Midnight Ghost Hunt has a premise that’ll be familiar to anyone who’s ever watched Ghostbusters or played Phasmophobia. A haunted place is jam-packed with spooky ghosts, and someone’s hired a ragtag team of ghost hunters to find them, destroy them, and then vacuum up their souls using varied loadouts of options.
Players don’t just take on the role of ghostbusters, though. They also get a turn as the ghosts in Midnight Ghost Hunt’s 4v4 matches. Both ghosts and hunters have to work as a team and try to aid their allies.
After spending some time in the Midnight Ghost Hunt beta, I’ve absolutely fallen in love with the game because it’s a hijinks generator. The ghosts in Midnight Ghost Hunt are incredibly vulnerable, and have to hide themselves in one of the many props cluttered around the game’s dense maps. A ghost can either play dead, hoping the hunters pass them by so they can flee quietly while staying hidden in some everyday object, or pop out and use their ghostly powers for a dramatic escape.
Sometimes I start as the ghost hunter, wielding some wacky gadgets or powerful plasma weapons. Other times, I start as the ghost, and I’m really scared and hiding in a vase. After each round, teams swap, so it’s easy to get some time with both the living and the dead. A full match, with a round as both hunter and ghost, takes about 15 minutes.
In some rounds, I would hide in a suit of armor, which was big and noticeable but had the advantage of being armed with a sword I could clumsily swing. Another time, I haunted a planet model from a museum and frantically rolled down the halls to escape angry ghost hunters, setting spectral traps around towering bear statues and wooden duck statues to slow down pursuers.
While the ghost team starts the match on the back foot, things change at the stroke of midnight. That’s when the power of the moon makes ghosts much deadlier, turning the tables. The ghost hunters are now the huntees, and they have to survive by fleeing or fighting against overwhelming odds.
In exchange for their weaker early game, ghosts get to have fun by selecting abilities to befuddle hunters and manipulate the battlefield. Hunters, on the other hand, come with an array of weaponry and gadgets, and it’s a blast to experiment with different loadouts and try out the pros and cons.
A salt-loaded shotgun and grappling hook allowed me to wildly swing across the map, blasting out loads of anti-ghost buckshot at my foes, while a sniper rifle and ghost -tracker makes more sense for a careful, tactical player. The sledgehammer is fantastic for destroying props and scaring out ghosts in the early game, but if the timer hits midnight, they don’t do much against fully powered-up phantasms. I can swap my tools out mid-match at a supply point, but it’s always risky to stop paying attention to the ghosts around you, even if you think you’re safe.
The key to Midnight Ghost Hunt’s success is that there’s a ton of strategy to the game, and it’s a joy to puzzle out the best tactics and learn how to counter your foes. But the skill floor is very low. It only took a couple of rounds to pick up some great strategies, and I could still tell there was room for improvement. Finding the best hiding spots on a specific map, figuring out which weapons work best, and choosing my loadout of ghost powers are fun challenges that feel organic to pick up through replaying — I never felt like I had to run to a fan wiki or seek out strats on YouTube.
There’s something refreshing about a game that’s mostly based around hijinks but provides enough direction to keep things challenging and competitive. Midnight Ghost Hunt has the same frenetic energy as the old days of Left 4 Dead’s Versus mode, with a healthy dose of silliness. It takes a deft hand to weave a balance between strategy and shenanigans so well, but developer Vaulted Sky Games pulls it off. The game does not have a release date quite yet, but the fundamentals are all there and, well, fun.
Midnight Ghost Hunt is currently in a weekend beta running until Jan. 30; players can request access on the game’s Steam page.