Available On: PC, PlayStation, Switch, Xbox
Played On: Switch

Last year’s 4v1 multiplayer romp Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed is now on Switch via the Ecto Edition.

Like any long-running pop-culture franchise, the Ghostbusters have weathered their share of highs and lows. I’m pleased to say that Spirits Unleashed is definitely a high, if, and that’s an important “if,” you have people to play with.

Bustin’ is Better Together

Chronologically, Spirits Unleashed takes place after the most recent film, Afterlife. Some of the OG ‘Busters have set up shop in the old firehouse, ready to train a new generation of proton pack-wielding ghost-hunters.

After customizing my own recruit from a list of delightfully zany hairstyles, I’m treated to a brief tutorial on how to bust ghosts.

The game plays out in a series of multiplayer matches — or entirely with bots, if needed. Four ghostbusters square off against a single ghost within a confined urban location, such as a subway station, hotel, or museum.

The ghost’s job is to haunt the location by animating objects and scaring people. The Ghostbusters’ jobs are to hunt and destroy ghost rifts, calm people down, find the ghost, and trap it using the iconic ghost trap and tether gun.

The controls take a bit of getting used to. Ghostbusters have to swap between the PKE meter, which allows them to track the ghost and the ghost rifts, and their tether gun, which destroys lesser ghosts and binds the main ghost.

Juggling all the equipment and tasks is purposefully cumbersome, making teamwork is critically important. Unless a ghostbuster is much more skilled, a ghost can typically evade or disable a single ghostbuster. But multiple ‘busters can tag-team by tracking the ghost, throwing out ghost traps, and combining their tethers. Chaotic coordination creates delightful multiplayer shouting I haven’t heard from my family since the days of Overcooked, and that’s high praise!

Spirits Unleashed also benefits from having a story. Don’t expect as much as a single-player adventure, such as 2009’s Ghostbusters: The Video Game (which writer and actor Dan Aykroyd described as the third film). But I appreciated the attempt at establishing an ongoing storyline between missions, and the fun mix of new and old characters, especially alums Aykroyd as Ray and Ernie Hudson as Winston.

Ain’t Afraid

On the other end of the rift is the ghost. For the first time in the long-running series, you can play as a ghost attacking other ghostbusters! Asymmetrical multiplayer games are tricky to pull off without balance issues, but Spirits Unleashed may be the best example I’ve seen.

Ghosts come in several different classes, only one of which is available at the start. Ghosts, like additional weapon types, are unlocked by earning XP through completing matches as well as various challenges. Unlocking new ghosts and their variants are awesome; unlocking new costume pieces for ‘busters is okay; unlocking incremental upgrades for every single piece of gear is mostly boring.

Thankfully, playing a ghost is anything but boring. For starters, ghosts are always flying! They can dash, fly through walls, and possess almost any object to hide and recharge their energy. Just being in a room increases the haunt rating, but remaining in a single location risks being found.

What unfurls is a thrilling cat and mouse match that most asymmetrical multiplayer games only dream of.

Both teams are fighting against the clock. Ghostbusters cannot be permanently defeated, but can be slowed, confused, disabled, and divided.

To prevent the ghost from being caught and trapped too early, every ghost gets three ghost rifts that act as respawn points or extra lives. ‘Busters can find and destroy these, just as the ghost can defend them, creating some colorful hotspots of destruction.

The Rating

Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed is rated E10+, which feels about right for the silly-yet-fun series. Early Ghosts aren’t particularly scary, resembling the old toys I used to play with as a kid, but some later ghosts are spookier than others. There’s no blood, gore, or harsh language.

The Takeaway

Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed is a joy for fans of the franchise, and easily one of the best Ghostbusters games ever made (which is not saying much, unfortunately).

The experience suffers from a lower budget, unattractive UI (clearly a PC port slapped onto the Switch), and some visual glitches and hiccups, particularly during cutscenes. But with a group of nostalgic friends (or the next generation of ghost-curious kids!), Spirits Unleashed will definitely make you feel good.

This article was written by

Eric has been writing for over nine years with bylines at Dicebreaker, Pixelkin, Polygon, PC Gamer, Tabletop Gaming magazine, and more covering movies, TV shows, video games, tabletop games, and tech. He reviews and live streams D&D adventures every week on his YouTube channel. He also makes a mean tuna quesadilla.