Phasmophobia Review

Phasmophobia is a randomized level-based ghost hunting co-op game with exciting new gameplay mechanics that I’ve never actually seen in any other horror games or games in general. Phasmophobia brings the horror genre into a brand-new spotlight. The game features randomized levels that are either houses, abandoned asylums, schools, prisons or mansions. There are around ten different types of ghosts, with many of them being very aggressive, although some of them are a bit shy and only interact when they see someone alone.

The game starts with you and three other players selecting a job, after which you are loaded into the level. You start out in the truck in the preparation phase of the game. From there, you choose specific equipment that you need or just want to have on you in case you run into a ghost. I personally always have a cross and some salt. You read the four objectives that you get, and then you devise a plan to collect all the evidence of ghosts that you can. Finally, you embark into the house and begin the next phase.

In this phase, you can enter the house and begin ghost hunting. You have a variety of tools at your disposal. There’s a temperature reader that is essential in finding cold spots. Then you have other tools such as salt that show ghost footsteps when they walk over it. There are ouija boards to make contact with ghosts easier and cameras to take pictures of them if they ever reveal themselves.

Ghosts in the game have been designed super intricately. I was extremely impressed by their gameplay design and the way their behaviour was designed to be so randomized and realistic. They can respond to you if you call their names out, throw things around and make noises. They can talk or reveal themselves and hunt you down if they reach that level of aggression.

The game is centred around a sanity bar. Each player in a party of four starts out with 100% sanity, which depletes over time. Depending on the nature of the ghost and the way it interacts with the players, the decisions you make, such as whether or not to agitate the ghost by using ouija boards or leaving each other alone in the house, will affect your sanity bar. The further it depletes, the more confidence the ghost gains to begin hunting.

Once the ghost starts hunting, players need to be more careful and use their equipment and gadgets to collect as much evidence and leave before the ghost kills every last one of them. The sanity level depletes once a person in your party dies, which also leaves you shorthanded on the number of things that can be done with the surviving player. This is the entirety of the game: randomized ghost encounters and a boatload of scary things happening, time and time again, with the ghosts feeling more authentic than in any other game. Thankfully though, to counteract the fear of these very realistic, random ghost encounters, you have your friends with you.

Phasmophobia, more than anything else, is a game that is most enjoyed with people you know. This is why the game has had such a huge spike in players since first coming to early access. In this time of quarantine and social distancing, everyone’s been frustrated. Loneliness is at an all-time high, and people are clinging to human interaction more and more. This is why Phasmophobia’s core design forces you to work and play together, so you can make it out alive with enough proof of ghost sightings.

There are a variety of different ghosts in the game, and I’ll run through a few of them. You’ve got spirits that just pop up randomly: shades that are super shy and won’t really hurt you as long as you’re not alone; poltergeists that spookily move and fling stuff around, so it’s best to be in an empty room with not many objects around with them; jinns that will react when you threaten them and are super-fast; mares who are stronger in darker areas,  so keeping lights on all the time is a great idea when there’s one of those around; phantoms are the slower ghosts, but if you look at them directly, they will probably drink up all your sanity. Wraiths are my mortal enemies and the main reason why I always carry salt with me because it’s toxic to them. These babies can go through walls and warp instantly to your location. These are just some of the types of ghosts that you can encounter in Phasmophobia, a game that is chock-full of variety when it comes to each ghost’s behaviour.

To counter this, the game hands you a ton of different types of equipment to use in your perilous adventures. Having your friends by your side turns these ghost encounters into some of the funniest moments ever. I can recall the countless times that I was standing in a closet, checking the temperature of a cold spot in a corner, trying my hardest to find some proof of an extremely shy ghost. I’d call their name to get them to react, and one of my friends would just sneak up behind me and close the door on me, scaring the hell out of me. Another time my friends turned the lights on and off and pretended that the ghost was doing it. You can get up to some real shenanigans in your adventures collecting evidence – annoying those poor lost souls while they’re just trying to live out their ghost lives in their abandoned homes.

The weird things that players tend to do to annoy other players for the fun of it make the game so much more fun to play than most other horror games. The fact that I can play it with almost anyone because of how cheap the game is also is a great factor for why the game has become so famous in such a short span of time, despite being an early access game with a lot of rough patches to it still. The game is rather janky at the moment, though it’s nothing that affects the gameplay, which works extremely well, all things considered.

The social aspect that comes with Phasmophobia is why the popularity is there. Just like other famous games, such as Among Us or Fall Guys, these are games best enjoyed with friends. The amount of fun you can have in Phasmophobia when your friends are there to help you out or sabotage your every move is why the game has stuck with so many players. However wonky the animation might be, with weird clippings, and broken facial features and objects, it just brings another aspect to the game for us to laugh at. Playing with friends is the best way to enjoy this game.

Phasmophobia’s best gameplay feature is the co-op aspect of it. I remember this one time where the ghost was hunting a friend of mine, and I took a picture just as it was about to snap my friend’s neck. The flash obviously scared the ghost away, and we all ran towards the truck with a picture of the actual ghost in all its glory.

And it is not just interacting with your friends that this game offers either. Interacting with the ghosts themselves is something quite jarring but also somewhat natural. These ghosts have backstories scripted into the walls, nooks and crannies of the places they reside in. They have names, voices and behaviours that you have to understand in order to collect the evidence. In a long life of playing video games, both multiplayer and single-player, Phasmophobia is the one time I honestly can say I felt genuine fear.

The game has had an impact on most of the people that are playing it, with Twitch and YouTube experiencing high spikes in viewership, along with platforms such as Twitter where the game trended in a huge number of hashtags.

The part of the game that I didn’t like was how dark it often became, but that’s not really that big of a deal as you can increase the brightness. The game is in early access after all and probably will be for quite some time. I doubt it will leave early access for at least another year, but even if it doesn’t, the current version of the game is just fine for people to create some memorable gameplay experiences with their friends. With constant updates in gameplay and more features coming, the game will probably remain fresh.

Phasmophobia has had a huge effect on me, not just in terms of making me like horror games but in revealing to me how much potential the genre has when it’s done right. I have made some incredibly fun memories that I will probably remember forever in this game. It was because I got to share these memories with people I know and enjoy spending time with.

Phasmophobia is available on Steam Early Access for the small price of $15 – check it out. It’s a fantastic game with some unique gameplay mechanics. Just make sure to drag your friends along with you, because it’s a fun and enjoyable ride.

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