I’m doing my best to resist the urge, I swear. Every fiber in my being wants me to bellow “who you gonna call” even though this isn’t officially a “Ghostbusters” game. While the latest “Ghostbusters” video game satisfied my ghostbusting itch, I have to admit that I missed the ability to actually run my very own ghostbusting business. That leads me to “GhostControl Inc.”, a game that admittedly looks and feels like the pop culture icons we all know and love. I’ve thought long and hard about how to describe this game, but the best I could do is to say that it is a cross between “Ghostbusters” for the Atari 2600 and “XCOM: Enemy Unknown”. The former may not be recognizable to the lot of you, but the idea that both “Ghostbusters” and “GhostControl Inc.” conveys is generally the same. Before I go any further, I’d like to thank the folks at Application Systems Heidelberg for providing me with a free press copy.
For those of you who haven’t played “Ghostbusters” for the Atari 2600, you were presented with a world map that required the player to respond to ghost sightings as they came up. You’d jump into your trusty “Ecto-1”, be treated to a really crappy top-down view of the car driving on a road, and then try to capture the ghost floating around outside the building. “GhostControl Inc.” takes the world map idea and builds upon it tenfold. Not only will you be responding to calls, but so will other AI competitors…something that the original “Ghostbusters” game didn’t have. Admittedly, there’s not much depth in that department for they just seem to roam around and eliminate missions should you not get to them fast enough. As complicated as running your own ghostbusting business may sound though, all you’ll really need to keep in mind is that you’ll be busting ghosts for cash in order to grow your company.
The world map just isn’t a collection of mission markers…there’s actually stuff to do. The hospital, for example, can be visited to heal your staff. The gas station allows you to, you guessed it, fill up your company vehicle with gas. The car dealership will let you buy new vehicles and the “Traps R Us” store will let you purchase new equipment. You’ll even be able to obtain a new HQ, if you so fancy. Of course, all of these things will require money, and you won’t earn that until you start bagging a few ghosts. Not to worry, the difficulty will increase appropriately as you complete objectives, giving you some sense of direction as you make a bigger and more badass ghostbusting force.
Unlike the aforementioned “Ghostbusters” game for the Atari 2600, these ghostbusting sessions are turn-based (hence my earlier “XCOM” reference). Each crew member under your control will be alloted so many action points to use on their turn, whether it be to move, shoot, interact with objects, and so on. It’s also worth mentioning that each crew member has a different set of stats and will be assigned a class accordingly. The “bruiser” and “shooter” class are ideal for combat, while the “scientist” is better at using special equipment. You can hire and fire hunters at will, so you’re free to customize your team as you see fit. Leveling them up through jobs is also possible, giving you a reason to care a bit more about your team as a whole.
Jobs can be a tricky business, though not for the reasons you’d expect. While it’s obvious that the different ghost types in this game will require you to carefully plan out your actions, you’re actually penalized for destroying objects in the environment. The more destructive you get, the less profitable missions tend to be. In a way, this makes sense…remember how pissed the hotel manager was in the first “Ghostbusters” movie when the trio shot up the place? This gameplay mechanic forced me to be a bit more cautious than usual and added a tactical element that I didn’t really care about in “XCOM: Enemy Unknown”. Just losing a convenient spot for cover is one thing, but having the costs deducted from your paycheck is another thing entirely. My only real gripe with this mode is that I couldn’t figure out how to rotate the camera, though you can shift-click to hide objects to see your team and targets a bit more clearly.
There is admittedly a learning curve, especially if you’ve never played turn-based combat games like “XCOM: Enemy Unknown”. Getting used to how action points work and what kinds of actions spend them does take time. Luckily, there is a tutorial in-game to help you out, as well as a detailed manual (link below) that will brief you on everything you’ll need to know. The manual even includes examples of movement with pictures to boot…that’s not something I often see nowadays. Catching a ghost and maneuvering them over to a trap also takes some time to learn, though better equipment will make your life a bit easier once you get to that point. Different ghosts also have different abilities (teleportation, conjuring, dripping, etc.), so learning how to deal with these troublemakers will be yet another thing to get used to.
Once the light bulb appears over your head, you’ll find “GhostControl Inc.” to be an incredibly addicting experience. This game made me want to do better with each passing second, for the better you do, the more money you can potentially make. Like a kid in a toy store, I wanted to try out each piece of equipment I was introduced to, just to see what it did. I also enjoy a good business sim…that is, making money and feeling a sense of satisfaction when my company is succeeding through my decisions. While managing your finances is important in “GhostControl Inc.”, it is not overly complicated. You either have the money for gas or you don’t. You either have the money to buy that shiny new toy or you don’t. If you want more money, go bust some ghosts…it’s all very simple.
Would I recommend “GhostControl Inc.” to my fellow ghost hunters? In short, yes. While the graphics are nothing to write home about, it has a certain charm about it that makes me want to keep playing. “Project Zomboid”, while also not overly detailed in the graphics compartment, appeals to me in the same way and is addicting as hell. Besides the fact that I can’t seem to put it down, “GhostControl Inc.” fulfills my childhood fantasy of running my very own ghost hunting business nicely. For $13.99 (as of 1/30/14), that’s not a bad deal…not bad at all.
Final Verdict: 8/10
You can learn more about and purchase the game here:
You can help bring the game to Steam by voting for it on its Greenlight page, here:
Note – The game has since been “Green-lit” and thus released on Steam: