Ghost of a Tale review for PS4, Xbox One

Platform: PS4
Also On: PC, Xbox One
Publisher: Plug In Digital
Developer: SeithCG
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: E10+

I think you?d have to be a monster to truly dislike Ghost of a Tale. It?s an adorable story about a mouse trying to find his way out of a castle and back to the arms of his beloved wife Merra, using little more than his wits. On top of that, the whole game is mostly the work of one man, a former Dreamworks/Universal Pictures animator who?s created a game that very much feels like something he might have worked on in his former life. In other words, it?s an easy-to-cheer-for underdog story in more ways than one.

Consequently, it kind of pains me to notice its flaws more than its many good qualities. Take, for example, its graphics. Everything here is lovingly drawn, and you can see the care and attention that went into every little detail of the hero, Tilo, and the world around him. Every so often, however, you can see the game engine struggling to render everything on screen, and things slow down a little. Similarly, the camera isn?t great, and swinging it around to get a better view is just as likely to make things worse as it is to give you a better view of things. And, worst of all, everything here is incredibly dark — even with the brightness turned all the way up, it was frequently hard to see the details of the world around you.

It?s the same good news/bad news deal with the game?s story and how it unfolds. On the one hand, it?s clear that developer SeithCG has put a lot of thought into Ghost of a Tale?s world, in everything from its lore to its characters. There?s a clear message here about bigotry and racism in the way the mice are treated by the world around them. But the way the game unfolds reduces much of this into a series of fetchquests, interspersed with lots of wandering around hoping you?ll stumble across a clue telling you what to do next. Some characters are willing to talk to you, but these conversations generally serve more of a ?Tell me more about this?? purpose than they do to advance the plot.

(I?ll also add that Ghost of a Tale puts a lot of emphasis on stealth, and that, save for a boss fight near the end, you?ll spend nearly all of your time running and hiding in cupboards and baskets, rather than fighting your enemies. While this serves to underscore Tilo?s vulnerability, and would undoubtedly work in, say, a movie, in a video game context it gets a little repetitive. This, however, is more a matter of personal preference than an actual flaw in the game.)

The AI is also pretty stupid, and occasionally prone to glitching. I once spent a couple of minutes trapped in a room where a guard had spotted Tilo, except, for whatever reason, he couldn?t quite cross the floor to attack him. Consequently, he?d walk up to Tilo, make a threatening gesture, and then wander back to his post…at which point he?d spot Tilo again and start the cycle anew. It was just one moment, but it captured how Ghost of a Tale?s ample ambition doesn?t quite live up to its execution.

In the game?s defense, of course, few games would be able to live up to its ample ambition — and, more to the point, because it?s so charming, it?s hard to really begrudge Ghost of a Tale for falling short of what it wants to do. It?s far from perfect, and its flaws are reading apparent, but if you come away from this game feeling truly dissatisfied instead of deeply impressed by the work of SeithCG and eager to see what he does next, you?re kind of missing its point.

Plug In Digital provided us with a Ghost of a Tale PS4 code for review purposes.

Grade: B