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Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed Preview – Immerse yourself in the spirit

The individual insignia, characters, and references to crossing the streams carry a lot of nostalgic weight in the Ghostbusters franchise, especially for those who, like me, fell in love with the first film when they were young. But if you’re really trying to make something distinctively Ghostbusters, you really need a healthy dose of absolute nonsense. It’s the energy that inspired the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man monstrosity in the first place, and the comedic timing that really makes lines like “When someone asks if you’re a god…” sing. Simply put, Ghostbusters has to be a little bit goofy in a good way. And I suspect that in Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed, Illfonic has exactly the taste of good stupidity I’ve been looking for in a four-player cooperative Ghostbusters game.

I’ll get to the silliness in a moment, though, because like all good comedy, Spirits Unleashed’s ghost battles need some structure. In my hands-on session, I’m placed in a map called The Museum along with two developers playing cooperatively with me, and a third AI player who would have slotted right into our group of human players without our voice communication, without my noticing . We’re trying to capture a ghost controlled by another Illfonic developer whose job is to escape our capture and thoroughly haunt the museum before we can stop it. I’m suitably armed with a proton pack and PKE meter to switch between, as well as a ghost trap to throw on the ground to capture ghosts – albeit if I don’t remember to pick it up when I’m done , I won’t have it available at the next ghost encounter.

In the early parts of the game we’re mostly spread out across the ground, PKE measuring itself and beeping away as we look for spooky activity. Passing civilians wandering the exhibits are mature ghost targets, but initially remain calm and collected. I explored a dinosaur exhibit, aquatic creatures, a cafe, and a section devoted to unusual relics and curios, all spread over an upper and lower floor equipped with balconies overlooking the lower exhibits and multiple stairways. All of the exhibits are tightly connected, making it easy to move between them, and are packed with stuff. Vases, animal models, janitor items, tables and chairs, and all sorts of other objects fill the space, bringing it to life and ensuring our ghostly loot has plenty of places to hide… or haunt.

After all, that’s exactly what the spirit we’re pursuing does. As the chaos begins to stir, our PKE meters start blinking, but they may not necessarily be showing the ghost itself. The ghost can “haunt” various objects, fly chairs around the room, or create other eerie spooky effects. He also protects three “rifts” hidden in the museum that we must destroy with our proton packs if we want to win the match. As long as there is still a rift, if we manage to capture and capture it, the ghost can use it to respawn. But if we find the cracks and blast them, the ghost is dead.

Our attempts to close rifts result in chaotic, colorful firefights as the ghost belches slime and secretly disables our proton packs from behind.


But more than trying to evade capture, the ghost we’re after is here on a mission. He’s here to haunt. As I learned in my later game on the spectral side, ghosts can win by scaring away all of the above civilians roaming the map. Civilians are easily startled, so ghost abilities like sliming or sending out smaller spooky minions are crazy enough to get the job done – or they can just attack outright. Luckily, the Ghost doesn’t have unlimited terrifying power – each spooky ability costs her Ectoplasm, which eventually has to be rejuvenated by possessing an object for a period of time, making the Ghost more susceptible to capture…especially if it’s one of my opponents, possesses an innocent mop bucket and then darts across the floor in a silly attempt to escape our grasp.

In the first half of the game, catching the ghost is just a secondary objective. Since our opponent can respawn as long as there’s a rift nearby, we stalk the museum, PKE measures out, look for rifts to destroy and calm any concerned civilians we encounter. But the ghost doesn’t give up cracks that easily. Our attempts to shut them down result in chaotic, colorful firefights as the ghost belches slime and secretly disables our proton packs from behind. Our proton packs are powerful, and with enough focus, can hold the ghost for a period of time, drawing it into a trap. But they’re suitably unwieldy and intentionally difficult to aim, leading to plenty of familiar Ghostbusters moments where we’re all brandishing our guns wildly and trying to latch on to a ghost cackling happily overhead and sending out another wave of ghosts Minions to further distract us.

Screenshots of Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed

But when the four of us work together, we eventually close the rifts and leave the mind with nowhere to run. But our opponent was not idle. He’s haunted half the museum, slime drips down the walls as the game progresses, objects float and glow with wild abandon, and civilians spill out of the doors. All of the matches I played during my demo time culminated in a few frantic final minutes with the Ghostbuster team sprinting through the museum to track down and catch the ghost, pinging locations on the map where it discovers and yelling happily into the mic as we awkwardly tried to blow it down from afar. With nothing left to distract its pursuers, our resident ghost must survive long enough to use its limited energy supplies to find and scare off the last remaining civilians while facing an increasingly aggressive squad of Ghostbusters. I’m proud to say that I managed to win my match alone as a ghost against the Ghostbusters development team, largely by aggressively chasing down every boring inanimate object I encountered until the whole museum became like a very sticky magic show looked like.

It’s very easy to see just how many ways Illfonic Spirits Unleashed can iterate to ensure a fun gaming experience over the long term.


My playtime was limited to a single map, the Museum, and a single, simple set of Ghostbuster appearances and abilities, and a specific ghost with a set arsenal of ectoplasmic powers. But Ilfonic tells me that’s hardly the whole game. The final product will contain more maps, many unlockable customizations for the Ghostbusters, both cosmetic and practical, and of course many more ghosts with different abilities. From here you can see the many ways in which Illfonic Spirits Unleashed can iterate to ensure a fun gameplay experience over the long term, so games don’t get boring, and I’m particularly looking forward to experimenting with a wider range of Spirits powers, when the time comes.

While it’s supposedly just a small part of the final game, I see a lot of promise in Spirits Unleashed and I’m excited for more. The pacing of the matches I played was beautifully reminiscent of the original Ghostbusters film, reminiscent of the infamous library scene that began with the group slowly walking through the shelves looking for activity, and in utter chaos, destruction, and colorful goo ended. Spirits Unleashed takes many of the best elements from games like Prop Hunt, Phasmaphobia, and Luigi’s Ghost Mansion from Nintendo Land and throws them into the world of Ghostbusters, which turns out to be a pretty good cocktail for a game set in that universe. With that backdrop, Spirits Unleashed has plenty of room for the kind of emergent silliness that I hope will make playing with my friends tacky, fun, and yes, a little bit silly – exactly what I want from Ghostbusters.

Rebekah Valentine is a news reporter for IGN. You can find her on Twitter @duckvalentine.

https://www.ign.com/articles/ghostbusters-spirits-unleashed-preview-getting-spirit Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed Preview – Immerse yourself in the spirit

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