Ghostbusters World hands-on: We ain’t afraid of these AR ghosts

Ghostbusters World, a creation of FourThirtyThree, is spooking its way onto phones Monday, when it’ll be released on both iOS and Android. Several of us at CNET have been playing with an early beta version to see what it’s like to capture ghouls and ghosts while on the go.

We’ve crowdsourced our thoughts for this hands-on, but the short of it is that it’s very much like Niantic’s Pokemon Go with a few spirited tweaks.

Yes, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man is in Ghostbusters World.

Screenshot by Bryan VanGelder/CNET

Bryan VanGelder

The game is blatantly a Pokemon Go clone (which is neither a good nor a bad thing). But from the mechanics and arbitrary wait times to the progression and lingo (hatching ecto-orbs… really?), the experience is identical.

The things that stand out in GB World to me center on the lore. FourThirtyThree went to great lengths to establish a consistent look based on the current run of Ghosbusters comics being published by IDW and pull in a lot of meta-humor and cameos spanning the extent of Ghostbusters storydom.

Featuring references from the original movies, ghosts and critters from the “Real” cartoon series and even name-drops from the comics… it’s pretty satisfying and woven in seamlessly. Some of the writing is a little stilted, but a few solid jokes have slipped through in my limited playtime.     

The unique aspects include a much more developed, challenging and rewarding AR “capture” segment that requires a lot more skill than the rolling of dice that is throwing a Pokeball. Quick reaction times and resource monitoring actually come into play when catching ghosts, which is fun.


Yes, toilets can be ghosts in Ghostbusters World.

Screenshot by Bryan VanGelder/CNET

Beyond that core gameplay, there’s a unique story mode that takes you on an RPG-like quest (completely with ghosts powered by the four elements: earth, fire, wind, water) and this provides enough of a unique breakaway from the primary to keep things interesting, but also doesn’t really come across as all that essential and you can totally skip it if you’re not into it.

If you can get past the repetitive looping theme song (seriously, I love Ray Parker Jr. but can we get some variety in these Ghostbuster games?), this is kind of a no-brainer for any Ghost-head out there, and polished and fun enough for newbies too.

Oh, and I don’t want to give away too much but let’s just say one of my encounters included a ghost that was also one of my favorite toys from childhood.

Bridget Carey

After a couple days of playing, this feels more complex and involved than Pokemon Go, even if the core idea is exactly the same. Sure, catching creatures — er, ghosts — on the street isn’t original, but the game did keep me curious and hooked in with the writing and challenges of the story mode. There are plenty of haunted toasters and toilets, but it keeps you satisfied with appearances from classics like the Librarian and Zuul.

Also, forget trying to play causally on your commute if you’re a passenger in a car or train. It can tell if you’re moving in the middle of a fight and you’ll lose the ghost. Battles take more than just throwing a ball and luck. There were even a few times I had to walk to push a ghost into a trap.


The AR mode of Ghostbusters World is on by default, placing the ghosts you are trying to capture in your surroundings.

Ghostbusters World

Mike Sorrentino

Ghostbusters World is oozing Ghostbusters nostalgia, and I like that in some ways the game plays more like the core Pokemon games than Pokemon Go does. After capturing a few ghosts, the game lets you use them in a more RPG-like battle mode, which was a fun diversion from needing to physically run around to find more ghouls.

That said, I did run into a few bugs with this early version — the game wouldn’t even run on the Galaxy S6 Edge I first tried to install it on, but I was able to get it going on a Moto Z2 Play — so your mileage may vary depending on the type of phone you have.

Iyaz Akhtar

You’re probably going to read this a lot — if you’re familiar with Pokemon Go, you likely will be familiar with how to play Ghostbusters World. If not, you get to catch ghosts as you walk around your town. All of the ghosts you catch are visible in your Ghost Collection. Playing the game using the augmented reality mode — which was the default when I tested it — was lots of fun. It’s nice seeing the ghosts over familiar surroundings. Throwing a trap is pretty cool. It seems to land on solid objects like the ground, a shelf or even a rung on a ladder. Bringing the ghosts over the trap requires some effort for stronger ghosts, which brings a nice degree of change to each capture.

On the downside, the AR mode kills your phone’s battery quickly. With that mode turned off, I don’t find the game as fun with the cartoony world, which isn’t that appealing. Long load times also took me out of the game when I was ready to play.


Ghostbusters World also includes a story mode where your captured ghosts battle for you.

Ghostbusters World

Joan E. Solsman

Every time I tried to capture the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, the game crashed and shut down. I gave up after the fourth crash. If I can’t ghostbust Stay Puft, what point is there to ghostbusting?

Lexy Savvides

Much to my surprise, I still see people playing Pokemon Go on the bus, on the street and (please don’t do this) in the car. I don’t quite know why it has such staying power, so if you’re also as bemused as I am, maybe Ghostbusters isn’t for you. But if you are a Pokemon Go player, you’ll definitely want to check this out. Collecting the gloopy green things with ray guns and nets is fun for the first couple of minutes, but I can’t help feeling like I’ve done this all before.

Sean Keane

“Pokemon Go-stbusters” manages to set itself apart from Niantic’s game with slightly more aggressive combat mechanics — wrestling spooks into traps is quite satisfying. It’s definitely worth trying out if you’re a fan of the franchise.

I got it playing on my iPhone 7 without incident, and it ran pretty smoothly. Just make sure you don’t cross the streams.

First published Oct. 22, 2018 at 6 a.m. PT.
Update 2:14 p.m. PT: Adds more thoughts.

I tried Ghostbusters in full-suit, full-room VR, and it smelled like toasted marshmallows: We suited up for The Void’s Ghostbusters: Dimension.

AR and VR made simple: These technologies seem confusingly similar but are utterly different.

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