Spirits Unleashed, direct fun in an asymmetric multiplayer ideal for the franchise

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WiiU seems to me, in part, a wasted game console. Make no mistake, I adore his catalog (it’s still online in the living room), but while I understand why there weren’t more risky experiments with him, I expected more from tabletomando. What I am going for is that the possibilities of the asymmetric game They piqued my interest from the first moment. Without going any further, my relationship with Nintendo Land was extended over time, above all, by Mario Chase; a simple example of the potential of local asymmetry which, in turn, is nothing more than a twist to the game of hide-and-seek, spiced up by its most direct playful rival, the rascal. This combination has served as a starting point for various proposals over the last few years (Evolve, Dead by Daylight or Friday the 13th: The Game, among others), yielding the most disparate results. And seen what has been seen, it turns out that it marries completely with the Ghostbusters universe.

Now, after attending the presentation of Ghostbusters: Spirits UnleashedIn my mind, there was no room for the past interest in the asymmetrical game, nor for the use that the ectoplasmic franchise could make of it. In fact, I have to admit that I forgot about the game, and that when the code came into my hands, I didn’t receive it with the greatest joy either. To make matters worse, my journey with him could not have started in a worse way; Half-baked translations, audio issues, and a host of bugs that ruined early games. But if we learned something from Pedro Navaja —Rubén Blades through— it is that life gives you surprises (surprises life gives you).

Leaving aside the technical problems, which were miraculously resolved at the last minute, the latest from Illfonic (a study versed in this asymmetry, although without much success) has managed to capture my attention beyond what was expected. Perhaps it was the moment, but I think that, rather, it is because there is something natural in your proposal. So much so, that despite having several problems and clumsiness, he is solid to the point of being strangely familiar; as if he had always been there.

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For it, Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed it goes to two premises —accessibility and coherence— that it fulfills most of the time, and that help to cement what it offers. The result is a video game that is fun from minute one because it is understandable from scratch. It is easy to imagine how it is played because the iconography that has always accompanied the franchise has been implemented naturally, taking advantage of the lightness of its rules to take refuge in simple but effective systems. This is noticeable from the first minutes, with the presentation of a plot, far from complex premises, which places us before a Winston Zeddmore who has gone from employee to entrepreneur. Now he is the boss and we just got a job. Meanwhile, good old Ray Stantz continues to study the world of the paranormal.

As members of the team, we must deal with possessions of buildings by expelling the ectoplasmic entities that have settled in them. How? Well, as you all are imagining: using the PKE meters to find the ghost in question, using the proton gun to chain the subject and capturing him with an ectocontainment trap. Simple, but not easy.

To carry out the work and issue the corresponding invoice (without a doubt, the best detail) the team must take into account three basic rules: Each building has three dimensional gaps, through which the ghost can reappear if it manages to escape after being caught in a trap; by doing so, the gap will be unusable (come on, it has three lives); breaches, therefore, must be located and destroyed in order to capture the ghost, and lastly, the capture must take place before the ghost takes possession of the building. again simple. Beyond that, and as professionals in the sector, we will have to take care of reassuring the staff who are in the buildings in order to delay possession. Which gives rise to some QTE that will be more or less effective depending on our ability to nail the tempo. An addition that gives away lines of dialogue that help underpin the ironic tone that has always accompanied the franchise, and that has made me smile more than once.

To achieve these goals, the game gives us a moderately heavy control that, in its search for a correct balance of forces (asymmetry must be balanced) deprives the human of all the agility that it grants to the ectoplasmic. Logical, yes, but not entirely successful. And I say this because there are mechanics, such as the hook —which allows us to change floors without having to take long detours—, which can fall into disuse because they are ineffective; just as it is difficult to understand that, after breaking a large window, we cannot cross it to tackle it; counterintuitive moments that contrast with the general solvency of his control and the great job that has been done with the proton gun. Mild frustrations.

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However, as HJ Tobin himself says, surely there is nothing more frustrating than being dead. Faced with such an existential perspective, dedicating oneself to scaring sacks of meat is, perhaps, one of the few activities that one can resort to in the hope of having fun, and it turns out that it is fun. Like ghosts, we must own the building that hosts the game. To do this, we will have several abilities: summon minor ectoplasmics, runny staff, summon viscous tornadoes, enchant everyday objects, sabotage our captors’ backpacks, scare people who swarm the building, go through them and even possess them. All this with the aim of completing the possession bar before they capture us. Each ability (including acceleration) has a cost of ectoplasmic matter, and the most powerful ones have a refresh time that invites us to manage them in moderation. In addition, we must not neglect the aforementioned reappearance gaps, so we must also be aware of them, defending them and hiding them.

All this range of possibilities, which does not require more than two or three games to master, have made the ghostly aspect my favorite mode. It’s not that playing as ghostbusters isn’t fun, but the cooperative approach is remarkable and, in the face of a skilled opponent, demands coordination. So, there, playing with strangers takes its toll. There is no effective signaling system – I think of Apex: Legends – and communication is conspicuous by its absence, something that, for example, could have been solved with a dedicated button to request cheats. Nor does it escape me that these are mechanisms that players will acquire over time and that, surely, in a few weeks the degree of rapport between strangers will be greater. But the doubt remains.

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Speaking of doubts, let me go back to Mario Chase because, thinking about him (and saving the distance that separates the game from the minigame), I find parallels in both virtues and defects. Let me explain: the simplicity of the Nintendo Land minigame allowed such direct fun that, in turn, it had little travel. This, on a different scale, also looms over Spirits Unleashed, and to mitigate this threat, the game resorts to a progression system (based on levels and rewards) somewhat uneven. Hit the nail on the head in ghost mode, as we will be unlocking new types of ectoplasmics, which results in new and interesting abilities that modify the way we approach the game. But in Ghostbusters mode, progress is reduced to cosmetic items and pieces of equipment, which have noticeably less impact on the game. The last trick the game uses to retain the player is a story, told through cinematics, which will progress as we level up.

Enough to stretch the experience for months? I would say no. It may be that the one who comes from the game as a service misses the engineering of the engagement current (something that, personally, I appreciate), but even those who do not come from said market will notice the lack of content; limited number of scenarios, no alternative modes, etc. And let me put it that way, it pisses me off. In the first place, because the title manages to achieve a remarkable balance when it comes to asymmetric play and, more importantly, because it seems to me an honest proposal that falls neither into the tyranny of monetization, nor into the artificial dilation of progress.

I actually think that Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed is the kind of title that would have been perfect for the WiiU concept because in some ways it feels like a product of another era; one that has known how to escape from the vices of the current market (except for the recurrent aesthetics of its characters) and that, partly for this reason, would have worked as a scandal in the local; with the hubbub typical of cooperation and the pique between relatives or colleagues. Online through, what it finally offers is a balanced, direct and fun asymmetric multiplayer which, in addition, accurately portrays its original franchise. It’s not perfect, and I don’t know how long it’ll last on my console, but it’s got me back into enjoying asymmetric PvP, and I didn’t count on it. Blades already said it: life gives you surprises.