Whirling loops and orbits create spirographs on my screen, a potty video game universe of alien physics festooned, bizarrely, with flowers and fluffy woodland creatures.
This is Gravity Ghost from Erin Robinson, aka Ivy Games. It is an adventure in otherness that is sure to enrage the "but is it really a game?" goons, confounding their noble quest for absolute gameyness.
Gravity Ghost is a PC 2D exploration of gravity in which the ghost of a dead little girl who once lived in a lighthouse hops from one pint-sized planet to another, collecting stuff and generally mooning around. The trick is to predict the gravitational pull of pirouetting planets and leap from one to another, drawing arcs in the firmament along the way. It's a bit weird.
Look. Part of this writing-about-video-games job of mine is the humdrummy of categorization and explanation. I must answer your impatient but valid enquiry, "well, what is it?"
So ... it is a game and it is a toy and it is a simulation and it is a puzzle and it is art and it is a work of oodling personal expression that I do not fully understand. But, I like it.
More prosaically, it's a quasi-platformer with a circular theme. It is a gossamer puzzle in which, honestly, you'll probably get the answer without working too hard. Sure, there is physical agency. You can move left and right and up and down and you can jump. But gravity does the rest.
I found a little satisfaction in completing levels and challenges, but a lot of satisfaction in just being in this dreamy little state of floating around. Worlds, colors and story elements come and go. You can pull the whole thing into a narrative if you like, or not. The absence of meaning is part of this game's charm. It's about loops and it's a bit loopy.
This is a world created by passions and perspectives that are adjacent to the video game form, but somehow separate and alien. In the garden of interactive entertainment, it sits slightly apart from those traditional perennials we commonly call "video games." Nor is it the same as the ironic, homage-ing little wind-charms that tinkle video game's praises. It is new. The literalist gnomes look on, perplexity engraved on their faces.
What I especially like about Gravity Ghost is its feeling. I asked Robinson about this.
"From the beginning I had this mood in mind that this would be a very melancholy game," she said. "We stuck to this feeling of being happy and sad at the same time in a weird way."
It's about loops and it's a bit loopy
She said that the game is about gravitational physics and approximates what it might be like to hop around heavenly bodies that are the size of maisonettes. It's also a bunch of stuff she just likes. "I wanted a story about a girl and a fox," she explained. She is interested in lighthouses, so that's in there too.
But there's no need to dig too deeply into the literal story. "She was a ghost from the start because how can you have a real girl running around in space? But of course, ghosts aren't affected by gravity, so aaaargh."
Gravity Ghost is about four-to-six hours in length and costs $9.99 on Steam pre-order right now, or $14.99 after launch on Jan. 26.
Also, and this is something great, anyone who buys the game, now and forever more, gets two copies "so you can share this with someone in your life, who maybe doesn't play video games." This idea ought to be mandated across the entire world of commercial entertainment.