Ghosts are a key feature of Halloween. The whole basis of Halloween is the thinning of the veil between the living and the dead, a time to celebrate and honor the dead–or help them resolve their issues to ensure they can move on to the afterlife. How they resolve their issues depends on the ghost but I’m guessing when one of them takes up space inside your head, you are willing to try anything! This is exactly the scenario for the upcoming game Ghost on the Shore, and our ghostly offering for Day 18 of our Halloween Game reviews.
What is Ghost on the Shore?
Ghost on the Shore is an upcoming narrative-exploration game from like Charlie. There is a demo available now on Steam with the scheduled release date for the full game before the end of 2021. The demo is a beautiful slice of what the game will potentially bring. There is plenty of room for twists and misdirection but the atmosphere is spot-on and seems pretty consistent.
The game opens with a motorboat in a storm. We hear the voice of a man explaining he didn’t know what was going to happen; he just wanted to talk to her. The screen fades to black and we awaken in first-person, not knowing anything about where we are or who we are. This is an explorative/narrative game. We’re going to find it out as we go along.
The core concept is to play as Riley and Josh. Riley is the living person, who loves words and drawings, can appreciate the scenery, and is interested in solving a good mystery. Josh (or Joshua? To be determined) is the ghost who now resides in her head. Josh has no memory to begin with but things are slowly triggered by discovery around the island.
Playing in first-person sets up the perfect scenario for a game like this. You are playing as the main character but you are hearing both Riley and Josh talk to each other. Josh is in your headphones as much as he is in Riley’s head. For me, I presume Riley talks to Josh out loud and he responds in her head, rather than talking with her ‘inside-voice’. Mainly because inside my head is a little busy and I can’t guarantee I would hear Josh or any other ghost (**Hello? Anyone there? No? Okay then**)
This audio set-up gains an extra benefit when Riley starts to see other ghostly forms on the island. Josh doesn’t seem to be privy to the same things she sees. The first ghost doesn’t hang around long enough to test out any theories, giving a quick angry cameo and then disapparates. However, later Riley sees a further apparition but Josh gives no indication of knowing what she is talking about. Again, the audio set-up paired with the first-person view gives a sense of mystery about what is happening and why the disconnect? It builds the atmosphere in such a powerful manner. Who is Riley? Why can she talk/see ghosts? And what happened on the island?!?
Two Minds are Better Than One
Curious to know what’s going on? Then you better start looking around the island. The only information we have to begin with is Riley’s wrecked on an island and somehow picked up a ghostly stowaway. Since Josh has no idea what is going on either, the best way to find out is to start exploring. Start walking and start looking for clues.
Ghost on the Shore is visually stunning, creating an abandoned atmosphere on this enchanting island. Life has been here before but right now it would appear you are the only person. Your sleuthing starts off dependent on the clues you physically find. Throughout the game, Riley will also sketch the scenery or some other setting inspired by the clues you have found. It adds a really lovely touch to the storytelling, keeping a visual reminder of what you have found so far as well as revealing a part of Riley’s character.
We also learn about Riley and Josh through their conversation, which is both entertaining and oddly reassuring. Most of it is banter, relaxed and casual with a sense of acceptance to it. As the player, you can sometimes choose Riley’s response in the conversation. Sometimes your choices on offer are very similar, and sometimes they are very different. Either option will give you information but it may change the relationship between Riley and Josh, or it may change the nature of your sleuthing. I can tell the potential is there for some interesting wordplay but I’m not sure how much was revealed during the demo.
The controls and the graphics are amazing, however, I would love to know how to turn down the motion sensitivity with my mouse. The basics controls are WASD to move, ‘I’ to check your inventory and TAB to see the drawings sketched previously. The mouse is a directional pointer and when looking around for clues, the sensitivity was triggering my motion sickness. Now I know that’s not going to affect everyone but hopefully, this is just a demo issue.
Who Loves a Good Ghost Story?
Halloween is a natural environment for telling ghost stories around the campfire. Storytelling has been a significant factor in all Halloween traditions as a way to keep history alive through stories about those who have passed. Ghost on the Shore keeps the tradition going with a story that is both intriguing and oddly terrifying.
Everything about our characters is a mystery. Riley is the only one who starts off knowing her own history, however, her ability to talk with ghosts raises more questions. Josh has no idea of who he is but starts to pick up little memories as we explore the area. Even the way these two met/merged is a bit of a mystery: by the time we meet them, Riley seems pretty chill about having a ghost in her head. The natural rapport between them is entertaining and comforting in a way. Riley sounds very modern while Josh is… I’m not sure. A bit contemporary but definitely from an older time? Either way, they both seem congenial enough to be focused on the mystery and solving it together.
Which is why the introduction of other ghosts is so… jarring! The first time you realise there is another presence, it seems curious enough. It’s not until the girl laughs that you remember, oh yeah. This is a haunted game. I’m in danger.
Unfortunately, the demo ends almost immediately after this and despite the creeped out goosebumps covering my arms, I am quite eager to see more. I love the blend of relaxed camaraderie between our merged characters, making it feel like a great story. However, the atmosphere is building towards a great ghost story, and I am intrigued to see why Riley can see the ghosts…and why sometimes Josh cannot. Check out the demo during this ghostly month, and stay tuned for when the full game is released.
Ghost on the Shore is available on Steam as a demo with a full release available soon. No compensation was received for this review.
Score: 4.5 out of 5 ghosts in my head