Ghostbusters World Hands-On: A Fun Take on the Pokémon Go Formula

Nostalgia seems to be the big thing nowadays. Old hit television shows are staging a comeback, there are websites dedicated to life in old days, and a movie franchise reboot is sitting atop the box office.

It’s against that backdrop that Ghostbusters World, a new free-to-play ghost-catching game for your Android phone or iPhone, has launched to the App Store and Google Play marketplace. And although it’s heavy on the nostalgia and references to the Ghostbusters franchise, it’s a commitment to new-age technology — augmented reality — that ultimately drives your gaming experience.

The problem is, even though the game has some unique moments and takes cues from the wildly popular Pokémon Go, I’m just not sure the overall experience can quite live up to the hype.

Getting Started

When I first booted up Ghostbusters World on my Galaxy S8+, I had to update to the latest Google ARCore, which took just a few seconds to get up and running. Next, I was asked to share all kinds of data with the app, including my location. Not turning on notifications and tracking means you can’t play the game.

But arguably the most annoying part of my Ghostbusters World first impression was the ridiculously large update the game applied to kick things off. It took about five minutes to download and update — a lifetime in the world of pick-up-and-play mobile gaming — and said that it would have chewed up my mobile data if I were on a carrier network. Thankfully, I wasn’t, but keep that in mind when you load it up.

Now ready to play, the game gave me the option of customizing my Ghostbuster. The customization options were rather basic and limited me to just a few face types and skin colors. It wasn’t the end of the world, but a little more customization in a future update would be nice.

Ghosts to Go

Similar to Pokémon Go, the Ghostbusters World game experience relies upon augmented reality. So, you’ll need to calibrate the camera and then, when ready, walk your way through a tutorial that tells you how to find ghosts in your environment, attack them, repel their attacks, and ultimately capture them.

First and foremost, looking around and finding ghosts can be entertaining. Finding them early on in the game is simple, but as time goes on, they become harder to locate. There are at least 150 ghosts in Ghostbusters World, all with different attributes, levels, and qualities.

The battle sequence can take some getting used to. You’ll need to press down on the Attack button to target your ghosts and keep the reticle on them as they move. Once you deplete their health enough, you’ll have the option of capturing them and keeping them in your ghost rolodex.

The process is simple, but feels too formulaic. And in many ways, depending on the environment in which you’re playing, you might find that there’s too much stuff on the screen distracting you. It’s not a common occurrence, but something that might crop up from time to time.

Arguably the biggest problem with Ghostbusters World, however, is the list of ghosts itself.

I liked the Ghostbusters franchise, but don’t necessarily know the ghosts that lived in that world. Pokémon Go, however, had the advantage of people knowing — and loving — the Pokémon characters.

When I’d play Ghostbusters World, a ghost would pop up, but I didn’t necessarily know what it was, why it mattered, and whether I should be excited. Instead, it was just another ghost I needed to take down. It’s a problem that might ultimately hurt the game’s broader appeal.

One of the game's best features is its willingness to let you use that ghost rolodex. After you capture a ghost, you can employ it to help you capture others and aid you in battle. It creates a turn-based role-playing game experience that fans of the genre, like myself, will find fun.

Aside from that, Ghostbusters World includes a single-player campaign that’s really aimed at those who want to immerse themselves in a story with characters from the movie franchise. I didn’t get a chance to complete the single-player campaign by the time of publishing, but it had flashes of fun and immersive storytelling to go along with some slower parts.

Bottom Line

In one respect, Ghostbusters World is an attempt to help you relive the Ghostbusters of old in a fun, engaging setting. In another, it’s an attempt to capture what made Pokémon special, transform it for the Ghostbusters franchise, and hope players get excited.

Ultimately, Ghostbusters World is a solid game with moments of fun and excitement. But you might find yourself wishing for a bit more depth and engagement with the characters after you play it for a while.

Credit: FourThirtyThree, Inc.

Don Reisinger is CEO and founder of D2 Tech Agency. A communications strategist, consultant, and copywriter, Don has also written for many leading technology and business publications including CNET, Fortune Magazine, The New York Times, Forbes, Computerworld, Digital Trends, TechCrunch and Slashgear. He has also written for Tom's Guide for many years, contributing hundreds of articles on everything from phones to games to streaming and smart home.