There’s something classically European about animal heroes. It’s why Ghost of a Tale looks and feels classical in the first place. From Aesop’s Fables to the golden age of Disney animation, cute and brave animals have been at the center of heroic adventure stories. Ghost of a Tale asks the player to become that animal hero.
“It’s a dangerous world out there for a little mouse…” begins the game’s trailer. The third-person adventure game has the player navigating a dangerous medieval island as Tilo the mouse, who has been imprisoned there by the rats. The shadowy atmosphere is a purposeful callback to games like Ico (2001) and Dark Souls (2011), as well as old Disney films like Sleeping Beauty (1959) and The Black Cauldron (1985).
The game, and its animation especially, is beautiful. Which is no surprise given that its creator, Lionel Gallat, has a long history with famous animation studios. He worked as an animation director at Universal before committing to Ghost of a Tale, but he got his start at DreamWorks as an animator on films like The Prince of Egypt (1998) and The Road to El Dorado (2000).
His decision to turn away from this career and go learn how to code came from a “growing dissatisfaction with not seeing enough games with AAA visuals that did not involve slaughtering hordes of enemies,” he told me. He started with experiments into creating small islands and rigging the animated models he was used to mocking up so that he could control them as in a videogame. Once he had an alpha version of the game ready, Gallat took to Indiegogo back in 2013 and successfully raised the funds required to continue work on the game.
Now, after a few more years of work, Ghost of a Tale is finally in its Early Access phase, which Gallat says is about “30 percent” of the final game. While the full game will feature even more varied environments, anthropomorphic characters, ghostly enemies, and quests, the game already features classic adventure game staples such as puzzles and stealth.
“I wanted to do something that appeals to [the] player through its charm and mystery rather than violence, to elicit a sense of wonder I felt as a kid when playing some games in the 80 and 90s,” Gallat said. Judging by the Early Access experience, Ghost of a Tale‘s strength lies in the living, breathing world imagined up by Gallat, brought to life with over a decade of professional animation film skills.