By Guy Rainey / February 21st, 2014
|Publisher||Application Systems Heidelberg|
|Release Date||December 13, 2013|
|Genre||Turn-based Tactics / Business Simulation|
GhostControl Inc. is a special game. Have you ever had the experience of finding a game you knew nothing about, trying it, then finding out you absolutely love it? That’s what GhostControl Inc. has been for me. Here’s the game in a nutshell: imagine classic X-Com with a Ghostbusters theme. If that sounds awesome to you, stop reading now and go buy the game, because you’ll love it. You’re welcome.
If you’re still around, I guess that means you still need some convincing. Okay, let’s do this. You are starting a ghost hunting company in the heart of London. You’ll start by selecting an employee from a randomly-generated list. If you don’t like any of the employees you see, simply press the Shuffle button and try again. Don’t like an employee’s name? Change it. This first employee is the only one you can have with this level of customization, but it’s a nice touch.
After that, you are shown to your first headquarters. This is where you will hire more employees, store captured ghosts and (most importantly) save your game. Another nice touch, you’ll see that your calendar starts on the day you start the game.
If you head out, you’ll be greeted with a phone call that will alert you to the where to find the tutorial. It’s pretty simple, but that’s a good thing. You won’t have any problem learning the basics of the game. You’ve got two action points to use. You can move, shoot, set a trap, or use a scanner (if you have one). Turning lights on and off and opening doors do not take action points. You can use these action points in any combination. If you want to move twice or shoot twice, that works. You want to set a trap and then shoot? That works too. These are a set of very simple mechanics, and the game gives you a lot of freedom in using them. Also, note that “Damage” bar; any damage caused by either you or the ghosts will be taken out of your pay, so be careful.
After that tutorial, you’ll randomly receive phone calls, most of whom are clients looking to hire your service (some are false alarms, but not many). There is technically a story, but it is revealed through news items you receive on your phone, and it rarely influences what missions you get (though the bosses are tied into it). I honestly can’t tell you what was going on; I didn’t bother to read the news updates. Jobs happen often enough that the phone would ring while I was trying to read, and, since news posts are just as often about new ghost hunting products, I simply started ignoring them.
You can choose to accept the job, decline it, or not pick up the phone. There will be times when you won’t want to accept a job right when a call comes in, but hanging up or declining a job doesn’t seem to have any impact on your team’s reputation. That seems like a missed opportunity to me, but it’s hard to complain about a mechanic that isn’t there. Take note of the other ghost hunters on the map; you aren’t the only company in the ghost-hunting business, and, if you don’t hurry to a job you’ve accepted, your competition will steal it. It’s maddening when a company steals your job right out from under you, but I think that adds urgency to the game that helps keep it exciting.
When it comes time to hire more employees, you’ve got a lot of options. I suggest you not hire any more employees until you can afford them, since early encounters are designed to be simple affairs, and you can easily complete them with one employee. But, as things get more complex (and you get richer), you’ll like the flexibility that more employees gives you. This is as much a business simulator as a strategy game, so you don’t want to run out of money or go into debt. This game will give you enough rope to hang yourself with, so think about your decisions carefully. Each employee has stats that level up over time. Also they have a class (the first employee’s class is Leader) that gives them different starting stats. While it’s entirely possible to build a Bruiser with high intelligence, it’s not easy. An employee’s starting stats are determined at hiring (by class) and are only upgraded by using them. Still, it’s possible if you are so inclined.
In a few instances, you’ll come across bosses that relate to the plot in some way. The first boss is a guy with a mop. Now that sounds dull, but he has a significant amount of health, and he’ll leave puddles behind him. If one of your units slips on a puddle, they’ll be sent skidding away. Also, this ghost can knock you back if he hits you, so since your guns are short range at that point, you’ll have to move back into position. It’s a unique addition to gameplay that helps introduce later ghosts with more varied abilities. There are no other gameplay modes aside from the “story mode,” but the game is designed to be played for as long as you want, so, even after the “story” is over, there’s still plenty more to do.
And we haven’t even talked about the game’s most endearing feature: witty humor. The game is chock-full of patently British wit, and it’ll all get a laugh out of you at least once (yeah, it’s repeated, but the lines are never repeated so much as to get grating). There are only two voice actors (one male, one female), but they play their roles so well that it doesn’t matter. Sure, it’s a little odd to hear a team of three guys say the same things with the same voice, but it’s funny!
The presentation is great, but lacking. Here’s what I mean: the 2D graphics are stellar, but why does every unit, despite having a different face, look exactly the same? There are only two types of units: male and female. The game doesn’t even change their hair color (which, I think is all I would need). It gets a little hard to tell who’s who when you’re in the thick of things. The music that is in the game is fantastic, but there are only three tracks total. So, yeah the presentation as it stands is really good; I just wish that they went farther with it. Also, you may notice that in some of these screenshots, the user interface is a different size. That’s because you can scale the UI to your liking in the options. In an odd quirk, a change you make there will not save, and you’ll have to rescale it every time you start the game up. It’s an annoyance, nothing more.
But despite that nitpick, GhostControl, Inc is an awesome game! After all, who hasn’t watched Ghostbusters, and wanted to start a business like that? In many ways, it gives players enough rope with which to hang themselves, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I can’t recommend it more highly! It’s only $13.99, and, while playing through that “main” story probably only took me about eight hours, I can easily see myself coming back to it to go farther with the game, or start a new one on a higher difficulty setting. So yeah, buy it!
Review copy provided by publisher.