Ghost of a Tale PreviewDeveloper:
Out Now (Early Access)
I didn’t know I wanted Ghost of a Tale until I saw it, at which point I wanted it desperately. A single screenshot told me all I needed to know (or so I thought) – an RPG adventure set in a world populated by anthropomorphic animals. I suppose it helps that Ghost of a Tale takes a heck of a screenshot, developed primarily as it is by a former Dreamworks Animator. Either way, I was sold on the idea pretty much instantly. And like a mouse that smells the cheese but doesn’t see the trap, I heedlessly rushed in, convinced I was about to play Skyrim with talking animals.
Sadly for me, Ghost of a Tale isn’t that game. In fact, I’m not sure what game Ghost of a Tale is, and I don’t think it quite knows yet either. I can see the games it takes inspiration from. There’s a little Thief here, a touch of Dark Souls there. But right now they feel like separate bits rather than a cohesive whole, which results in Ghost of a Tale being a largely pleasant but rather haphazard experience.
The tale of Ghost of a Tale revolves around Tilo, a minstrel mouse who has been locked up in the dungeon of Dwindling Heights keep, and separated from his wife, Merra. With the aid of an unseen ally, Tilo escapes his cell, and must scour the crumbling stonework of Dwindling Heights to find out why he was locked up and where his wife was taken.
The initial setup is a huge amount of fun, as you scour Tilo’s cell for a means of escape. Even in this dank stone room, the incredible environment design is fully on display. The rough-hewn stonework is thick with tufts of glistening mould, while metal chains and iron hoops dangle ominously from the walls. It’s a fiercely palpable place, aided by the fact that Ghost of a Tale is a very tactile game. Mushrooms can be plucked from the walls and consumed to replenish health, dusty books and scattered documents shed light on the world
Tilo inhabits. Best of all, finding important items often involves a little environmental puzzling, such as moving a wooden stool in order to reach a high shelf. The sound design and animation sell the tactility superbly too, from the sound of Tilo’s scampering feet, to the way he waddles when carrying something heavy.
If the entire game were like this – a giant locked-room puzzle filled with smaller locked-room puzzles, I think I’d be perfectly happy with that. But once you’re out into the dungeon proper, Ghost of a Tale reveals itself to have a strong emphasis on stealth. The castle is patrolled by large armoured rats, who will attack Tilo if they spot him. Tilo can’t fight back, so his only options are to run and hide. Fortunately, he’s pretty good at both, able to nimbly hop into a chest or barrel once he breaks line of sight with a guard or zip through a hole in the wall where the rats can’t follow.