Ghostbusters World Fixes Some of Pokemon Go’s Problems But Lacks Its Heart | Gaming News
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Gotta bust ’em all.
A huge wave of nostalgia hits me when I think of Ghostbusters. Hearing the theme song or seeing the Ecto-1 immediately evokes memories of watching the original films and playing with Ghostbusters toys as a kid. But despite years of loving the franchise and many occasions of pretending to be a Ghostbuster on the playground, my fantasies never involved collecting teams of ghosts to battle against other Ghostbusters or walking through the city searching for spirits.
This is where Ghostbusters World, the upcoming free-to-play mobile game from publisher FourThirtyThree, finds itself in a precarious spot. Ghostbusters is absolutely a beloved franchise that’s ripe for a great game adaptation, but not one that necessarily lends itself to the gotta-catch-‘em-all mentality as easily as Pokemon.
Ghostbusters World is unashamedly emulating Pokemon Go from top to bottom. Like in Go, you’ll walk through the real world to move through the map (in this case based on the Google Maps API) and click on creatures that spawn nearby in order to capture them.
Where Pokemon Go has PokeStops, Ghostbusters World has Dimension Doors, spots where you can collect items and where ghosts are more likely to spawn. In place of Pokemon Go’s eggs, Ghostbusters World has Ecto Spheres you can incubate to convert into ghosts. Ghosts you encounter have CP (combat power) just like in Go, and you can use Augmented Reality to take pictures of ghosts before you capture them.
Without any real connection to these characters, it’s hard to get excited about running through the city to track down a Jogger or a Bellhop.
In a 45-minute demo of Ghostbusters World, we saw all of these aspects in action, and they all worked well. Developer Next Age has put a great deal of polish into each mechanic, and some even have functional advantages over Pokemon Go. Ghosts that spawn on the map have a much wider radius than in Go, for example, so you won’t have to risk trespassing onto private property to interact with a rare spawn.
But without the logical connection to the franchise that Pokemon Go has, hunting feels far less exciting. While I can easily recognize Slimer or the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from memory, other ghosts are significantly more obscure. Can you name half a dozen ghosts from Ghostbusters lore? Can you name 25? Ghostbusters World will include 150 ghosts, pulling from the Ghostbusters films, animated series, comics, and video games, as well as new ghosts created specifically for this game. Without any real connection to these characters, it’s hard to get excited about running through the city to track down a Jogger or a Bellhop.
That said, Ghostbusters World does introduce some mechanics that Pokemon Go is sorely missing. The actual act of catching ghosts is much more elaborate than the Poke Ball tossing of Go. Here, there’s a sort of mini-game where you have to battle a ghost and chip away at its HP before you’re given the chance to trap it.
A story mode is also included, putting you in the shoes of a new recruit joining the Ghostbusters team. In between comics-style cutscenes, you’ll engage in turn-based RPG battles using teams of the ghosts you’ve caught in the real world. It’s a smart way to give a bit of purpose to the ghosts you’ve collected, and while we didn’t get to sample much of the dialogue, the story is written by Erik Burnham, longtime writer of Ghostbusters comics. Ghostbusters World will also offer daily challenges, asynchronous PVP with leaderboards, and an endless dungeon called Gozer’s Tower where you can battle to gain items and resources.
A pre-registration period for Ghostbusters World will launch soon, followed by a full release before the end of the year. It seems like it will be a more robust and fully-featured game than Pokemon Go was at launch, and with solid support it could turn out to be a great example of how to improve upon this type of game in a way that some shameless rip offs haven’t been able to.
But in our short time with the colorless world map and generic ghosts, it just feels like it’s lacking the heart that helped the nostalgia-inducing Pokemon Go become so popular, and that’s something even solid mechanics might not be able to change. Still, Next Age and FourThirtyThree do seem to have great love for the franchise and what we played was very much still in a pre-launch state, so only time will tell if a solid story mode and some additional polish will turn that tide.
Andrew is Tech’s executive editor of news and has always found the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man adorable (except when it’s terrorizing the city). You can find him rambling about Persona and cute animals on Twitter.