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Backlog Twosome | Phasmophobia

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There’s truly nothing more precious in life than spending time with loved ones. Maybe you all love watching movies together, or trying different restaurants, or just sitting around the kitchen table reminiscing about the good ole days. Or maybe you enjoy exploring haunted, abandoned prisons and asylums together while screaming bloody blue murder whenever a banshee growls directly in your ear. Or maybe throwing things in a blind panic when your brother in law decides to dance around and antagonize the demon you’ve been hunting because you know it won’t kill him, it’ll turn around and kill you instead! Ah yes, such treasured memories! 

That my dear backloggers is what family is all about! And coincidentally that’s what Phasmophobia by Kinetic Games is all about too! Gearing up, heading out, and finding out how good your bladder control is because there are no pee breaks in ghost hunting! We played the VR version, the PC version, and played with one, two, three, and even four players in this ghostly game, so put down those EMF readers and buckle up for one heck of a ride!

I’d heard all the buzz about Phasmophobia when it was first released into early access, but really didn’t pay any mind since our PC at the time was crap and we didn’t yet have a VR system. Once we upgraded the ole compy though and got ourselves a VR, my brother in law insisted we get Phasmophobia and play it with him. Needless to say it quickly became an obsession and I’m not gonna lie, it scared the metaphorical pants off me more than once.

I’ve always been fascinated with the whole paranormal investigator schtick. You know, locking yourself in an abandoned school house after dusk with a group of your friends, trying to get whatever lurks in its dark corners to give you a sign. Except in a more professional capacity. Of course, I’ve never truly had an opportunity to tinker with things like spirit boxes, or EMF readers, but being able to experience it first hand would be so cool!

So, when I heard there was a game that let you simulate hunting for ghosts, and getting your pants scared off of you, I was all the way in. Doubly so when it turned out we could try this infamous game, Phasmophobia, in VR. It was literally the next best thing to actually doing it. That, and I was more likely to find some honest to goodness ghosts to raise my blood pressure.

With Phasmophobia still being in early access, it’s difficult to dive too deeply into analyzing what it does right and what it does wrong, since many things may change before it’s full retail release. What I can say, from what we’ve played so far however, is that it has tons of potential! Especially in VR, the act of exploring each new area is extremely immersive, and you’re genuinely scared to turn each corner as you try to figure out what kind of ghost you’re dealing with.

That and there’s something truly inspired about being able to turn on the spirit box, speak into it, and actually getting a response. Or maybe hearing doors opening and closing, shining a UV light on the location in question, and seeing hand prints! It also helps, being in VR, that I can carry these things around and use them as if I were truly in that space, holding the equipment in my own hands.

Nonetheless, since Phasmophobia is still in development, some of these things may not work exactly as advertised, 100% of the time, but that doesn’t keep it from being wildly addicting to play, especially when you get a group of friends together!

As far as horror games go this is one top notch example. What it lacks in blood, gore, and sketchy fighting mechanics, it more than makes up for with its terrifying and claustrophobic atmosphere (whether you’re in VR or not), interesting puzzle aspects, and fantastic multiplayer cooperation. There aren’t many horror games that I can think of where you can play with a group of friends and still feel genuinely scared stiff even with them standing right next to you! Also, the fact that the devs have achieved so much despite the game still being in early access is incredibly impressive and they apparently have a whole bunch more planned upon release.

VR in this game unfortunately makes my stomach churn so I played strictly on my PC. It’s easy enough to see the many advantages that my headset wearing companions have over me though. They have the use of two hands in the game and a belt that can hold four items. They can just lift their hand to their face to use the walkie talkies and they have the luxury of being much more precise when placing things down like the ghost writing book or the video camera. A lot of these things would definitely prevent me from ever wanting to play by myself, so I really hope that the non-VR version gets some love, at least after release. I understand that the VR version will always have some advantages, but I hope the gap gets closed at least somewhat.

Other than that, I love just about everything about Phasmophobia. I’ve played some scary games in my day, but honestly I’ve never been left feeling so unnerved prior to this game and I love it! There’s also that perfect level of jank that doesn’t necessarily cause a whole lot of frustrations, but will absolutely make you laugh until you cry. Like our friend not being tall enough to match the height of his chosen character model so his avatar’s legs are always bent at the knees while he’s walking around. Or seeing your dead comrades’ body parts sticking through the wall after the ghost mangles them. It’s honestly become an endearing part of the game. Nothing like a little unintentional humor to lighten the mood after having the life scared out of you!

Since Phasmophobia was so fun, and so addictive, one of the biggest gripes I had was there just wasn’t enough to go around! One extended play session, or a few short ones will pretty much cover everything the game has to offer. There are only seven areas to explore, and although they are distinct when it comes to their layout and size, it never felt like it actually gave you much variety. Plus, each of the ghosts you could potentially encounter are only different in the set of clues you need to discover in order to finish the mission. Solving this would be difficult though, and I think giving each ghost their own unique behaviors as well as possibly giving them a set of special sets of clues to uncover could be a great way to set them apart! I do appreciate however, that the devs give you a random set of optional objectives you can complete during each mission, that’ll net you some cash if you can accomplish them.

Like I mentioned earlier, Phasmophobia has a ton of potential, and I think the multiplayer aspects of the game are the biggest draw for it! Short of giving us more content to enjoy, I think doubling down on different multiplayer features would not only increase the fun, but give us more reasons to come back and play it again and again!

At its core, Phasmophobia was built to play with friends, and you can definitely see why! Although it may be scary to explore these spooky haunted residences by yourself, sharing the experience together made it that much more fun! Also, working together to figure out what ghost we were working with, even when we had to split up, was super rewarding! Plus, where would a paranormal investigator be, if they didn’t have someone to take a selfie next to your deceased body?

Phasmophobia is intended, for the most part, to be a cooperative experience, so playing it together was a natural choice. Any game where we each get to be our own character and aren’t waiting for the other to pass the controller is bound to be fun, however this game really hits the nail on the head when it comes to playing together with others whether you are using VR, PC, or a combination of the two.

Watching Patrick play by himself, while it still seemed fun and spooky, there were obvious struggles to being a lone ghost hunter. We quickly learned that the more people you have playing with you the better the overall experience. Even when playing a small map with four players and the ghost required everyone to be apart from one another, we could work together to figure out how to gather the needed evidence while in the room together, without actually being in the room together. Having each person take on the responsibility of bringing along a required piece of evidence makes doing the bigger maps a breeze too. Once someone hits the ghosts territory everyone else can converge and get the investigation underway without it taking forever to explore the building bit by bit.

Phasmophobia, even in its current unfinished state, gets our full recommendation. We had, and are still having, an absolute blast letting out our inner Zak Baggans and hunting down some ghosts together. So buy the game, support the devs and anxiously wait along with us until the next update or *gasp* the full release!

If you’re interested in checking out Phasmophobia, you can find it right now on Steam!