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Be very, very quiet -- We're hunting ghosts

By Sid Lipsey
CNN Headline News

The ghosts you're chasing in "Ghosthunter" are mean, violent and definitely do not want to be captured.
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(CNN) -- The movie "Ghostbusters" is loads of silly fun. But hunting ghosts is serious business and you'll have to treat it as such in "Ghosthunter," Namco's ghoulish new action-adventure game for the PlayStation 2.

In this game, you assume the role of Lazarus Jones, a Detroit cop who, along with his partner Anna Steele, are sent to investigate an abandoned high school with a mysterious past. When Lazarus stumbles upon a laboratory hidden within the school, he carelessly pushes a button that releases a horde of pesky poltergeists (a mistake that anyone who's seen "Ghostbusters" would know not to make).

Before you can say, "I see dead people," one of the newly liberated ghosts abducts Anna, another enters Lazarus, and the rest scatter about to wreak havoc. You and Lazarus are sent to find Anna and clean up the inter-dimensional mess Lazarus has created.

Fortunately, you'll have plenty of help during your supernatural mop-up job. A computerized guide talks you through the basics of ghost hunting. And, fortunately for Lazarus, the ghost that fused with him in the initial mishap is not only helpful, but it's also hot, young and female (video game creators definitely know their target demographic). This spirit, named Astral, allows Lazarus to see into the ghost realm. She can also go into places that only a free-floating spirit can: under water, across chasms, etc. Together, you pursue ghosts through a variety of locales, including an Alcatraz-like prison, a sunken ship and a literal ghost town.

The ghosts you're chasing aren't friendly like Casper: they're mean, violent and definitely do not want to be captured -- and some of them will illustrate that point of view by shooting at you. You're armed with high-tech lasers and other weapons that weaken the ghosts enough for you to snare them. Lazarus also carries traditional police-issue firearms that, strangely enough, ALSO work on ghosts. (If only the guys from "Ghostbusters" had known that; instead of hauling around expensive nuclear-powered lasers on their backs, Bill Murray and the gang could have just used Glocks from their favorite gun store!)

"Ghosthunter" plays very much like your standard third-person shooter. Lazarus operates in one of three action modes that you access with the push of a button: "Hunting Mode," where Lazarus walks with his weapon drawn; "First Person View," which gives him a sweeping view of his surroundings; and "Run Around Mode," which is exactly like it sounds. Switching between the three modes (and between characters, as you control Astral's movements as well) is easy enough. But when you first start playing, certain limitations -- like the inability to move in a crouching position while firing -- can be annoying until you get used to them.

"Ghosthunter's" well-detailed locales and eerie music score add a nice, spooky tone to the game. Whereas most shooters derive their appeal from a constant barrage of ballistics and adrenaline, "Ghosthunter's" thrills are more of the creepy variety. Not to say the game doesn't have its humorous moments. But just don't let them distract you or you may just fail in your mission -- or even become a ghost yourself.


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