Have you ever wondered what it’s like to investigate the paranormal for a living? Or maybe you want to know if all those ghost-hunting TV shows were really as scary as they made it out to be? Well then, look no further than “Phasmophobia.” The four-player co-op horror game thrusts players into the shoes of ghost investigators who are tasked with delving into haunted locations and deducing what kind of ghost is inhabiting the area.  

Developed and published by Kinetic Games, “Phasmophobia” won Best Debut Game of 2020 at the Game Awards and shot up in popularity a few months ago when many streamers and Youtubers, like Markiplier and Jacksepticeye, were playing it. 

Currently in Early Access and with an official release date set sometime in 2021, the game features a wide variety of ghost-hunting equipment players must use to navigate buildings and find evidence of paranormal activity. Equipment ranges from EMF readers to motion sensors to UV flashlights to thermometers to ghost writing books and more. You can either be a team player and venture into the house with the ghost to find evidence, or you can sit back and relax in the safety of the truck and observe your teammates through video cameras to pick up any abnormalities. 

Players have to use different kinds of equipment to find different pieces of evidence that will point to different kinds of ghosts. For example, freezing temperatures from a thermometer, ghost writing in the book and a vocal response from the spirit box will allow players to recognize the ghost they are looking for is a demon. The other 11 types of ghosts all have their own unique sets of evidence. The more objectives complete correctly guessed ghost types, the more money players will receive at the end of a mission to later invest for new and better equipment.  

A unique and interesting mechanic to “Phasmophobia” is its voice recognition feature. Playing the game with a microphone is essential to not only survive and communicate with your teammates, but to communicate with the ghost. Using the in-game voice chat can allow you to communicate with the ghost via the spirit box, a handheld device that picks up radio frequencies allowing you to speak to the ghost. If you ask it one of the supported questions when you are near the ghost such as “Where are you?” or “What do you want?” the ghost may reply back with “Close” or “Kill,” respectively. Because of the voice recognition feature, saying the ghost’s name out loud will anger it and cause it to show its grotesque self or even begin hunting players. 

Aside from unsettling ghost answers, “Phasmophobia” does a great job at creating a terrifying atmosphere for players. The game doesn’t rely on cheap jump scares, but rather it builds upon a horrifying atmosphere that will keep you on the edge of your seat. When you are walking through a house, you might hear creaking floorboards in the distance, the gentle squeaking of a door being opened nearby or the hissing of a sink being turned on by itself. You may hear a child giggling in the distance, or maybe the ghost will start ringing a phone, turn on a radio nearby or shut off all the lights in the building. All of this builds up tension, and it gets even worse when you start to hear a loud heartbeat in your ears or a loud, ghastly exhale that lets you know the ghost is near.  

When the ghost starts hunting, things certainly get spooky. You’ll either have to outrun the ghost or hide in a nearby closet until the hunt ends, because the ghost automatically shuts and locks all of the building’s exits, trapping you inside. During this time, players will be unable to communicate using the global chat feature (it’s like talking into a radio) and must rely on proximity chat.  

When you’re new to the game or just playing on your own, “Phasmophobia” is one of the scariest games out there. But what makes this game so unique is that once you start to get the hang of it and learn more about effectively deducing what kind of ghost you’re looking for, especially on higher difficulties, the horror turns into humor. If you have a group of friends to play with, you can play as chaotically as you’d like.  

With my particular group of friends, we’ve found it fun to try and speedrun how quickly we can get in and out of the house, or we’ve purposefully angered the ghost on several occasions which almost always gets someone killed. Everyone reacts differently, too. While I might be afraid of the ghost and run away, one of my friends might get bold and start yelling obscenities at the ghost for the fun of it. Things don’t always go the way they’re supposed to in “Phasmophobia,” and that really lends to the horror and fun of the game.  

The only real downside to “Phasmophobia” is that there is next to no narrative or story whatsoever. There’s a simple tutorial section, but really, the game just throws you into the horror and allows you to figure it all out on your own. Additionally, the larger maps in the game, like the high school, prison and asylum, almost feel too large when the walking and running speed of players is so slow compared to the amount of distance needed to travel. I found that the smaller maps, like the street houses and road houses, were way more enjoyable to play on. 

“Phasmophobia” only has about two people working on the development of the game, which is insane for how good it is. With an official release date set for sometime in 2021, be sure to pick up a copy of “Phasmophobia” for $14 before the price is raised on its official launch. At its full release, developers have said they hope to add new maps like hospitals and sewers, more equipment and new types of ghosts. Being one of the best co-op experiences of 2020, you won’t want to miss out on this. 

Rating: 4.5/5 

Thumbnail photo courtesy of @NVIDIAGFN on Twitter.

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