What is Phasmaphobia — the hit indie horror that blew up Twitch

Released in early access almost a month ago, the co-op indie horror Phasmophobia attracted the attention of many fans to tickle their nerves.

What is Phasmaphobia — the hit indie horror that blew up Twitch
Rating phasmaphobia 96% on steam and huge online - inexplicably, but a fact.

With 96% positive reviews, the game broke into the top 5 most highly rated representatives of the genre on Steam (along with Dead by Daylight, Outlast and Amnesia), and according to statistical portals, more than two million people have already played it. After a few hours in Phasmophobia, it is difficult to get rid of the feeling that the game received such strong support primarily for its original idea and rich potential. Since their implementation today leaves much to be desired.

In Phasmophobia, you are invited to act as a team of paranormal activity researchers in the company of up to four friends. The game is divided into short missions that are randomly generated and generally follow the same pattern. The team goes to some abandoned house where, using all sorts of sensors and other improvised means, they try to detect and identify the Ghost. Michael J. Fox's character in Peter Jackson's "Scarecrows" made something similar for a living, and in pseudo-documentary mystical TV movies like our "Inexplicably, but the fact" such a scenario is not uncommon. The inventory of Ghost hunters generally corresponds to the canonical ideas: you have to look for traces of an otherworldly presence with the help of a Ouija Board, thermometers, ultraviolet lights, and in case of danger, salt or a crucifix can save your life.

The ghosts here in the first minutes are in no hurry to attack, preferring mainly to flick switches and slam doors. Usually, this initial mission period is enough to complete the main task — to determine the type of paranormal creature. Each of them is distinguished by a unique set of features. Someone lowers the temperature to below zero, someone leaves footprints on the walls, someone breaks into negotiations on the radio. Compare three of these attributes and you're done. And then a risky game begins: hunters can be content with little and go home, or they can stay longer and try to complete additional tasks: for example, take a picture of a Ghost or stop its attack with the help of religious accessories. But with every minute spent in an abandoned house, the probability of adding to the list of victims is higher: ghosts do not like uninvited guests, especially if they are delayed.

Two important and unusual technical features of Phasmophobia should be noted. First, you can also play it in virtual reality devices. We didn't have the opportunity to test the VR mode personally, but judging by the reviews, it was quite competently executed, especially by the standards of an indie project. Second, Phasmophobia is a game where you need to talk. Keep this in mind if you want to try it out but don't have a microphone handy. Through in-game voice chat, communication is built not only between players, but also with ghosts. The game is able to recognize several dozen simple phrases, and, under certain conditions, the Ghost can respond to them. Unfortunately, while local ghosts perceive only English speech, but to touch the otherworldly, you don't have to be bilingual — even a strong accent will not prevent contact. Another thing is that when switching between English and Russian speech during the game, not only part of the immersiveness is lost, but also the mechanic. For example, according to the developer's idea, ghosts should often attack those who are afraid of them — read, use words like "scary"in speech. Domestic players are not in any danger, unless they themselves want to provoke an attack. Fortunately, work is already underway on recognizing other languages, and Russian is one of them.

Phasmophobia was not without technical flaws and controversial copyright decisions. Despite the fact that the overall sound design in the game is built quite competently (surround sound that echoes in the spacious corridors at first is even impressive, you should play strictly with headphones), the choice of some sound effects is, to put it mildly, questionable. Agree, there are few things that can destroy suspense more than a Ghost that responds to the call after a long and strenuous search with a loud belch. Perhaps, in the developer's mind, this sound should be frightening, but personally, when I first heard it,I burst out laughing. Ghost models that get stuck in interior items also do not contribute to immersion in a dark atmosphere, and character animations make you remember humorous videos created in Garry's Mode. It is also somewhat depressing that the death scene of your character will always look the same regardless of the type of Ghost and circumstances. When you see it for the first time, you may be startled, but in the future you will always be ready for it. But these are mostly unavoidable costs of the indie format and early access, which many are willing to turn a blind eye to. The key problem of Phasmophobia is much more serious.

The game has become popular with Twitch streamers and is able to generate a lot of fun and unique moments.

The main problem is that Ghost hunting, which seems exciting in theory, in fact very quickly turns into a routine-a word that should definitely not pop up when discussing high-quality horror. After just a few trips, you will get used to all the basic mechanics and game situations, remember all the features of ghosts, and the game will have nothing more to surprise you and, accordingly, scare you. As a result, the gameplay soon begins to have associations not with the classics of horror video games, but with the PayDay dilogy. Here you also have to perform approximately the same tasks over and over again in order to farm more money, which you can't spend on anything, but the lack of variety of game situations is much more noticeable. In order to maintain interest at a distance, Phasmophobia is sorely lacking in content. Locations, types of ghosts with unique features, ways to interact with them and the environment, interaction between teammates, and finally. It would seem that the cooperative orientation directly asks for mechanics that require the coordinated work of several team members at once, at least in the spirit of some Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes. There is nothing like this in the game. The most you can do here is take a picture of your partner's corpse to get some more useless currency.

Given the problems listed above, such a high rating of the Steam game is difficult to perceive otherwise than as an advance. In Phasmophobia, you can see the Foundation of a very unusual and interesting game, but will the developer be able to build something more based on it during the early access period? As long as this prospect seems illusory, the project can only be recommended to big fans of mystical themes, who have a couple of familiar like-minded people.