The resurgence of collectathon 3D platformer is something the gaming community has seen in recent months, with the acclaimed release of Super Mario Odyssey and the high profile releases Yooka-Laylee and A Hat in Time. Even smaller indie titles like Poi have made their mark in this new 3D platforming renaissance. However, Ginger: Beyond the Crystal - made by Drakhar Studio - is a game that deserves to be left behind.
Admittedly the visuals present a decently attractive game... at first glance; this is immediately betrayed upon any close examination. Given that this is a Switch port of a game first released on Xbox One, PS4 and PC, a graphical downgrade may be expected. However, the downgrade this game has received is beyond the pale in an age of impressive ports seen elsewhere, in which demanding games have been moved to Switch from more powerful hardware and perform admirably.
Ginger suffers from a big resolution drop resulting in a blurry, less crisp version; comparing it to the PS4 iteration, for example, makes the Switch port clearly show its faults. Even the loading screen suffers from what was a clear missed opportunity for proper optimization in the porting process. This is compounded by constant framerate drops that, while not making the game unplayable, make Ginger borderline unbearable. Easily over 60% of this reviewer’s playtime was plagued by frame drops that made gameplay beyond frustrating. Not to mention the draw distance downgrade, in certain areas, which removes any artistic appeal to the “open world” areas and replaces any pretty vista with a view that cannot be in any way described as appealing.
A big part of the 3D platforming resurgence is the return of a gameplay model that many find, nostalgically or not, quite pleasant. Hopping from place to place in search of every secret in every nook and cranny can bring out the inner child in everyone who loves to explore a new and interesting world. However, whilst Ginger: Beyond the Crystal may be new, it is anything but interesting. The game begins with an opening narration that provides the most basic premise for the player’s mission: this world’s goddess has turned her back on her worshippers and in some strange turn of events, their sacred crystal has exploded, creating havoc. Now, instead of returning to save her people she instead creates Ginger, an avatar of sorts, that is charged with rescuing the villagers and purifying the crystal shards.
After the opening narration gameplay begins with the player taking control of Ginger, a cute, blue, impish creature (perhaps James Cameron-inspired) capable of many combative feats. Unfortunately, there is zero reason to utilize any of the combat moves except one. Ginger’s dash attack is the only thing needed to progress through 90% of the combat as every enemy can be downed by one or two hits, with no variation. Enemies will change their skin depending on the zone but it is clear that this game is basically copying and pasting the units with no thought put into making any varied or engaging combat.
The platforming aspect is also similarly uninspired and uninteresting. The game features three major open worlds - a term used very loosely - and zones, each with several portals to the missions, the game’s main meat. The open world sections allow Ginger to jump and dash around, collect crystal-shaped coins and building materials, rebuild the village buildings, and perform side quests (which are entirely composed of meaningless fetch quests, bounty missions, or racing minigames). Unfortunately, none of these actions feel in any way satisfying or even fun. The village building mechanic is simply a matter of collecting the right combination of materials, finding the pre-selected building areas, and selecting the building desired. There is no customization whatsoever, which makes this mechanic an unnecessary chore only needed to further unlock missions.
Speaking of which, the missions, which is where the bulk of the game resides, seem to have forgotten that this game is a 3D platformer and instead use a psuedo-2.5D sidescrolling mechanic. While Ginger is technically capable of moving in the third dimension, it only serves to allow Ginger to move up or down a hall in order to access yet another sidescrolling area. Aside from this obvious lack of self-awareness, the rest of any particular mission is composed of performing basic jumps across chasms, defeating enemies in one hit, and collecting key objects that will require backtracking to access earlier locked doors. The occasional mission is punctuated with a minigame or two, but given how nearly every movement or combat mechanic in this game feels clunky, these are more frustrating than fun.
Even more aspects of this game exist to further bother one’s composure, such as the frustrating inability to increase health points, the lack of imagination put into the three boss fights, or the unbalanced platforming mini-missions - but it's a moot point to bring those up now. The main issue is that Ginger: Beyond the Crystal attempts to capitalize on the 3D platforming renaissance and fails in nearly every way. The uninspired visuals, clunky gameplay and vastly inferior porting process to the Switch make Ginger: Beyond the Crystal an easily forgotten adventure; it certainly won’t be missed.