Riley isn’t ready when the rain starts, much less when she realizes there’s a storm. The boat is rocking in the ocean dangerously, and she knows she has to find somewhere to stop and be connected to land. Tossed wildly by the waves, she begs for help from no on in particular… that is, until a voice answers back.
It’s there, in the middle of the stormy sea, that Riley meets Josh. Of course, “meets” might not be the best word, as he only really seems to be a voice in her head, claiming to be a ghost. At first she thinks she must be imagining it, but when she finally manages to dock the boat on a green, abandoned island, the two pick up banter and begin to piece together the stories of the people who once lived in the run-down houses dotting the empty seaside overlooks.
Like Charlie’s Ghost on the Shore is a walking sim, but not one that provides the same story to each player, each time. As you wander the islands, you’ll be able to search for and interact with different items, filling up your journal with notes, papers, and thoughts along the way. You’ll also get to make plenty of choices – particularly in your ghostly conversations with Josh. The questions you ask, responses you give, and even occasionally the actions you decide to take will all contribute to the type of relationship that Riley and Josh share. In turn, that relationship leads you down one of four different story paths, each featuring an ending of its own.
The interactions between Josh and Riley are certainly the highlight of this adventure, as the two joke, chat, argue, and parse the stories of the island’s various residents, uncovering what their lives may have been like. The voice actors do a fabulous job at making the conversations feel natural and believable – a great companion to the game’s overall wonderful sound design (it’s hard not to appreciate the rush of waterfalls and chirp of birds in games where you’re surrounded in quiet nature).
Lushly colorful, the island feels like a painting almost, moving seamlessly between being eerie and beautiful. Occasionally you’ll witness lost moments among residents long-gone, uncovering the mysteries of Josh’s life piece by piece. It’s a story full of surprises – even at the end I found myself shocked by big reveals that I hadn’t been prepared for.
I will say that I finished the game with a few questions still – there are pieces that weren’t explained in my playthrough, and I assume that’s where the other three endings will come in. Because your path is being set from the very beginning and the game autosaves, it requires a new game in order to get a new ending. With my first playthrough clocking in at nearly 3 hours, I wasn’t quite ready to jump in to trying to find more answers. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the path that I played through, and expect to explore again someday to see what else I can find out about the Rogue Islands and their people.
If you’re a fan of walking sims, this is an engaging one that’s worth picking up – it’s got a good amount of mystery to it, while letting us consider the emotional bonds that we share with others not only throughout our lives, but even afterward.
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