Spirit Hunters Inc. Hands-On

We scan our surroundings and discover hidden ghosts in Nnooo's augmented-reality DSiWare game.

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Spirit Hunters Inc: Shadow
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Few games have managed to make good use of the two cameras Nintendo packed into its DSi. Aussie game developer Nnooo! plans to change all that later this year with the release of Spirit Hunters Inc., an augmented-reality game that uses the handheld’s two cameras to superimpose enemies over real-life backgrounds.

The premise behind Spirit Hunters Inc. is fairly simple: You point your Nintendo DSi camera around the area that you’re in and find ghosts. Creative director Nic Watts explained to us during a recent hands-on session that the game scans the area using the images from the camera and makes a spherelike map of the room. From there, it hides ghosts in various locations on the map, getting you to pan the camera left and right to uncover enemies. In the build that we played, there was only one ghost per location, but Watts told us that they plan to have multiple enemies per area, although you’ll only be taking one enemy on at a time.

Ghosts are famous outlaws in the world of Spirit Hunters.
Ghosts are famous outlaws in the world of Spirit Hunters.

If you can imagine Ghostbusters with an EyeToy: Play-like feel to it, you’ve probably got a fairly good indication of what to expect. You play as a ghost hunter, who works for a company called Spirit Hunters Inc., and it’s your job to track down ghosts in the area to destroy them. Finding ghosts is a relatively easy task because all you need to do is scan the camera around until you find one, but they don’t always attack you immediately. Depending on the level and aggressiveness of the ghost, you may have to provoke your foe with a few taps of the stylus before the fight starts.

To help you combat those stuck in the spirit world, weapons have been divided into six elements: fire, water, ice, shadow, light, and fungus, with each having various strengths or weaknesses against different ghosts. At this stage in development, only fire and water elements were playable, so we faced off against enemies that were susceptible to damage from either element. Fire seemed to be a more direct-attack element, allowing us to punch the ghosts with a flaming fist or hurl fireballs their way by dragging the stylus across the screen then releasing just before impact. Water, on the other hand, was more useful for trapping or slowing down enemies. Attacks like the ice burst had us tapping on the ghost and would slow it down to chip away at its health bar while it remained in the area. Each attack has a cooldown time before you can reuse it, with lighter attacks recharging quickly and the heavier attacks taking longer. Poor aim with a heavy attack can spell the end of your battle.

Once you’ve dished out a certain amount of damage to the ghost, you’re presented with the choice to either capture or kill it. If you capture it, you’ll get fewer experience points but more cash, which can be used at the Spirit Hunters Inc. menu. If you decide to wipe your foe’s spirit out once and for all, you will earn more XP but less cash. Cash and XP can be put toward unlocking abilities or weapons in the skill tree.

Spirit Hunters Inc. will be launching in two different versions: Spirit Hunters Inc.: Shadow and Spirit Hunters Inc.: Light. While the core game will remain the same, there will be some ghosts and abilities specific to each title. Although Spirit Hunters Inc. is far from completion, from what we’ve seen so far, the core mechanics of the game are fun. And if the developers can get the rest of the game up to that standard, it could become as addictive as other catch-and-fight games like Pokemon or Monster Hunter.

Stay tuned to GameSpot for more details on Spirit Hunters Inc. during the Electronic Entertainment Expo and in the lead-up to its late third quarter release.

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