“Gravity Ghost,” the latest title by Ivy Games, is the most recent in a line of fantastic indie titles. Between its strong themes, beautiful art, soundtrack and phenomenal gameplay, “Gravity Ghost” is not a title to miss.
Erin Robinson, the mastermind behind Ivy Games, has a history with Columbia College Chicago. Frequently teaching the J-Term class “Indie Game Sprint,” she has been pouring her soul into the game over the years. The amount of work, thought and feeling in this game is immediately apparent, as the first haunting notes of the soundtrack come up during the intro sequence. The tone of the game is immediately set and remains consistent throughout the game.
The game is frequently compared to “Super Mario Galaxy” for its planet focus, but the comparison is a surface one at best. While players perform a series of challenges across multiple planets in “Galaxy”, “Gravity Ghost” instead uses the planets themselves as the challenge. Players can revolve Iona, the protagonist, around different planets, jumping and crashing downward, gaining and losing momentum. Some of these planets move, some of them break, and all of them affect Iona’s trajectory. Despite how cumbersome this could seem, the gravity mechanics are incredibly fluid, causing very little frustration when it comes to getting from point A to point B.
After a brief and unobtrusive tutorial sequence, the rest of the first area is revealed to the player, as are the remainder of the base mechanics where the game’s themes of death and the afterlife come into play. It is revealed that collecting flowers will increase the length of Iona’s hair, allowing her to capture animal spirits. Iona happily welcomes these spirits to the afterlife when they are are collected and returned to their bodies on various planets, and a cut scene plays on exiting the level. These cut scenes show Iona before her death, giving some background on her life and eventually explaining how she ended up dead in the first place.
Once the first area is finished, Iona comes across a guardian creature sleeping on a small planet. After collecting a star he guards, he explains to her that a planet he was supposed to protect has blown up and works with Iona to collect the pieces and restore the planet. The black hole left where the planet was serves as the hub from this point on—the rest of the stages are arranged around it in the form of different animal constellations.
The game is lighthearted, endless fun and very relaxing. Iona is truly a joy to play—she is both endlessly charming and very human. The cut scenes that show Iona’s life are some of the best cut scenes in the game, not only due to their visual fidelity, but also because the lack of agency in the cut scenes firmly cements them in the past, subtly reinforcing the finality of death.
Erin Robinson has created nothing short of a masterpiece with “Gravity Ghost.” Casual and new gamers will delight in a simple and easy experience, but even the most jaded, hardcore gamer will find something to enjoy here. “Gravity Ghost” proves that a game does not have to be punishing to be rewarding.