Ginger: Beyond The Crystal is an adventure, 3D platformer from indie developer Drakhar Studios. This story starts with a small, blue…thing. Birthed by a goddess in lights and sparkles in a clean, family friendly fashion. He was created as a sign from the goddess to the people that she is still looking over them and protecting them. Some time later the town crystals are corrupt with chaos and explode which results in the towns being destroyed. This traps the towns folk within the crystals and it’s your job to rescue them, rebuild the towns and purify corrupt crystals.
On your travels you jump from town to town with each town serving as a hub where you can collect resources, smaller crystals, complete side quests and start the main levels. While travelling through the hub the game plays as your standard open world sort. But when you get into a level it switches to a side on platformer. Then you have your purifying crystal levels and that’s where the real platforming comes in. All of these styles play beside each other very well.
There seems to be a trend with the indie games I’m playing. And that’s that they’re moving away from this super realistic style of game and a colour pallete of grey, brown and black. Ladies and Gentlemen, let me introduce, colour. Ginger: Beyond the Crystal has a much larger selection of colours than most other games at this present time. Even in the games gloomy town it still looks colourful but doesn’t lose it’s sense of swamp. Then there’s the music which perfectly suits each town and level. The visuals and audio in this game just fit. Nothing sticks out or feels out of place. Overall it’s just refreshing to have a game that does more than create a realistic looking shooter. Another game that makes you happy to play it.
From the get go you’re given a brief tutorial in jumping and attacking. The primary mechanics of the game. Once completing the tutorial you are sent on your way to save the world. The combat is fairly simple and consists of three types of attacks. Your standard punch attack. A jump, ground pound type attack and a dash attack which you’ll end up using all the time. The enemies are quite hard to judge, which is why you’ll be using the dash attack most of the time. When I first started I was using the standard attack but after realizing that I was losing health when the enemy was barely moving I opted for the dash attack. That way I could attack from a distance and hit them before they started their attack.
While in levels you will also come across trapped villagers who, upon being freed, will reward you with an outfit which not only make you look snazzy but are also useful. Each costume allows you to use a special ability which will help you progress through the levels but also help you get to collectibles.
The catch here is that some will be hidden behind rocks/webs/chests in earlier levels when you haven’t got the correct outfit to get to it. So this creates a bit of replay value. These aren’t important however and won’t change the game at all. But if you’re a completionist like me then it’ll be enough of a reason to go back through the levels and collect everything. The only downside is that the special abilities can’t be used in combat. This would have been a nice addition to the fighting style and made it more interesting as you could mix it up.
Customize Your Town
Once you have collected resources you return to the town and use the smaller crystals to pay a ransom to the larger crystal and save some of the villagers. Using the resources you can rebuild the houses that were destroyed. For each different sized location you can build about four different houses. This is a nice little feature that lets you sort of create your own village…Sort of. It also increases the happiness of the inhabitants which is important apparently.
But the customization doesn’t stop there. You’ll also get a trader roll into town where you can buy accessories. So in a true Englishman fashion I purchased the mustache, monocle and pipe. Which I didn’t get to wear. I know. That’s what I thought too. But after I paid the man and couldn’t find a way to dress my blue creature in the appropriate attire I assumed these were just collectibles and carried on. That’s when I noticed one of the other blue people with a mustache. That’s right, you customize the villagers. Which I personally think is slightly more entertaining. It’s always amusing to see one stroll past you with a big beard, sunglasses and holding a sword.
There’s a nice variety of side missions available when not playing the main levels….There’s four. That’s one more than most triple A games. You can run around and collect objects for the local residents. Fight evil-doers around the town. Purifying crystals as mentioned prior, and of course as with every game that has a slight hint of open world-ness there are races. Purifying crystals are where the real magic happens so lets go into more detail shall we. If however that’s enough information for you than just skip ahead to the next heading, no hard feelings.
When in the hub town a red crystal that has been corrupted will emerge from the ground and it’s your duty to jump head first into that thing. This will transport you to a place in the clouds where the sun is always shining and the things you stand on don’t stay still and you sometimes fall through. Then sometimes spin too fast and throw you off.
But anyway, these are a fun added extra to the game. It brings back those fond early 2000 memories of Spyro and Rayman. The aim to to jump across and purify all the crystals in the level collecting a hefty amount of smaller crystals on the way.
These levels are made up of multiple platforms going up and down, left and right, spinning and all sorts of movements. Generally quite a bit of fun. As the game goes on, obviously the levels get slightly harder which is mostly just the platforms moving faster and the gaps between them being just close enough to make a double jump to.
On more than one occasion however I did fall through the floor. On other occasions the platforms span that little too fast and actually threw me off or I’d get pushed off by a little plant. These are just minor issues and not that annoying, well, not the first 5 times.
Our Break Up
It’s probably worth mentioning that I didn’t actually finish Ginger: Beyond the Crystal. But that’s not to say I wasn’t enjoying it. In fact I was enjoying it a great deal, that was until I encountered the boss battles. Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy boss battles as much as the next guy. I actually think that a lot more games could do with more of them, or at least one. But the boss battles here was where the game lost me and we thought it was best to see other games/consumers.
The first boss battle was a lava, stone man thing that rolled boulders at you, made fire shoot from out the floor and then pounced at you. All of this is fine. Except there was no way to really know where to jump to dodge the boulder. I tried jumping straight over it, nope. Standing higher, nope. Standing lower, nope. No matter where I seemed to stand or jump the boulder hit me every time. There ended up being one sweet spot where you could jump over it but it didn’t seem to work every time. Eventually I got past the boss and managed to start enjoying the game again. Then the game introduced me to it’s next demigod, a giant frog in a top hat.
The Frog King
Although a truly wonderful sight that this was, this boss fight seemed to be made to test your patience and how long you can stick at it before you give up or break something. The first two stages of the fight were fine. Dodge thrown stars. Jump over fire. Repeat. Easy. Then after doing this several times the big evil frog man would spawn his minion frogs to do his dirty work. Which would be fine if they weren’t spawned directly on top of you every time. Which also wouldn’t be an issue if this game wasn’t so old school that the enemies didn’t actually need to attack you to take health away. All you need to do is bump elbows.
So it seemed that regardless of how careful I was or how fast I moved it made no difference as every time I had frogs hurled at my head. Once killed you had to restart the fight from the beginning. Which just added to the frustration as running in a circle jumping over and over again is not all that fun. This may have just been an issue with and not have happened to everyone but either way, it was breaking point for me.
After what seemed like the 50 millionth frog launcher related death I chose to pack it in, and leave it be. And now we’re here. By any means don’t allow this to discourage you from trying out this game. It is a lot of fun and has a lot to offer. And again, another indie game that’s not afraid to mix things up from all the other games out there. But that’s an article for another time.