I went ghost hunting on the PS2 one last time

I continue to revisit all the horror games from my old game systems (still chipping away at the PlayStation 2 games), and this time it was Ghosthunter. I don’t even know how I managed to get through it the first time, because it’s much more of an action horror game than a survival horror…although, surviving is a helluva challenge.

You play as a hot early 2000s EMO detective investigating a murder with your female partner. You start in a school and immediately get separated. There are some semi-training missions to get you used to the clumsy controls. You have regular guns, but there isn’t loads of ammo to find, plus you fight ghosts mostly, so it feels like you should use the pulse gun that you soon get, which shoots energy beams. It requires replenishing energy regularly to work, and you do that by killing ghosts and then collecting the blue orbs that are released. But it’s a 2-step system. You shoot the enemies to weaken them, then you throw this boomerang grenade to help finish them off and “capture” them. I honestly was never sure when they were hurt enough to capture, so I would just shoot then toss the boomerang repeatedly until it worked (it gets stuck in them for short periods of time, which is an ideal chance to shoot away). You can also run right up to some enemies (walking monsters, and later, shooting ghost men) and shove the boomerang grenade inside them, plus you can use it after battles to summon energy orbs that are too far away to get yourself.

Replenishing your health is a matter of finding fire orbs that pop up in various locations. It’s not a very comforting health system at all, and you will find yourself aching for fire orbs as the game progresses. You can use the boomerang grenade to fetch these as well when they’re in impossible to reach locations.

Saving is cool. You hit checkpoints, and it says checkpoint on the screen to inform you. When this happens, just go into the menu, select save, and it saves at that checkpoint. Although you can’t save whenever you want like some survival horror games, the checkpoints are fairly frequent.

The game has a very sci-fi ghost plot, so you soon get an astral sidekick. You can summon her at certain hubs, and you then temporarily use her to do tasks your EMO guy can’t. You must be fast, because using her uses up your ghost energy bar. Sigh. She also has clumsy flying controls, which hurt your speed effort, but eventually you get a better grasp on them. She also gains different abilities, which have to be switched using the same type of on-screen menu you use to switch guns when you’re the EMO guy. You’ll need a walkthrough to figure out when and why to use which astral abilities, and it always involves unlocking your next path forward, as does every puzzle you solve in this game. This really is just a run and gun game at heart.

The game starts off basic—find, fetch, backtrack, fight. That changes when you get to a really annoying part where you have to get through a series of gates by waiting for a big fat floating ghost to open them. The challenge is that he gets spooked if he sees you, so you have to hide until he unlocks gates and goes through them, and then follow him. You can crouch and also press X to hug a wall, which is a very annoying ability that tends to get triggered when you’re trying to perform an action…which uses the X button also. Argh.

Next come tedious sections that are basically mazes you have to wind your way through while being shot at by sniper ghosts. You will find health orbs and energy orbs sorely lacking throughout all this (but enemies drop them when killed). At the same time, you have to search for dynamite to blow up new paths to continue forward, you have to follow more of those scaredy-cat ghosts to get through gates, and you have to use your astral girl to turn on switches to open up new areas.

As you get deeper into the game, as is common with these older titles, you won’t really know what you’re supposed to do without a walkthrough. I honestly don’t know how people even figured this shit out to write a walkthrough to begin with back in the day. For instance, there’s this whole mansion segment—fucking infuriating—in which you have to chase down and capture this ghost girl who jumps through green blobs in walls to transport to other rooms. You have to capture her spirit five fucking times, and the thing is, every time you chase her, rooms morph and doorways change their destinations, and the only way to capture her is when she’s vulnerable, which is as she recovers after teleporting. This leaves you with brief windows of opportunity to see her jump into a green glob, chase her to whatever room she ends up in, and then shoot her before she recovers. But there’s more. It’s not actually her you’re capturing. You need to shoot her to turn her into a giant teddy bear and then fight the teddy bear and capture that! Meanwhile, there are times when you can’t even start chasing her until you first fight and capture little boy ghosts that attack you. Argh.

The first boss doesn’t involve you actually killing the boss. There’s this giant alligator, and you have to shoot it in the belly several times so it spits out this giant goon. You then have to lure the goon to three different houses with porches so he’ll knock the porches down. How the fuck would you ever know this? But wait! The fight continues, and now you have to lure the alligator to the goon so they will fight each other! Keep doing this until they have low life bars, and then you can capture their souls.

The next chapter is annoying. You’re in a school, and you have to go into numerous rooms to expose and capture invisible poltergeists, sometimes fighting two at a time as they throw chairs, televisions, and other objects at you. The goal in each room is to figure out how to manipulate objects to create a smokescreen that allows you to see the poltergeists. In the meantime, you also have to battle the usual enemies in hallways. This section ends with a horrible boss battle in a theater. First there are numerous floating, flying ghosts shooting at you as you try to kill and capture them all, then you once again have to expose several poltergeist with smoke grenades and capture them. This is so purely an action fighting segment that it can become very frustrating.

Next segment is on a boat using tanks to shoot out doors and progressing through hordes of ghost military men, some with Gatling guns. That’s followed by a challenge of having to get past huge tentacles that latch onto you if you don’t walk slow, crouch, and remain out of sight. Exhausting. The goal is to trigger detonators to blow up the tentacles, and sometimes you have to first collect dynamite to place near the tentacles before you can trigger the detonator.

After that you have to work your way down platforms, monkey bars, and ladders in a round room. In the middle of that you have to use your astral girl for a super confusing task that involves closing a door and turning on a water pump. It’s a horrible maze to have to deal with when you don’t know what you’re doing and don’t have an unlimited amount of ghost energy to keep her going.

Next there are more tentacles and a task that requires running over various catwalks to release some prisoners.

And finally you get to the nightmarish boat boss battle. It’s this huge monster in a ballroom, and while it swipes at you and shoots at you, you have to shoot little bombs a tank is shooting into him. You can’t see the bombs, so you have to depend on your target reticule turning red. When you do shoot a bomb, the monster releases a spirit that you have to shoot and capture…all while running around the giant boss that is attacking you and blocking your target. You need to do this three damn times to defeat the boss.

Then it’s on to a prison complete with ghost prison guards carrying guns. Ugh. The astral girl has now gained a possession ability, which you will put to use several times, having her possess ghosts (huh?) to perform actions to open the way forward for you. She will also once again get into a ridiculously maze-like section that is sure to see you running out of ghost energy if you don’t follow a walkthrough to get through it quickly.

You also have new obstacles to carefully time your way past…steam pipes and fan blades. You’re crouched while you’re going through this little death trap, and the camera angles are horrendous.

You then have to jump through prison cells using certain items to bring you to a virtual house where you have to find new items to open portals in other prison cells to reach other areas of the house to complete your objective. Again…walkthrough!

Next you fight an electrified boss. TWICE. First time isn’t so bad, but the second time he’s surrounded by generators, and wouldn’t you know they let him regenerate. The goal is to blow out the switch boxes on the sides of the generators…while he’s kicking your ass and getting in the way of your target…so that he becomes vulnerable and you can finally kill him.

After that boss you work your way through a junk yard killing more poltergeists. This ends with a giant boss made of junked cars. But you don’t shoot him. No. You have to use special binoculars in first person mode to see four poltergeists on his body, and kill and capture them one at a time. Thing is, you can’t move while in first person mode. Curses! Even worse, one of the poltergeists is attached to his back, and you have to run through his legs, turn around, go into first person mode, turn on the binoculars to see the poltergeist, then aim, shoot it, and capture it before the boss turns around, which he pretty much does immediately. I highly suggest getting yourself a Codebreaker or you will be quitting the game at this point. There are a few built-in button sequence codes available for this game, but they’re pretty useless.

On to the military base, which has you running through endless rooms and corridors following and protecting a guy from numerous ghosts, and you have to kill and capture them all to move forward. Plus, sometimes the guy runs ahead of you and you can’t find him when you’re done fighting!

Suddenly you get to his point where you are shot in a cutscene, and the main menu seems to come up, making you think you’re dead and the game has ended, but it’s not over yet! You’re thrown back into the game, now playing as a MECH! It’s so annoying. You just have to roam around shooting ghosts in first person mode until you reach a cutscene. Then your character suddenly turns astral and you have to fly around, up, and down all the pipes and will have no idea where you’re going unless you use a walkthrough. This eventually leads you to the final boss.

This game takes the lazy final boss route. You have to simply fight hordes of the same enemies you’ve been fighting all along. Sorry, but without a cheat system you would probably never make it past this part. There are loads of different enemies, and they overlap instead of coming in waves. Plus, many of them shoot at you. The only bright side is that although this takes place on platforms, this game doesn’t allow you to fall of the edges. Yay.

After you get through all the old enemies, you have to just shoot the main boss—who has been flying around you the whole time but been untouchable—until you take out his life bar.

Game over…and up for sale on eBay if you want it.

About Daniel

I am the author of the horror anthologies CLOSET MONSTERS: ZOMBIED OUT AND TALES OF GOTHROTICA and HORNY DEVILS, and the horror novels COMBUSTION and NO PLACE FOR LITTLE ONES. I am also the founder of BOYS, BEARS & SCARES, a facebook page for gay male horror fans! Check it out and like it at www.facebook.com/BoysBearsandScares.
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