Google and Niantic opened up their joint mapping API and data for use by any developer who wants them a while back, and now the results are spreading far and wide in the game industry. Map-based games that ape Pokemon GO are the most common fruits of this endeavor, and Ghostbusters World is one such game. Pokemon GO fans and others who may write this off as a cheap cash-in or pale imitation, however, may want to take another look. This is a well-made homage to a beloved franchise, and a pretty good game at that.
The installation, between the Play Store download and the extra data, weighs in at just a bit more than 1GB. To keep things smooth, it's recommended you have at least 2GB of space free before getting the game. As for devices, the AR mode will be taxing on most modern devices; this writer's Moto Z2 Force got hot and used up about 1% of battery per minute while using the AR camera mode in this game. Otherwise, it's pretty light on resource usage, and smooth to play.
You'll be seeing a lot of the map graphics, and they're not the prettiest thing around. They're basic; the graphics for the map screen get the job done. Thankfully, there are tons of ghosts to fight and environments to fight them in, and those look amazing. Every spook, critter, ghoul, and demon is lovingly rendered in high resolution, with accurate textures and detailed models. Their movements are spot-on and buttery smooth, including facial expressions, and that nice little touch really brings the game to life.
Aside from the ghosts and the map, the graphics boil down to the equipment, which is extremely detailed and well done, and arguably the best part of it all, the environments. This is an augmented reality game, which means you can have ghosts and spooks appear in the real world. That's all well and good, but the non-AR environments for ghost battles are so amazingly done and captivatingly beautiful, in most cases, that you'd actually be doing yourself a disservice by using your camera. They run the gamut from cartoony to extremely scary and realistic. There are a ton of environments, as well, and some of them are even famous New York landmarks. The choice is yours; leave your camera on and fight off ghosts in the grocery store, or slide the AR switch to the off position and join your Ghostbuster comrades in a well-rendered version of the Big Apple. The style and level of technical prowess are a great match, and the graphics in this game easily match and surpass console games from the Sony PlayStation 2, Nintendo Gamecube, and Microsoft XBOX era.
Certainly worth a mention are the cutscene graphics. These are hand-drawn comics that bring the story to life, and they look great. They're everything one would expect from a Ghostbusters comic, and in many scenes, they're even animated.
You start off in the map, looking at your custom-made avatar. There aren't a ton of character customization options, sadly, but you can buy outfits after the fact. Tap on a portal to reap the rewards inside, or tap a ghost on the map to be whisked away into a fight. The basic flow of almost all battles is the same; run a ghost's health down with your weapons, then lay a ghost trap and bring it in with your capture beam. All the while, the ghost will try to attack you, and you'll have to either deflect or parry the attack, or fire weapons at a certain part of the ghost to stop that attack. The lower the ghost's HP at the time of capture, the less likely it is to escape. Lowering a ghost's health all the way will result in it destabilizing and fading away.
Your captured ghosts don't go into your army directly; instead, you'll use them to get fragments, which you can then process into copies of that ghost. The copy will serve in your ghost army, and will help with challenges that will be implemented later, along with multiplayer and story mode elements. There is also a compendium that lets you look over the ghosts you've encountered and captured thus far, giving some factoids and lore for most of them. You can customize your equipment with a range of different weapons that all serve different purposes and play different ways, allowing for more than a little play style customization. Are you a focused-in laser beam that likes to home in on ghosts and stay on them? Are you a calm and collected sniper that likes to hammer enemies with powerful, well-placed shots? Are you a mad shotgunner with a penchant for blasting enemies to bits when they take a breather? Or, are you the type that likes to keep enemies at bay until they're dumb enough to try and attack, then serve them a punishing parry? All of these styles and more are perfectly well addressed with just the equipment you get from playing the tutorial, with more types of weapons unlockable later on.
Moving on to story mode, you'll find a fairly well-written story, packed with the kind of humor the series is known for. You'll work directly alongside Doctor Peter Venkman and the other founding Ghostbusters as a low-level recruit, taking on special cases as they pop up. The story starts out simply enough, but in typical bombastic '80s movie fashion, you end up embroiled in a mad plot to destroy the world.
One last gameplay point to touch on is raids; meant to be done with powerful weapons, and perhaps with groups in a future update, raids pit you against large and powerful entities. Make no mistake; even if you think you're doing well and no ghost can match you, most raid targets will steamroll you on your first go. The iconic Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man is one such raid, and his HP is insane. Don't expect to take him out on your own without massively upgraded weapons, along with some level-ups to increase your HP, defense, and other relevant stats.
Let's get the topic of music out of the way first; the map screen and many other in-game screens are an endless loop of the main Ghostbusters theme, and it can get grating pretty quickly. Thankfully, battle music is appropriately tense, though most tunes in the game are forgettable. They're all quite serviceable, and they go pretty well with the game's action and themes, but many players will likely kill the music and play with just the sound effects in order to stay aware of their environment, or listen to their own music.
The real treat in the sound department is the sound effects. This is definitely not a game you'll want to play with the sound turned off. A fun game that can be a bit engrossing becomes an immersive experience when you add in the realistic and very high-quality sound effects for everything from your crazy weapons to the sounds and moans that various ghostly entities may make. As a side note, fans of Bill Murray and other famous faces involved with the Ghostbusters franchise will be disappointed to know that this game does not sport full voice-acting.
- Speed (5/5) – This is an intense game in even the tamest encounters, and AR shooter fans will be very pleased. The huge variety present in the core gameplay loop helps to keep things fresh. Story-wise, you'll leap right in and fight the big dogs, literally, during the tutorial, and go on to do bigger and better things from there.
- Theme (3/5) – The graphics are pretty good for a mobile device, the world is lovingly crafted, and the trademark humor is here. The sound effects are also great. The music, however, is utterly forgettable at best, and the lack of voice acting makes this feel much less like a real Ghostbusters adventure.
- Features (4/5) – There are tons of things to do, see, and upgrade right from the start, and the game opens up even more as you progress. A lot of creature comforts are missing, and the enemy variety could be a bit better, but this one will stave off boredom for quite a while, even for seasoned players.
- Overall (4/5)
- Good graphics that fit well
- Awesome world and good humor
- Wide variety of weapons and sidequests
- Sound effects are amazing
- Free, with fully optional in-app purchases
- Music goes between annoying and blah
- Graphics could be better on powerful modern mobile devices
- Sort of a resource hog in AR mode, though that's understandable to an extent
- The lack of voice acting really takes the punch out of the dialog and world building
The fun factor, addictiveness, cohesiveness, and overall drive to keep playing are all here. The large variety of ghosts with different fighting styles, the massive raids, and the scores of weapons you can develop make it very hard to get bored, and you can find different types of ghosts, each with their own backstory, in different places throughout the real world. If you like first-person shooters, map-based mobile games, or just happen to be a hardcore Ghostbusters fan, this one is for you.