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You need to check out this PS2 hidden gem that’s now on PS Plus

Ghosts attack a man in Ghosthunter.

At long last, Sony has started adding more PlayStation 2 games to its classic catalog on PlayStation Plus. The first batch included Sly Cooper and Tomb Raider: Legend as the big names, and while the prospect of diving back into Sly was incredibly tantalizing, it was a title on the list I had never heard of that roused my curiosity.

Alongside Sly, I hit download on the curious game called Ghosthunter and booted it up to see if it was just padding out the collection or if it was a major blind spot in my PS2 knowledge. The third-person shooter was created by SCE Studio Cambridge, which briefly became a sister studio to Guerrilla Games before shutting down in 2017. As it turns out, it’s a piece of PlayStation history worth exploring. While it certainly has its issues, Ghosthunter isn’t afraid to be experimental and weird. It feels like a true cult classic that never found its supporters in its day and prime to gain that status all these years later.

I ain’t afraid of no ghost

The first thing you’ll notice about Ghosthunter is how well it holds up graphically. Coming out in 2004 in North America, this was the tail-end of the PS2’s lifecycle and it shows in terms of how well the lighting, character models, and animations of the era have aged. The very first cutscene is about the most early-2000s scene you could imagine, complete with a hooded figure pulling out two sci-fi guns and shooting giant skeleton soldiers in slow-motion backed by thumping club music. It’s very much Matrix-inspired and, while corny, put me in the perfect mindset for the experience ahead of me.

Ghosthunter wastes no time getting you into the game. After a quick introduction to Lazarus Jones — a name that could only exist in this era of games — you are given a gun and a special Capture Grenade. The gameplay boils down like this: encounter a ghost, shoot it with either a traditional or energy weapon, and throw a disc-like Capture Grenade at it to trap it. I can stick the grenade to the ghost at any time to see its “health” bar to know how much damage I need to do to capture it, though some ghosts and bosses require different strategies. There’s no denying the flow of combat is clunky, specifically the transition between “running around mode” and combat mode where you can actually shoot. Players can at least alleviate some of the awkward control pains thanks to the new tools these ports include.

Lazarus shining a light into a crime scene.
SCE Cambridge

Where Ghosthunter feels most fresh is in its puzzles and the second character called Astral. At specific points, players can summon a ghost companion to fly around environments and reach areas Lazarus can’t. She can’t fight, but if players capture enough of specific kinds of ghosts then they unlock new abilities for Astral, such as luring other ghosts around, traversing through specific points in walls and ceilings, and manipulating objects to solve puzzles. Just like combat, no puzzle is all that taxing to figure out or solve, but the paranormal twist on how I approach and solve them feels fresh.

Similarly, level design is one of Ghosthunter‘s strong suits. Levels are almost completely linear affairs, but the impressive graphics and lighting (especially when using a gun’s flashlight attachment) make Lazarus’ slightly slow run speed tolerable. Aside from a swamp area overstaying its welcome a bit too long, the environments are all distinct. This is especially true when the game embraces the bizarre and creates impossible spaces.

This game’s brevity would have been a negative when it was first released, but it might be one of its greatest strengths on PSN in 2024. The combat, puzzle solving, and exploration are all solid, but nothing mind-blowing or so exemplary that it demands more than the about 10 hours it takes to complete. It gets in, doles out new toys and sights at a nice pace, and doesn’t overstay its welcome once it runs out.

I won’t get into spoilers, but there’s one moment near the game’s ending that threw me for a genuine loop for a few moments that I am shocked doesn’t get talked about more — not so much for what it does, but when it did it.

PlayStation Plus Premium’s classic game offerings have had a slow time ramping up. We’re only now (hopefully) seeing a return of PS2 games being added to the catalog, and games like Ghosthunter are exactly the kind I want to see. Sure, we all say we want the big titles from our childhoods, but finding a game like Ghosthunter feels like reliving a piece of nostalgia I didn’t know I had.

If you love this era of games, Ghosthunter is the perfect hidden gem to take you back to that simpler time in gaming.

Jesse Lennox
Jesse Lennox loves writing, games, and complaining about not having time to write and play games. He knows the names of more…
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