Ginger Beyond the Crystal Review
Is it time for 3D platformers to come back? Well maybe not, but Ginger: Beyond the Crystal is a great attempt to remind us of why they were fun. Platformers had a golden age, when 3D was new and when people were still amazed with the concept of depth in a video game. Im talking back to Super Mario 64 level golden age. That’s what I wanted going in to Ginger: Beyond the Crystal. Published Bad Land Games has brought Drakhar Studios vision of 3d platforming to the big stage, on PS4, Xbox, and PC.
Lets get started
Ginger: Beyond the Crystal stars off with tragedy, an old school cut scene with narration tell us about how there was peace and this crystal was how it was kept yadda yadda, I skipped all of that, im not here for the story, I want to jump on things. Really though, there is an excellent story here and if you appreciate story and good writing you won’t be disappointed.
Basically you play as Ginger, a small forest creature who is tasked by the goddess to go and find the shards of her sacred crystal and defeat Chaos. the plot truthfully is pretty generic, but like all good platformers we are getting set up to go collect a lot of things not tell an epic story. So what were going for here is a Crash Bandicoot level of art, mixed with a Mario type of collection vibe and jump mechanics. I think the game delivers pretty well on this promise. Its plagued with a few bugs, but hopefully these can be patched out.
So to start off with, this is indeed a fun platformer, you will double jump, punch, bounce, and glide your way through the games lush levels, collecting crystals and killing enemies along the way. Instead of saving a princess in castle or defeating a big evil boss, Ginger’s mission is to purify crystals. You do this by collecting smaller crystal shards (hence the name) and then going to the larger crystals to purify them. These crystals are all around the world, and the corrupted ones are red, giving a good visual indictor at all times of game progress.
Our hero has two basic attacks, a punch and a jump move, which he can use to defeat his enemies. Each victory will reward you with crystal shards, which you will use in one of three hub worlds to buy stuff, and purify other crystals. Ill get more in to the hub worlds later, but this game takes a very definite swing at “open world” and sadly feels like a miss. There are three “hubs” and each contains a missing town that you have to restore. Inside these towns are villagers, who you have to spend crystal shards to make “happy” you do this by fixing up their homes and buying them cosmetic items. The only purpose of this is to get new abilities, but as a progression mechanic it really just doesn’t work.
I do love that we visually get to see the town coming back to life as we give our hard earned crystals to the townsfolk, but it doesn’t feel like this should be a core game mechanic. I do appreciate that they tried to do something different than just “collect items to win” and the minigames do a decent job of breaking up the collecting segments.
Saving more villagers will get you more gear. This is the games biggest progression mechanic, and many areas will require you to return after acquiring new “suits” and abilities. The two most important upgrades are a dragon suit that lets you shoot fire, and a magician suit that allows you to move objects around . These two suits are needed to progress so at least the building and making villagers happy minigame doesn’t feel out of place. The game is good about guiding you to objectives and telling you what you need to do, but sometimes I felt it was too heavy handed. It’s a bit heavy handed to tell you that you need ability X to continue and then guide you all the way to where you can get that ability. I understand that part of this is marketing the game to younger players, but the ability to turn this off would have been nice.
The main mechanic of this game is no doubt the platforming. It’s good enough to hold up, but doesn’t deliver on that amazing Mario like ingenuity. Jumps are precise and you can almost always tell where you are going land but a frustrating camera stops the game short of being truly great. The game just doesn’t have that spiro flow, or that Mario feel of frantic movement, that makes a good platformer a great platformer. Instead it delvieres a solid base of fun puzzles
Combat is fast and easy with just a couple buttons. Playing I was reminded of the Spyro games, with its colorful world, and easy combat mechanics. There’s a button to punch and a button to do a dash attack. If I stopped right here, this would sure sound like a great game right? Sadly I can not say that this is a game because of the glitches.
Any game that’s made by a small team on a deadline is going to have a few glitches. I can understand that. What I can’t understand is when im playing Ginger Beyond the crystal and the camera locks in a position that I can’t even see Ginger. Honestly, that’s only the start of the problems.
The camera changes without any prompting, and there is 0 player control over the camera. Do you remember the camera in the first tombraider game? How it would snap to something and then not go back? That’s the problem this game has. I occasionally fell through the ground attempting to complete more complex jumps because the camera would just lock. When the camera was working I had a ton of fun solving the games fun but not too complex jumping puzzles. But, when it wasn’t working well I became frustrated and even had to walk away at one point.
I have also read reports of stuttering on Xbox (our copy was on PC) which I had no issues with. The game does have 1999-esque loading screens but I honestly don’t mind those. They have a special nostalgic magic for me and don’t interrupt game play that much. These screens really only occur during the entry and exit from the hub world, and so I don’t feel they detract from gameplay.
The final word
This is a game with a ton of potential, that Is held back by a bad camera and some rough gameplay. Overall I love the idea of a new fun, vibrant, platformer like this game, but right now it’s too rough. The game has all of the great things that any platformer has, from puzzles to progression. But, it just falls short with the bad camera and glitch physics. If Drakhar can get this game patched up and running smoothly I would give it a 4/5. In its current state it’s a 3.5 . I still think That its worth the price ($15 on steam), and would recommend it to anyone who considers themselves a big fan of classic platformers.