Ghostlore: Singaporean’s fantasy folklore game allows you to battle Pontianaks

At left, the creator of Ghostlore, the Pontianak stage in the demo released on Saturday at right. Images: Andrew Teo
At left, the creator of Ghostlore, the Pontianak stage in the demo released on Saturday at right. Images: Andrew Teo

Fight familiar supernatural and mythical creatures like the Pontianak, Jiangshi, and Komodo Wizard in Singapore’s first video game inspired by Southeast Asian folklore.

Made by Singaporean game developer Andrew Teo, Ghostlore is a single-player fantasy action role-playing game that garnered much attention when it was teased online in May. After a web demo dropped over the weekend, Teo told Coconuts Singapore yesterday the response has been “pretty good.”

As his first personal project that began at the start of 2019, he wanted to create something out of the ordinary and introduce more of Southeast Asia to gamers.

“I didn’t want to do another game that was about what we always see in fantasy settings that have castles and dragons in medieval Europe,” the 32-year-old programmer said. “I feel that Southeast Asia is a bit underrepresented in most fantasy stories and I want to create something a bit more local and close to home.”

In the demo, players can choose one of three classes for taking on their first assignment: investigating Moguis – the Cantonese Chinese term for evil spirits – and destroying a Rafflesia to protect the town of Seaport. Rafflesia is the name of the world’s biggest, stinkiest flower that can reek of rotting flesh when it blooms.

Seaport stands in for Singapore; both share long histories of being busy ports. Seaport comes with its version of the Merlion statue. 

The spiritual entities players must include the Pontianak, a supernatural creature from Malay lore believed to be a female spirit who died pregnant and roams near banana trees, the Jiangshi, a Chinese vampire or zombie that hops around with its arms outstretched to smite the living, as well as Komodo Wizard, a mesh between a Komodo lizard and a wizard whose battle cry is a recording of an actual house lizard sped up and pitched down.

Local sounds creep elsewhere into the game’s aural experience. Samples of Koel Birds, commonly heard in Singapore, are heard when the player fends off female spirits by destroying the banana trees they are attached to.

While the graphics may not dazzle fans of Triple-A studio projects, they don’t aspire to. Colorful animated sprites occupy a detailed isometric landscape as one moves about, Diablo-esque, dispatching fiends.

The story references famous Singaporean folk tales such as the legend of Redhill, or Bukit Merah, in which an entire hill is bathed in the red blood of a boy whose death was ordered by an envious Sultan.

Other references include usable inventory items such as durians, which are used to “scare away enemies,” and herbal remedies modeled upon popular Chinese remedies found in Singapore, such as Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa, Brand’s Essence of Chicken and Tiger Balm.

Some areas in the game have villages or kampong connected to floating fishing platforms known as kelong. 

“Even if it’s not based on folklore, I put a lot of effort into things that are very Singaporean and easily recognizable,” he said.

There is no fixed release date of the full game but Teo plans to release it by the end of the year depending on how fast he can work on it. 

Also, he plans to feature local cuisine in future versions of the game.

“One thing a Singapore inspired game would not be complete without is food. I’m planning to feature local cuisine and the players must hunt for missing ingredients like pandan leaves, curry leaves and the like in order to make these dishes,” he said.

Other stories you should check out:
Love is a game for Singaporean couple married in Animal Crossing
Film fans throw lifeline to struggling indie cinema The Projector
Help solve a soldier’s grisly death in interactive murder mystery

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