Moving into a new place can be a hassle. Everything’s new, there’s an adjustment period, and goodness, who’s to say Penny Bun’s new neighbours aren’t just the worst? All that pales compared to an unexpected roommate though – one who’s both invisible and living rent-free! This simply will not do. But wait, what if… the spirit turns out to be a Ghost Sweet as Sugar?
Then Penny Bun is in trouble, that’s what; but not in a bad way, exactly. Sure, ghosts are generally quite scary, and this is in no small sense due to their ‘supernatural being’ thing. Who’s to say they’re all simply something to get rid of, a pest to exterminate, as it were? Humans can be rather quick to judge what we aren’t overly – or worse yet, at all – familiar with, including, well, spirits.
“Shoot first, ask questions later”, they say. To which I say “what a bunch of hooey”, for who knows what conflicts might have been avoided if even a remote chance for communication had presented itself prior? That said, how does one communicate with someone or something without a voice, and who can not be seen? Now that’s tricky. Very tricky. Doesn’t stop the ghost from trying, however, in her own… unique way.
Thankfully, Ghost Sweet as Sugar‘s adorable pink-haired lead definitely is a smart cookie, and it isn’t long until she figures out how to establish a semi-functional line of communication, allowing her to learn more about the ghost and vice versa. There’s definitely more to these two than one might initially think, and by the time the credits roll, I wished we’d gotten to spend more time in their world. I’m getting a bit ahead of myself (as usual) though, so let’s rewind a bit.
Now, the vast majority of visual novels only feature one type of interaction, which is to say making one or more choices throughout the story. Ghost Sweet as Sugar is noticeably different in that regard as a fair amount of time is actually spent walking around, interacting with items, rather than simply having everything presented by clicking/pressing a key to progress the script. Small things like opening and closing objects, and turning electronic devices on and off – it all adds up over time, and while I love the classic genre format of having nothing but text and maybe a number of choices, I’d be lying if I said this didn’t enhance the overall experience.
Especially since it helps create the feeling of actually controlling a character, whereas a visual novel with only clicking and choice-making, well, those can have a bit of a disconnect at times. Although that certainly also depends on how everything is written. Wandering around and interacting with objects, for example, triggers a response from Penny, much akin to that of a point-and-click adventure – including a standardized message if there’s currently nothing new to do with whatever the player is trying to use. More often than not, these result in internal monologuing, however, to deliver a fun blend of thoughts and backstory.
Given the current state of affairs in Ghost Sweet as Sugar, which I could easily spoil here but refuse to, it’s hardly overly surprising that Penny is a bit down, likely even stressed. Pretty much the perfect time for a mischievous ghost to make her presence known and see if she can’t turn a certain someone’s frown upside down, and perhaps even Penny’s entire world in the process. I mean, the game is described by its creator as ‘girl x girl’, and with a title like that, it’s not exactly difficult to decipher who the other lead is in this lesbian love story.
Oh, and speaking of what’s on the game’s page: we are indeed dealing with two thirsty characters here, although in a way that doesn’t come off as forced or overly explicit, something that’s helped along by way of humour, adorable awkwardness, or… both, sometimes. What really helps elevate these moments is the fact that Penny gets flustered quite easily – something the ghost seems almost too keen to take advantage of at times. An undeniably cute dynamic and, one that only further boosts the chemistry between our two leads. I’d even go as far as to say the two are pretty darn close to a perfect match. How? Oh, you’ll see.
Don’t believe me? Well, Ghost Sweet as Sugar has multiple endings, but – to refer to the game’s page once more – “the bad end is pretty well telegraphed”, and having experienced both the good and bad way for this heartwarmingly haunting story to end, I can confirm that to be the case. As for which I prefer, that should be pretty obvious by now: the good one. Unlike that of certain other genre entries, the inclusion of a bad end(ing) here does actually make sense; by which I mean that it isn’t simply thrown in to tick off a box or please a certain crowd. I’m not exactly fond of it, but really, who fancies bad endings in the first place? Especially for a story like this where love is very much in the air.
At this point, you might be wondering if I played with my eyes partially closed or some such since I have barely commented on the visual aspect of this VISUAL novel. I didn’t. Don’t worry, I also didn’t plan to skim over that aspect. So, as you can probably tell from the screenshots, there’s a bit of a mix of pixel art and what I believe to be a stylish hand-drawn look. An interesting combination, and one that looks really good.
Come to think of it, were I to describe the game as a whole with a sentence consisting of just two words, it would echo my thoughts on the art: “really good”. But this is a review, not a post on a certain social media platform that may or may no longer exist when you read this, so let’s go for something more in-depth. Like, say, how I was surprised when I looked at the footage and found I hadn’t been playing anywhere near as long as I thought given how much had happened.
Sometimes less truly is more and the only thing that comes close to a negative is that I wanted to spend more time with the two leads, get to know them better and see what might lay in their future, making it a very easy recommendation. So go ahead, grab a copy, and see for yourself just what a Ghost Sweet as Sugar is like. Doubt you’ll be disappointed.
Ghost Sweet as Sugar is available on itch.io.