Ever been to prison before? I’d wager there’d be a few of you out there who have… But, would you rather spend a night in modern jail, or medieval jail? How about a medieval dungeon in the bowls of a lonely, crumbling fort, overlooking a lake, populated by dower rats that are twice your size and then some?
…Well, that’s exactly where you start in Ghost of a Tale. Waking up in a damp, cold room, infested with fungus and a single rose at your side. A mysterious note and the key to your own cell hidden in your food, telling you to go to the watchtower. I almost missed this little gem of a game, browsing the PlayStation store one day, bored out of my mind and wanting something new to play, just watching game trailers at random. In hindsight, I am glad I decided to buy this plucky little stealthy adventure game.
Ghost of a Tale reminds me quite a bit of the Redwall books, and I’m pretty sure this is as close to playing in the world of Redwall as possible. You play as Tilo, a mouse minstrel, imprisoned for acts of sedition by the king. From the simple beginning objective of finding your spouse Merra, you descend into an intriguing plot that slowly builds out the world around you and outside the fort. Mostly through dialogue, with a small cast of colourful and delightfully well-made characters. From the loony, foul-mouthed Frog in the jail, to the brother and sister thief’s and of course, the Mysterious signal guard, Silas. Every character you meet in Ghost of a Tale has their own unique feel, and even though the game has no voice acting, the language of said dialogue is still quite a treat and can be amusing to read aloud.
Sadly for those of you out there looking for something challenging, Ghost of a Tale will leave you disappointed. Being in the same vein of games as Amnesia and Outlast, only, minus the jump scares and body horror. You have to scurry around, avoiding patrolling rats and using bottles or jars of slime to incapacitate them if you’re in a tight spot. Tilo’s small stature and nimble speed, of course, make getting around quite fun, you can run, and climb, hide in barrels and cupboards, even scurry around on all fours. Thankfully the level design is loosely Castlevania inspired, with plenty of ingenious shortcuts littered about. Each new obstacle removed provides access to some hall, room or passage to help you get around, or whole new areas to explore. Though sadly later areas of the game lack this, the Lake Shore especially.
Alternatively you can use a set of colourful disguises to simply fool the rats, allowing you to waltz around freely, able it at a rather irritatingly slow gait. Various characters will even respond differently when you’re wearing various outfits, such as Tulong the thief’s outfit, or the ratguard armour outfit. Though again, due to the games rather short brevity, there is only a handful of these outfits to find. Mostly through side objectives, though some make various tasks and main objectives far easier and less, troublesome. One in particular apparently has a rather hefty weight on the story, but there’s mixed debates about that being true.
There are, however a few things in-game, you can’t just sneak around, the giant spiders in the catacombs for instance, or the skeleton pirates on the Lake shore, which provide quite the sharp spike in difficulty, particularly during the games climax. Which I myself, have yet to beat, mostly due to my own laziness, but also because I don’t want this game to end. I have been told it ends with an open cliff-hanger that leaves the story open for another instalment, and I desperately hope that is true. I refuse to find out for myself by watching the ending on YouTube as I wish to experience it myself. The game was developed and published by Lionel “Seith” Gallat. A veteran of none other than DreamWorks and Universal Pictures. With just a small team of people and a modest 50 grand, they managed to make a jewel of a game that in my opinion, outshines most of the current Triple A titles. I know I certainly would love to see more of Ghost of a Tales world, and a lot of other people would to no doubt. But the likelihood of such seems low according to the opinion of most online debates and polls I have seen so far. Though most are two years old as the game was initially released in 2017.
Still, in summary, Ghost of a Tale is a fantastic adventure into a small portion, of an intriguing world, the lore alone is enough to send my mind wandering into fantasy, I mentioned before the likes of Redwall. It is probably the closest reference to Ghost of a Tales overall feel, and it’s a setting and premise that is seldom explored, making the game even more unique. You can tell, even at a first glance that passion and effort went into Ghost of a Tale, and that is more than I can say for the likes of big game titles today. It just goes to show that the little guys can still have big heart.
Whilst at time of writing this, I still have not finished the game, I still adamantly give it a solid: