Bustin' doesn't make me feel good.
You may know DSiWare developer Nnooo for its multitude of multicolored My Notebook apps, but with Spirit Hunters Inc, they’re clearly attempting to break their self-created mold and make something, well, interesting. Unfortunately, Spirit Hunters is not that game, and ends up being more a chore to play than they may have hoped, despite some promising ideas.
Starting up Spirit Hunters launches your poltergeist-catching career. You take a picture of yourself, enter a name, and choose your elemental affiliation from a selection including ice, fire and… fungus. Yes, fungus. Each is weak to certain elements, strong to others, and has its own unique attacks, which you can purchase as the game goes on. But none of that is of much importance in this game. It’s clearly meant to be, but ends up being an afterthought.
You job is to hunt ghosts in your environment by moving the DSi or 3DS around until you see a swirling cloud. Tapping the cloud releases a ghost into your house, and begins the tedium. The ghost moves around you in fake 3D space. Thankfully, an on-screen indicator tells you where to point the system. When the ghost comes into view, you must tap a weapon from your item list (displayed as a bar of icons on the touch screen) and then tap the ghost. You can’t just tap the ghost—you have to tap a weapon first, even if you only have one weapon. That’s the first irritation. The second is that the ghost doesn’t react to being tapped. If it’s charging an attack animation, for instance, tapping the ghost won’t interrupt it. That’s the second irritation. The third, most fatal annoyance is that there’s no way to block, and simply moving the ghost off-screen (by moving the system) won’t avoid attacks either, since all the ghosts seem to attack with projectiles and, after all, it is rotating around you.
But if you tap the ghost enough and tap your health restore item a few times, every ghost goes down more or less the same way. If the ghost has a type advantage, you’ll take more damage and it will take less, but if you tap the thing with enough zeal, it will die. Oh, that brings up another irritation: your weapons, even your weakest starter weapon, have cool-down times. So really, you have to tap the weapon, then the ghost, then wait, then repeat.
Defeating ghosts nets you experience and money, which you can use to buy more weapons from the store. The ghosts also go in a sort of “ghost Pokédex” in which you can read about these fallen spirits. Unfortunately, all 96 ghosts look pretty much the same, just dressed up in different colors and expressions. Once you’re satisfied with your purchases and have read about the ghost you just exorcized, you start scanning the room again, and the process repeats. Oh sure, there are different weapons and powers that require different inputs—tapping, swiping, rubbing, holding—but I wouldn’t say it livens up the experience. As it currently stands, Spirit Hunters is a tedious game that’s really not much fun.
And it’s a shame, too, but Spirit Hunters—like Spirit Camera before it—has some interesting ideas that just don’t play out. The problem with that Fatal Frame game was that too much of it was tied to the darn AR book, but the combat was actually interesting because Fatal Frame’s combat is surprisingly deep. Here, though, you’re just tapping things forever. The ghosts are more adorable than scary, and there’s no overarching storyline. Your job is to fill a ghost Pokédex. Even the Ghostbusters, in 1984, moved up from a ghostly librarian to Slimer to, eventually, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Maybe Spirit Hunters needs a Proton Pack and a ghost trap, but it sure isn’t impressive in its current state.