Rewind 10 years ago and picture yourself staring at the games display in Walmart, Target or Toys R Us. Odds are if you were looking at the PlayStation 2 section, you would see dozens of games like Ginger: Beyond the Crystal. These “mid-tier” games were everywhere in 2006, but with increasing costs of HD development, they are now considered too high risk for retail . Thankfully we have the digital marketplace and games like Ginger can come out and not worry about collecting shelf dust. Ginger: Beyond the Crystal is a 3d platformer and you have likely played a dozen games like it in the past. That’s not to say it isn’t worth your time, in fact, the passing of time has made me appreciate games like this.
In the game, you play as Ginger, a pint-sized hero created by a goddess, with an enormous task at hand. The crystals in the world have been corrupted and they must be restored to reestablish a connection with the goddess. Ginger must also repopulate the three main areas with captured inhabitants and rebuild their homes with materials you discover. When you’re not restoring crystals or opening portals, you can take on side quests from townspeople, these usually involve collecting items, running a race or beating up some bad guys. They never take too long but they do tend to get a little repetitive.
As you progress through the story you find different costumes that grant abilities. For example, the mouse costume allows you to shrink into tiny areas, another allows you to breathe fire that burns spider webs and boils cauldrons. In early levels, you will discover unreachable areas requiring these costumes. This encouraged me to retry levels later and see what hidden goodies were waiting for me. Every level was very enjoyable to play through and they never overstayed their welcome. In addition to the typical levels there are obstacle course levels that are very fun and require you to manage rotating and floating platforms. Short levels and the variety in objectives make for excellent pace, I just wanted to keep playing once I got started.
The presentation department is where Ginger stumbles a little. I really liked the colorful and vibrant art style along with the whimsical music, but they came at a cost. The loading times before every area are long and at times the framerate dips causing some stutters and lagging. When partaking in conversations you cannot hurry along the text, meaning you must sit and wait for it to move along or skip it entirely. I found myself pressing the A button all the time out of habit, hoping the text would scroll faster. The camera took some getting used to and there were many times where I fell through solid platforms. Ginger controls very well which is essential in a platformer; double jumps are made with ease, but sometimes it was tricky perceiving depth and jumps would be missed.
In addition to the platforming, Ginger can also fight enemies. I found the combat to be lacking as a jumping smash was the only attack that seemed to work consistently. When you defeat enemies, they drop small crystals which are used to either buy accessories at the store or free captured townsfolk. These accessories were merely cosmetic and I preferred to save up and free people instead. The asking price is $19.99 and while fair, it would be much more appealing if offered for a few dollars less. The game is available in physical form on PlayStation 4 in a limited printing and digital only on Xbox One.
Ginger: Beyond the Crystal is an interesting game to review. It doesn’t do anything revolutionary, it has some presentation issues and yet I can’t stop playing. The game has great pacing and creates a world I genuinely care about. Combine that with the solid platforming and it is easy to look beyond the game’s shortcomings. This is a very appropriate game for children and I wouldn’t be surprised if parents got a little nostalgic while watching the action.