Bustin' Makes Me Feel Good
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Ghosthunter is one of the most fun games I have seen on the PlayStation 2 console in a long time. Also, right from the second you put the disk into the machine, the quality will be evident.
At the load screen, you are treated to seeing a ghost flying around. When it approaches the screen it knocks on the glass to get your attention, and it sounds just like someone tapping on the TV screen.
Normally I don't review console games, but the first screens really hooked me so I thought I would give it a try.
You start out as just your average detective in training. You are responding to a call of strange lights and sounds coming from an abandoned school. Apparently a few years ago the school was the scene of a mass murder where ten children and staff were killed. The prime suspect in the case, a teacher at the school, vanished. So the cops took a lot of heat for not solving the case and thus respond to any strange reports from the old school in force, or at least with two detectives.
Your character is Lazarus Smith and your trainer and partner is Anna Steele. Detective Steele orders the two of you to split up, something that is probably against police procedure. As Smith you explore the basement of the school and find a massive computer system apparently missed by the swarms of investigators searching the school after the murder. Your loveable doof of a character starts pushing buttons and it turns out that the computer was a giant ghost containment system, like in the movie Ghostbusters. All the ghosts escape and a particularly nasty one named Lord Hawksmoor kidnaps Steele.
The only way to get Steele back, she is your boss after all and pretty hot to boot, is to take on the role of Ghosthunter, which means putting on silly looking ghost goggles and a leather hunter jacket. The artificial intelligence of the computer is happy to open portals to other places heavy in ghost activity for you to go hunting.
You need to collect ghosts in order to power the computer. As the system gets more powerful you are given access to bigger and better weapons. You also learn that the professor who is the prime suspect in the murders was the first Ghosthunter. You find notes from the professor as you follow in his footprints. Eventually you learn that he may not be guilty, though many questions remain unanswered at first.
Your primary weapon is a ghost grenade. When you throw it on a ghost it will stick for a while. This anchors the ghost into our reality. Then you can use your arsenal of ghost hunting weapons to weaken the spirit by shooting it. If its energy gets low enough, the grenade will capture the spook and you can send their energy back into the computer.
The game borrows heavily from the Ghostbusters movies. Just replace the ghost grenade with the little box they used to trap ghosts and their proton cannons with your Pulse Rifle or Spectral Lasso, and there you have it. Even the comical Slimer ghost from the movie is replaced with one called a Howler here. This is not a bad thing. I have been waiting for a good Ghostbusters game since the Commodore 64 came out with one years ago.
Even the humor in the game is on par with the movie. Your character is always saying something funny or doing something stupid while you play.
The scenery in the game is amazingly good. Locations from a ship of the dammed to an old prison to the swamps of Louisiana are rendered in frightening detail. Looking out into the muddy water, you just know that something is lurking there for you. Bubbles and little wakes of something swimming confirm your fears. The cut scenes are also top notch and are both interesting and well-used to advance the plot.
I did not think it was possible to mix horror and humor, but the game does a good job. At times you will be on the edge of your seat, afraid of what lurks just out of your flashlight's reach in the dark. At other times you will be laughing at the banter your character spews out like bullets from his Glock.
There is also a strong puzzle-solving element to the game. One power that your character quickly gains is the ability to call Astral, a beautiful girl that exists on the astral plane. She can't fly though walls, but she can fly to places that Smith can't reach. Then using her powers you can pull levers or lure ghosts to do your bidding. You can't control both Smith and Astral at the same time, and Astral can only be summoned from certain places in the game. Basically, when you see a summoning circle, you know a puzzle is coming.
There are other environmental puzzles as well, like shooting parts in a junkyard to try and mimic a certain set of tones that will open a door. The puzzles are not too difficult, but add a good break from the constant spectral combat within the rest of the game.
The one slight negative I will say is that the interface is a bit hard to master at times. There are a lot of buttons to memorize like knowing how to fire, switch weapons, and toss your grenade plus general movement commands. It's not overwhelming like some titles, but does require a lot of practice before you become proficient.
When I started playing it was just on a whim, but I ended up spending the better part of a day with this title, before going back the next day and the day after as well. Like a ghost grenade, Ghosthunter will suck you in and not let go. With an ESRB rating of Teen, it should appeal to almost everyone who likes action and humor in a top notch title.
Ghosthunter could very well be the sleeper hit of the fall game season. It earns five GiN Gems. It's so good, it's scary.
John Breeden II is the Chief Editor of GiN. While a forward thinking man he admits to a fondness for older video games. You should have seen him at Videotopia. John can be contacted at : firstname.lastname@example.org.