3D platformers are having a bit of a renaissance at the moment, with Yooka-Laylee reminding us of Rare's golden years of the Nintendo 64 era this year, and Crash Bandicoot making his triumphant return in the remastering of the three PS1 titles he had his name attached to, and now indie devs are looking to try their hand at the genre, one of which is Drakhar Studio with their game, Ginger: Beyond the Crystal.
Much to our surprise, Ginger is actually a blue creature, and in the game he witnesses his kingdom's crystal, one that has kept the peace for years, get shattered across the land, and a goddess blesses him with the power to restore crystals. As with many 3D platformers, then, Ginger then has to travel to places far and wide to find crystals and gradually turn them from evil red into peaceful blue, and thus restore harmony to the land. This is your standard 3D platformer story then, one that's basic and not particularly memorable.
How this is broken down is that there is one starting location, but from that there are three worlds to fix. These three locations are sort of hub worlds in which there are portals to different levels, each with their own red crystal, but you can't unlock these all at once. Instead, you need to raise your energy so you can unlock each portal, and this is achieved by spending resources to save villagers and using crafting resources to fix houses (both of which are found scattered around the game), as well as doing things like completing bonus levels.
The hub worlds are pretty simplistic in design, and the activities are fairly basic, so you won't find too much gripping entertainment here, especially since the side missions you can get from the inhabitants are either "go and collect x amount of y" or "go there and defeat all the enemies". The map also requires you to pause the game, rather than showing up in the HUD, which makes for slow and tedious navigation as well.
This basically leaves the crux of the appeal in the levels you access through the portals, of which there are 15. Here we see a lot more variety when it comes to what you see and do, all of which we've seen before in terms of themes. You've got your haunted house level, for instance, and then there's a lava one, a forest one, a space one... the list goes on. Inspiration has clearly been taken from many platformers before it, but that's nothing to sniff at, as it's a tried and tested approach.
Variety is also attempted through the different suits Ginger can don throughout the adventure, although these act more like cosmetics than anything. Sure you can use the dragon suit to set things alight and clear obstacles, or use the wizard suit to move things to where they should be, but you'll mostly just be using these when prompted by a glowing circle on the floor and the icon above Ginger's head, and not much else. Certain suits like the spaceman do have attacks mapped to X, but these were rather clunky and unresponsive, so we never used them.
In fact, the combat as a whole can be described as clunky. You have a quick attack with Y and a heavy attack with A; that's nothing new to the world of platformers, but the hit detection with the former is a little off so you'll be dashing with the quick attack towards an enemy and instead find yourself taking damage. That's why we instead opted for the ground slam attack by jumping and tapping Y, because you're invincible while doing so and all the enemies can be taken out so much more easily than with any other attack. As a whole, though, none of these attacks felt very punchy, and the ground slam was painfully slow to get moving again once it had been executed.
These levels require you to do the expected mix of platforming and getting rid of bad guys, and as mentioned there are blue shards (currency) and resources scattered throughout to collect, as well as characters to interact with. While offering a welcome thematic and visual addition, these characters don't have much personality, and instead give you similarly-styled 'fetch quest' tasks like getting a certain amount of honey from beehives before the timer runs out. At the end of each hub world there's also a level with a boss which, while spicing up things a tad, still offers the same gameplay as the rest of the worlds, with a formulaic rinse-and-repeat method for dispatching them.
Technically the game has a few slips, and although none of them are game-breaking, there's an overall lack of polish. Clipping issues can be found throughout, button prompts appear at wrong times, and the frame-rate drops when things really kick off, just to mention a few of the niggles we had during Ginger's adventure, although for the most part, we had no problem with the colourful visual style, even if there were a few lighting hiccups.
Overall Ginger: Beyond the Crystal was a rather forgettable experience that featured many existing 3D platformer ideas but they didn't come wrapped up in their own identity, nor did they have much flavour. The story and characters weren't particularly strong, the combat felt lacklustre, and with the technical blips as well, we found ourselves going through the motions, progressing through because it was simple and easy rather than because we felt compelled to do so.