"I'm having a 1v1 with a trash bin," Midnight Ghost Hunt game director Samuel Malone says between laughter during my hands-on preview. I'm playing the 4v4 ghost hunting prop hunt game from Vaulted Sky Games and Coffee Stain Publishing alongside Malone, my coworker Jordan Gerblick, and a few others, and it's been chaos from the start.
Midnight Ghost Hunt is the kind of game that will blow up on Twitch – it's a fun take on the prop hunt genre that fits right in with titles like Dead by Daylight and Phasmophobia. A love letter to Malone's favorite mod, Prop Hunt, it promotes perpetual pandemonium that makes it as fun to watch as it is to play. With a second beta on the way, more players will get a chance to test out their ghost hunting skills, but until then, here's how my Midnight Ghost Hunt hands-on preview went.
On the hunt
Midnight Ghost Hunt pits two teams of four against each other, with one team playing the Ghosts and the others the Hunters. Ghosts can choose an ability, a haunt, and a perk to help them kill off the Hunters, while Hunters choose a weapon, gadget, and perk to assist them in destroying Ghosts. The Ghosts can possess most of the objects on a map and set traps, and it's the Hunters' job to sniff them out and destroy them without getting killed first.
Jumping into Midnight Ghost Hunt is immediately a bit overwhelming – we had to skip the tutorial and were plunged right into choosing our weapons, gadgets, and perks, each of which have a pretty extensive selection. "The shotgun is good," Malone promises, referencing a short range gun that shoots salt pellets. While fellow GR+ writer Jordan smartly heeds Malone's advice, I get caught up in choosing from the ten weapon options (which includes an electrified melee weapon called the Ghostsmasher, a riot shield, a flamethrower, and a crossbow) and panic, choosing something just before the game kicks off and not even glancing at my gadget or perk options.
As a result, I spend the first match running around feebly swinging my Ghostsmasher at every inanimate object on the museum map. I picked the defibrillator as my gadget, which means I'll be super helpful once the in-game clock strikes midnight, but until then I'm a bit aimless. At midnight (five minutes into every match), the roles are swapped, and the Ghosts get supercharged, turning the Hunters into the hunted. In my first match, the untethered Ghosts were downing us left and right, my teammates were screaming, and I was running around trying to revive them with my defibrillator. "I was useless that entire match!" I yell at the end, laughing. It's then that Malone gently reminds me that I can swap my loadout at any time at the generator.
We then swap over to playing the Ghosts, and things get even more ridiculous. One of my teammates possesses a pig and refuses to move the entire match. "I'm still a pig," she says quietly towards the end of the round, as I'm wildly swapping between objects to try and shake a Hunter. "Are you just spam chilling them?" Malone asks Jordan, referring to a Ghost ability that temporarily freezes Hunters. "I'm a hippo!" I interject before he can answer. This is Midnight Ghost Hunt – it generates a ton of laughs and immediately establishes a rapport amongst strangers. Did I get any better at it as the preview went on? Absolutely not.
Perhaps it was the swiftness at which we ran through the hands-on preview, but by the time I was done with Midnight Ghost Hunt, I was no better than I was before I had ever even tried the game. I couldn't connect any of my attempted melees, I missed nearly every shot with the salt shotgun, and I spent most of my time as a Ghost mashing buttons and accidentally launching a possessed object across the room at inopportune moments.
You'll need some time to figure out Midnight Ghost Hunt's controls, and even more time to sift through the myriad loadout options available before you can consider yourself a competent Hunter or Ghost. For the entirety of my playthrough, I felt like Malone and company were dragging me through the game by my hand – I was the horror movie cliché clumsy kid accidentally waking up ancient ghosts by bumping into an urn or slipping on a puddle of ectoplasm and falling on my ass. While I usually take competitive games very seriously, I enjoyed my time as the team's dead weight, because Midnight Ghost Hunt is just good, clean fun.
Midnight Ghost Hunt definitely has a skill ceiling, but it's not a game that's all that concerned with mastery and epic plays. That's why it feels tailor-made for the Twitch and TikTok era – small groups of friends can get together to play chaotic, lightning fast matches where ghosts possess museum artifacts and taxidermied pigs. At no point during my hands-on preview was someone not yelling, laughing, or confused. It's the kind of game you'd probably enjoy watching as much as playing.
If this hasn't convinced you, check it out for yourself: a second Midnight Ghost Hunt beta kicks off January 28 and runs until January 30.
GamesRadar+ is exploring the biggest games of the new year with exclusive interviews, hands-on impressions, and in-depth editorials. For more, be sure to follow along with Big in 2022 throughout January.