploration of the nature of depression, the way in which it seeps into the lives of others and the love and attention it will eventually succumb to. For its assured use of VR to communicate that message, Ghost Giant earns its spot as one of 2019’s best.
Ghost Giant is available now on PSVR and will be coming to Quest later this month