Phasmophobia opened the door for an entirely new genre of gaming. One that pit players against the worst of the spirit realm. Ghost hunting games have become a craze, with Steam titles seemingly released monthly, and Ghost Watchers is one of the latest in this budding genre. Though it borrows a lot from the flagship title that started this all, developer Renderise clearly aimed to rectify some of Phasmophobia’s shortcomings. 

The concept is very similar – the titular watchers arrive on the scene of an active haunting in a truck filled to the brim with equipment. The staples are still there, including an EMF meter, thermometer, cameras, and flashlights (though the designs are far more elaborate than we’ve previously seen). This time around, players are equipped with equipment designed specifically to combat and tick off the ghost. Three types of salt, silver and gold bombs, crosses, Christ statues, holy water, and some tools that would make Zak Bagans blush all aim to protect from frequent attacks. The catch? Not every tool works against every type of ghost.

Whereas Phasmophobia has a journal full of ghost types, Ghost Watchers simplifies things down to a handful. What differs are the ghost’s attributes, such as whether it’s calm or angry and ancient or young. These traits determine how to both protect from the spirit and ultimately capture it. That’s right, Ghost Watchers is a bit of a misnomer as you’re not just here to observe. Sitting at the head of your truck is an advanced device used to trap the ghost once it’s been weakened. And though trapping isn’t required before leaving the site, it does yield a decent amount of experience and money.

But before you can trap a ghost, you have to know how to weaken it. To know how to weaken it, you have to know everything about it. This is where your base-level ghost hunting equipment comes into play. You’ll scour the location with your EMF meter, radio, UV light, Ouija board, voodoo doll, and more to collect evidence and fill in the blanks. Gathering evidence in Ghost Watchers is a bit complicated as the ghost isn’t bound to one room and some tools, like the particle counter, require you to stay near the ghost while it calculates data. With the ghost constantly on the move and obnoxiously capable of dragging you to different parts of the house without warning, things can get a little dicey very quickly.

I only played the game’s single-player, which is identical to the multiplayer (just lonelier), and can say that gathering every bit of evidence on your own can be a nightmare. During one hunt at the police station, I followed a gas mask-wearing ghost child around for far too long just to catch a footprint with the UV light. You may be able to get away with not gathering every bit of evidence once you’re more familiar with the game and ghost patterns, but you’re always going to be gambling using the wrong protection device and not having the proper steps to capture the spirit. 

There’s no room for error in Ghost Watchers, especially if you’re not a fan of jump scares and random noise spikes. Whereas Phasmophobia was a little more subtle with its scares, Ghost Watchers is not shy. Renderise falls just short of Phasmo’s atmosphere, and instead relies more on jump scares and an overly present ghost to keep players on edge. You’re going to see more of the apparition as it roams the house, occasionally materializing to give a quick fright. It’s definitely eerie watching the ghost float around, but you almost get used to its presence after a while. Of course, it helps that there’s a sound cue every time it materializes.

Ghost Watchers changes up the hunting mechanic a bit, swapping out the game of hide ‘n seek from Phasmo for something a little more perilous. If you’re caught inside when the hunt ends, unless you’re carrying the right protective item or have salt or a bomb, the ghost is going to pop up onto your screen and kill you. Again, this is startling the first two times it happens, but it’s bound to happen so frequently that it loses its impact. While in Phasmophobia you’re never really guaranteed to see the ghost, Ghost Watchers goes out of its way to make sure the creepy models of each haunt type don’t go to waste.

Still in early access, there is plenty of room for Ghost Watchers to grow, and some indications in the Training area suggest more ghosts are planned. For now, though, it’s a fun twist on a familiar formula with the potential to be something truly terrifying and challenging. As it stands, it’s easy to get accustomed to the ghost’s attacks, and the bevy of protective items minimizes the threat. In the many games I played, the one time I died was because of a game glitch, and after the first two games, I never felt like I was in any real danger. 

Ghost Watchers shows promise of being the game that surpasses Phasmophobia in every way. But as it stands, it’s definitely a somewhat unique take on the genre that fans of Phasmo should give a try.