Ginger: Beyond the Crystal is a 3D adventure platformer. You play as Ginger, a being created by a goddess-inhabited stone idol and raised by guardians in the forest. Until now, the goddess has kept peace throughout the world using a network of crystals. However, a mysterious evil has used a jewel to render the goddess powerless and shatter the crystals into fragments scattered throughout the world. Ginger is the world’s only hope to vanquish evil and restore peace to his land.
This is a beautiful and rich environment which lends itself well to players of all ages, with a family-friendly story, colourful and vibrant graphics and an extremely cute protagonist to boot.
There are a myriad of things to achieve within the three worlds you encounter on your quest and this is both the beauty and the downfall of the game. In each world you are required to do the following things:
Rescue the abducted villagers
When the crystal was destroyed, the villagers in each world vanished. Ginger must rescue them using a large crystal in the middle of the level by paying an amount of smaller crystal shards, collected via gameplay, per villager. You can collect these shards by defeating enemies. They also line the play path to indicate the correct direction to travel in levels.
Complete quests set by the villagers
As villagers return you will find that they have quests for you to complete. These quests generally take one of three forms: collect something, kill some enemies or complete a race. Once completed you return to the quest-giver to claim a reward, which is usually materials which you can use to…
Rebuild the villagers homes
All the houses have been destroyed, and once the villagers are back they are less then pleased to find they now have nowhere to live. Once again it falls to Ginger to make them happy by rebuilding their homes using materials such as wood and rock. These materials are found lying around the world and it’s sub-levels, can be uncovered by slam-jumping on things like tree-stumps, or by completing the villagers quests.
Unlock and complete 5 sub-levels
As you carry out the tasks mentioned above you gradually fill a happiness meter. As this fills you unlock portal crystals which each transport you small sub-levels. The goal of each sub level is to reach the end, avoiding obstacles, to reach a red crystal which you can then purify.
During these levels you may be required to collect certain things, or beat a time-limit in order to reach the goal. For example, one crystal is obscured by a rather large rat who wants three cheeses scattered throughout the mine he inhabits. The last of each set of five sub-levels ends in a boss fight.
These levels also allow you to collect crystal shards and building materials as well as freeing trapped characters who then bestow upon you new abilities which, in turn, allow you to reach new areas of the sub-levels and the overarching worlds. These include a vampire costume in which allows you to transform into a bat, a dragon costume giving you the ability to breathe fire, a rat costume which shrinks you down to access hard to reach areas and a jester costume which has bombs…for some reason.
Complete bonus levels (optional)
After completing each sub-level successfully a new red crystal appears in the world which, when interacted with, transport you to a bonus level with various floating platforms of different shapes, sizes and permanence and a number of crystals for you to purify. These bonus levels reminded me of the chaos emerald levels from Sonic in so far as they are nice challenging extras which you can take or leave without it much affecting your game.
As well as these five key areas, you can also spend a large amount of time just exploring the overarching worlds. As you gain new suits and abilities you can travel back to previous worlds in order to uncover things you could not access previously. This gives the player an impressive amount of content to play. Annoyingly, the XBOXOne didn’t track my time played, so I can’t tell you exactly how long I spent completing it, however, it was well over 10 hours of gameplay. This is brilliant value, however, it does become a little stale by the time you’re on world three and isn’t helped by the feeling that in order to get all of these elements working together, some of the detail was overlooked.
Firstly, this is the loading screen. You should get used to it, as you’re going to see it a lot. Considering the richness of the worlds this is unsurprising but also largely frustrating when there are so many transitions in the game.
Secondly, The game is really quite buggy. Aside from a massive amount of lag when loading back into a world after completing a sub-level, I managed to break the game several times, including once so badly that the only way to recover was to quit out of a sub-level and start again as I could not progress. I have been informed that you can adjust settings to reduce the lag if playing via Steam, however, this wasn’t really an option on the XBOXOne, and the in-game options give you very little control.
Bugs are obviously forgivable and somewhat unavoidable, however, some of the important control mechanics were badly implemented, for example, moving a mine cart in one sub-level and a flying machine in another both required you to tilt the analogue stick back and forth – in the case of the mine cart this was not responsive enough, causing the cart to stick, whereas the flying machine was too responsive, causing it to overshoot and start going back in the other direction before you could disembark.
There were also points in the game where the environment interfered with the fixed camera angle making simple gameplay extremely difficult. During timed challenges, if you die and re-spawn, although you are not penalised as such (there is no game over state), the counter does continue to count down during the lengthy re-spawn time, which feels unfair, particularly when there is no way to regain any life other than dying and starting again.
The story-line starts off strong, with a nice introduction sequence which explains how and why Ginger has found himself the hero of the piece. However, it loses steam throughout the game and, aside from small advancement scenes between worlds, not much more is mentioned. Occasionally you will need to do something vaguely story-driven, such as find a particular character to talk to, however, this is neither obvious nor particularly relevant to anything else you’re doing and generally resulted in wondering around trying to find out what it was you were supposed to do before your could move on.
The worlds themselves are nicely formed, with a different theme for each which gives them their own set of enemies and interactive objects as well as their own music, which in each instance is nice and catchy. However, I couldn’t stop replacing the music in the second world with ‘This is Halloween’ from The Nightmare Before Christmas and it is not really ‘an epic soundtrack right out of your dreams’ as the XBox store page suggests.
The map screen becomes a lifeline for finding what to do next and navigating around the world, and is done really well. The only gripe I have with it is that even though you can see where you are, and where you need to go, it’s not detailed enough to give you a sense what obstacles stand in the way of you getting there – this again becomes particularly annoying in world two as there are certain portions of the world that appear attached on the map but in fact are separated by chasms you can’t get over. However, once you do know where you’re going there is a handy radar at the bottom of the screen which tells you what you’re headed towards.
Overall, and despite the issues, I did really enjoy playing. The difficulty curve was about right, it didn’t feel as if anything was unachievable. It’s a nice little platformer which makes you nostalgic for classics such as Banjo-Kazooie and Gex and is reminiscent of these games in both aesthetics and gameplay. Its suitability for any age is a real selling point and it’s easy to pick up and put down as needed, with no complex story to follow or order to keep track of. It’s definitely worth the cost to gameplay ratio and is great if you’r looking for something light to dip in and out of, or play with family members.