Review: GhostControl Inc. – Paranormal Isometric Strategy

GhostControl screenshot - restaurant
Review: GhostControl Inc. – Paranormal Isometric Strategy

Platforms: Windows PC, Mac, Linux, Desura, Steam

Game Name: GhostControl Inc.

Publisher: Application Systems Heidelberg

Developer: Bumblebee.

Genre: Turned-based strategy, simulation

Release Date: June 6, 2014

GhostControl Inc. – What We Think:

When there’s something strange in your neighborhood, call GhostControl Inc. because it’s good for business and I need the money. GhostControl Inc., is a turned-based isometric strategy combat game that is also about creating and managing a successful ghost hunting business. As a concept, it has the potential to be a fun and new experience. So let’s take these ghosts down while managing our budget. Trust me, it’s easier said than done.

GhostControl screenshot - City

When you start the game, you can create a simplified character and name your ghost hunting business. You start off with a good tutorial explaining everything from the city map, to the real-time clock, to combat. The main goal of the game is to create a successful ghost hunting business by earning money and completing objectives. You will always have one objective active at a time which will pop up and challenge you to “Earn X amount of money” or “Buy a better vehicle.”

Such simple objectives do a good job of easing you into the game and in turn advance the difficulty of the game and unlock new things to purchase.

I Love This Town

The city map is open from the start and you are able to drive to landmarks indicated on the map – gas stations, a hospital, places to buy equipment. On the city map you can enter your HQ, which is a place where you can store your caught ghosts, hire new ghost hunters for your company, manage equipment, and save the game. Later on you can build areas in your HQ that can help upgrade equipment or train off-duty ghost-hunters.

GhostControl screenshot - restaurant

Ghost of a Chance

Combat missions pop up as in-game phone calls by city residents. They will ring you up about their paranormal problem and you can either accept or decline. You’ll quickly find that missions lack varying levels of difficulty. It seems – depending on how many objectives you completed – missions will stay at the same difficulty level regardless of your progress. Missions you decide to embark on have no difficulty indicators either; offering a variety of challenge levels might have made the game more enjoyable since I could have decided to tackle a difficult mission and then an easier one right after to save some time and money.

The combat in GhostControl Inc. feels like a more simplified version of a turned-based strategy RPG. It’s akin to games like Fallout or XCOM: Enemy Within wherein you and your enemies have a certain amount of Action Points before you have to end your turn. Your character’s stats will permanently increase automatically after combat. Although the combat is simplified and not stat reliant, it works well and it’s one of the strongest aspects of the game. It helps make the game more approachable and less intimidating. The oversimplification will leave enthusiasts of the genre wanting more since the combat doesn’t offer enough interesting offensive or defensive abilities or considerations.

GhostControl screenshot - park

Combat occurs in environments that range from restaurants, residential spaces, parks, and tube stations. The environments aren’t varied enough as you’ll encounter the same layouts time after time. Furthermore, there aren’t any sufficiently large spaces for you to plan out your combat positioning; maps tended to feel too cramped and cluttered, thus obscuring too much of the playing field.

If You’re Seeing Things Runnin’ Through Your Head

The game’s overall enjoyment is hindered by the camera. I ended up having to hide all the walls and objects using the Shift key just to get a good sense of where the enemies were. The game doesn’t do a good enough job of automatically hiding the environment and, the problem with toggling the hiding the walls and objects “on,” is not knowing if things like a desk or a chair are blocking your path. Another problem with the camera is that it cannot be moved very well. You can zoom in or out using the mouse wheel just fine, but moving the camera up, down, left, or right using the arrow keys or WASD is extremely slow or often times just unresponsive.

GhostControl screenshot - characters

Graphically the game sports a retro treatment that pays worthy homage its progenitors in the genre. Environments are detailed, but male and female character sprites could have used more variety. There is only one male and one female character sprite, so characters of the same gender will look the same regardless what their portrait may be or what they are wearing. It fits with the retro aesthetic, but it would have been nice to have more options to play with. The ghosts models are more eclectic and thus added some novelty to the proceedings. The animation is quite provisional, perhaps hiding behind the safety wall of “retro.”

Haunted By Bills?

Catching ghosts is a costly business and requires a heck of a lot of money management. The game has a built in economy, and everything will require that you reach for your virtual wallet: Gas for your car, new equipment and vehicles, healing your ghost hunters at a hospital – all require money which is earned solely buy catching ghosts. You have to carefully your assets to ensure that you have enough gas and cash by the end of the week to pay your team members and HQ rent.

It can become overwhelming and stressful until you get a handle on things buy creating a routine. After completing a mission, my routine included: Driving to HQ to empty my ghost traps, drive to the hospital to heal my team, drive to a gas station to fill my car’s tank. Rinse and repeating this made me a successful ghost hunter…up to a certain point.

GhostControl screenshot - towed

A Ghost of My Former Self

Six hours in, the game starts throwing out tougher ghosts to capture and battle. Missions that were once manageable, all of a sudden become too difficult. The difficulty spiked all of a sudden as a ghost had 30+ hit points when before you were dealing with ghosts that had 10-20 hit points. My team members were suddenly not nearly strong enough to fight these new mozzies. I had situations where my hunters would lose too much Sanity and become panicked by these stronger ghosts, which meant that they’d leave the mission altogether. This would always lead to me failing the mission.

Failing a mission deducts money from your current funds based on the amount of damage the ghosts have caused. Once that happened I had to spend gas to drive to the hospital and pay to heal my team members, (which usually costs somewhere between $1000 to $3000 depending on how hurt they are.) The game felt unbalanced at this point and I quickly saw my ghost hunting company crash and burn because of the surprising spike in difficulty.

Crossed Streams

GhostControl Inc. is full of fun and great ideas, but it’s really rough around the edges. The balancing issues turns it into a frustrating experience, and the camera issues hinder the moment-to-moment gameplay. These glaring issues negatively affect the game. With more polish the game has the potential to be great, but as it stands, GhostControl Inc. provides a decent experience that won’t hold your attention for the long haul.

GhostControl inc. – official website