Indie Corner: Bureau Of Contracts

Ghosts are real! So, who are you going to call? Yes, the Bureau of Contracts, of course. Everyone knows that the Ghostbusters aren’t the real deal.

The Elephant in the Room

So, I read a lot about this game being a ‘phasmo’ clone, and since I did not know what it was, I checked that one out for you guys. So when reviewers refer to a ‘phasmo’ clone, they discuss the game Phasmophobia. Phasmophobia is a paranormal horror game by British indie game studio Kinetic Games. The game became available in early access for Microsoft Windows with virtual reality support in September 2020. In the game, one to four players work to complete a contract where they must identify the type of ghost haunting a designated site. It is based on the popular hobby of ghost hunting. As others stated, I’m not sure I would call this a Phasmo clone. It’s more like the horror game ‘Damned,’ which is a PVP game – this game is PVE and is interesting in its way.

Bureau of Contacts wasn’t a game originally in my scope since I’m not a massive fan of jumpscare horror games, but the fact that they used AI to train the ghosts in this game piqued my interest. For those wondering, yes, it features jumpscares, but not the ones that are that obvious you smell them from a mile away. The ghost is a troll until it’s not. Honestly, it’s pretty lovely cause it certainly keeps me on my toes.

Gameplay

So, let’s talk gameplay! Since this game is about ghosthunting and using tools, you are stuck in a gameplay loop. Sounds boring? Neh, it’s the way you have to use the tools that makes the gameplay neat and exciting. But before getting to the ‘good’ part, you must work through the tutorial. Sadly, the tutorial is bare-bones and doesn’t explain the different EMF readings. I don’t know what a chaotic EMF is vs a wavelength one. The tutorial is shown through a projector, which you must operate yourself. The idea is good, but I would rather have had a decent walkthrough of the mechanics, so it felt a little less frustrating figuring out how the game works.

Each case requires you to find four pieces of evidence. When found, you investigate some information about the ghost to figure out how to banish it. After figuring it out, you banish it, go home, and cash out on a well-done job. Each of the four pieces of evidence requires some extra investigating to figure out which variant of the evidence you found, which is neat. But the ghost wouldn’t be the ghost if it wasn’t ready to mess with the process. While working on the process, it will consistently challenge you and set deadly traps. Things often get glitchy in the banishment stage, from game crashes to the GPT AI spirit box acting up to the ghost leaving the house on its own.

AI Spirit Box?

Yes – an AI-trained Spirit Box. You ask the box questions, and the box loads a prompt from your question and reads it to you. It’s a pretty neat feature, but you used to be limited on how many questions you could ask, so you’d need to pay a dollar to refill on tokens to use the AI some more. The micro-transaction has been removed, and you can now ask the spirit box everything about the ghost’s fashion sense or whatever you feel. So, if that kept you on the fence about checking this game out, be sure to check it out now. Sadly, it did not help me like the game. I found the game interesting, but maybe a more precise explanation of mechanics and some more time would improve my thoughts. However, now, I have no desire to return.

Conclusion

Oh, before I forget to mention this. Don’t play this game on a Steam Deck console. It’s not optimized for it, and I had to map every key by hand to one of my Steam Deck keys to make the core concept of the game work and write this review. Maybe that did not help me enjoy this game as well. The idea for this game is good and pretty interesting, but its presentation is not that good. I think there are better games out there at the moment in the co-op sphere that will pique your interest more than this. Maybe with some more love and elbow grease?

5/10

Tested on the Steam Deck (256gb version).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *