Ghost on the Shore is an exploration game from developers Like Charlie which delves into emotion, relationships and death. You take on the role of Riley, a girl who finds herself alone on an island, or at least she thinks she’s alone. Josh is a voice inside her head, a lost ghost looking to remember who he once was and Riley is there to help Josh piece together the puzzle.
Riley is stranded on an island full of contrast – there are broken down old houses and schools with grass growing up the side of them, but there is beautiful scenery there too with beaches and rolling hills as far as the eyes can see.
Ghost on the Shore is all about exploration and choices. As you get to know Josh, seemingly trapped inside Riley’s head for an unknown reason, the player is offered choices that shape the narrative in front of you. The world is rendered in 3D from the first-person point of view, so the exploration feels very real. There are keys to be found behind books, clue and sketches to be made of the scenery.
As well as Riley and Josh, the islands take on the form of a character. The information that you glean from the items and clues you find as well as the ghosts trying to speak to you from a forgotten past frame the adventure really well, urging you forward and teasing you with the next steps.
The islands are overgrown and it appears as if no one has been here for years. Buildings are crumbling and the grass and moss are growing up int the buildings. Each location has little secrets tucked away in little nooks and crannies waiting to be discovered which all add up to driving the narrative. As you explore, you chat with Josh and get to know each other. Riley is presented with choices that ultimately shape the narrative direction of the game. This is a multi-faceted game with multiple endings, so the choices you make are permanent.
The game lulls you into a false sense of security, one moment you are quietly walking through the houses and exploring and then suddenly you hear a child’s laugh and footsteps. This was a chilling moment where I wasn’t sure what to expect next, but I could feel the hairs on my arms stand up straight. I’m sure there’s going to be plenty more moments like this in the game and I’m looking forward to finding out more about them.
I’m keen to find out more about Josh and what happened to the ghosts that appear to inhabit this island. Josh seems pleasant enough, but the ghosts aren’t too keen on Riley being on the island. As well as the encounter with the child, you encounter a woman on the steps. As you approach her she simply says ‘No, you can’t be here’ – so the island is hiding something. As you continue to explore you find a house on the beach with Josh stating a lady lost 3 girls, so clearly something out of the ordinary happened here on the island. I definitely want to find out what happened to them and help Josh escape or at least rest in peace.
There’s a few clues as to what may have happened on the island. Will-o-wisps are mentioned a couple of times – once when you find a clue and another time by the small girl and the memories you see. I checked out the Wikipedia entry for Will-o-Wisps and it reads:
The will-o’-the-wisp can be found in numerous folk tales around the United Kingdom, and is often a malicious character in the stories. In Welsh folklore, it is said that the light is “fairy fire” held in the hand of a púca, or pwca, a small goblin-like fairy that mischievously leads lone travellers off the beaten path at night. As the traveller follows the púca through the marsh or bog, the fire is extinguished, leaving them lost. The púca is said to be one of the Tylwyth Teg, or fairy family. In Wales, the light predicts a funeral that will take place soon in the locality. Wirt Sikes in his book British Goblins mentions the following Welsh tale about púca.
A peasant travelling home at dusk sees a bright light travelling along ahead of him. Looking closer, he sees that the light is a lantern held by a “dusky little figure”, which he follows for several miles. All of a sudden he finds himself standing on the edge of a vast chasm with a roaring torrent of water rushing below him. At that precise moment, the lantern-carrier leaps across the gap lift the light high over its head, let out a malicious laugh and blows out the light, leaving the poor peasant a long way from home, standing in pitch darkness at the edge of a precipice. This is a fairly common cautionary tale concerning the phenomenon; however, the ignis fatuus was not always considered dangerous. There are some tales told about the will-o’-the-wisp being guardians of treasure, much like the Irish leprechaun leading those brave enough to follow them to sure riches. Other stories tell of travellers getting lost in the woodland and coming upon a will-o’-the-wisp, and depending on how they treated the will-o’-the-wisp, the spirit would either get them lost further in the woods or guide them out.
If the full game delves into the Will-o-wisp lore a little more, then I’m excited to play on.
Ghost on the Shore is an intriguing game. It’s exploring a few themes like relationship exploration, environmental storytelling, emotional choices with consequences and branching narrative with multiple endings. The audio design compliments the game beautifully well – the singing birds in the background as well as the gentle music.
The demo that’s available is only about 20 mins long, but I enjoyed what I played and I’ll be looking out for this one in the future for sure. It’s well put together and managed to elicit an emotional response from me – even thinking back to that moment with the child laughing now sends chills down my spine.
Ghost on the Shore is part of the Gamescom 2020 indie showcase and the demo is available on Steam. If you like narrative-driven exploration games then I definitely recommend you give this one a try and see what you think of it.