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Midnight Ghost Hunt 1.0 is beautifully balanced prop hunt perfection

Vaulted Sky Games has perfected asymmetrical balance while listening to players and adding delightful details in Midnight Ghost Hunt.

A Hunter in a red outfit looks at his radar in Midnight Ghost Hunt.

Prop hunt games or modes are often the source of the most fun and chaotic gameplay you could want, with half a team of players turning themselves into everyday objects at will, and the other half desperately trying to draw them out of their surroundings. At the slightest hint of movement, hunters end up chasing chairs, statues, musical instruments, and most anything else you can think of around the map. Multiple games have been set around the game mechanic, like Prop Hunt itself and Propnight, while it appears as a popular mode in the likes of Call of Duty, Fortnite, and Garry’s Mod, where prop hunt was originally popularized. Now, another new game has arrived that adopts prop hunt as its main mechanic, pitting a team of hunters against a group of ghosts, capable of possessing most objects around them. This is Midnight Ghost Hunt.

With so many other prop hunt games on offer, then, why play Midnight Ghost Hunt? As a fan of the asymmetrical genre, I like to think I’m fairly knowledgeable on the area, and the one thought I can’t shake about Midnight Ghost Hunt is that it may be close to being the perfect asymmetrical multiplayer game. ‘Balance’ is a hot topic in any asymmetrical game, and it seems to me that Vaulted Sky might have nailed it by forcing you to play both sides.

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The two teams in Midnight Ghost Hunt are Hunters and Ghosts, and each can choose from a wide range of perks and gear. Hunters can equip melee or ranged weapons, Ghost-detection radars, and medkits, among other loadout items. Ghosts, meanwhile, have abilities that grant invisibility or enable you to trap items, Haunts that let you help your team even after personal defeat, and Perks that can keep you hidden for longer or deal harder attacks. Whether you choose to play as a ghost or a hunter first, you switch over to the other role for the second of two games in each map. Since you play both sides, you should ensure that both your loadouts are set up for success.

This is an almost too-obvious mechanic that feels like it should be more widely used in asymmetrical games. Sure, you’ll likely find that you prefer playing one team over the other, but having to play both in alternating matches solves myriad problems – not least, balance and matchmaking. For one, even if you feel one side is stronger than the other, you play that side as much as you do the weaker one, so there’s no real room for complaint. That said, both teams actually feel pretty balanced anyway. Both can attack at any time: Hunters with their weapons and Ghosts with items. You might think you can just hide out as a Ghost, but staying still makes you more detectable by radar, and there’s a timer anyway – neither team can hold a game hostage for long.

Midnight hits in Midnight Ghost Hunt, and a hunter holds up there weapon as the text "The Hunters become the hunted" appears at the top of the screen.

That five-minute mid-game timer is yet another way the developer takes balance into account as midnight hits, turning the Hunter into the Hunted. Gameplay changes again as Ghosts can no longer hide but can attack harder. Across just two matches, then, the power dynamic switches between both sides, giving essentially four stages of play. The only downside I found was that there are some incredible hiding spots for Hunters in the second half of the game. When I asked the developer about this, their response was that, by playing both sides, everyone can get to know those hiding places and they become less powerful. Again, that element of playing both sides comes to the rescue.

What about the rest of the game, though? The aesthetic, the maps, the extras? Believe it or not, this is where Midnight Ghost Hunt shines brighter still. Launching out of early access on March 21, 2024, the survival game has ten maps, which have each been meticulously overhauled based on early access feedback – something I realized during my time playing with and talking to the developers is that player feedback is seriously taken into account. Among these maps, there’s the creepy Doll Factory, a trap-filled pirate ship, and a full theatre. These maps don’t only have their own style, but there are unique secrets to find in each. For example, the theatre has a trap on stage, which can be triggered to kill a hunter instantly. Yep, this happened to me and gave me quite a shock. The pirate ship, meanwhile, contains multiple cannons that can be possessed by Ghosts, allowing you to blast Hunters to bits, while the water surrounding the ship deals damage to both teams.

A Ghost player consumes the soul of a dead hunter in Midnight Ghost Hunt.

Quite possibly the best thing about Midnight Ghost Hunt, though, lies in the smallest details of all. I mentioned that player feedback is incredibly important to Vaulted Sky, and one early complaint was that the start of each Hunter match was boring. Ghosts get a headstart to find the perfect hiding place, during which time Hunters are transported to the map in a van. In early access, this simply meant sitting there, perhaps tweaking your loadout. Following that feedback, there are now two interactable items to keep you busy en route, one of which even bleeds into matches: the boombox.

A classic ‘80s boombox to match the game’s Ghostbusters-style aesthetic can be found in the van, as well as dotted around maps. Among the Hunters, one is randomly assigned the DJ role at the start of the match, and your choice of tune plays in the van. This tune is one of a heap of collectible cassettes which themselves are found and unlocked in the game’s maps – and they’re all soundtrack songs from Vaulted Sky and Coffee Stain games, such as Deep Rock Galactic and Satisfactory. In one of my first games, I happened upon Goat Simulator’s Goat Storm, which now plays loudly and proudly whenever I take on DJ duties.

The Ghost-master, an in-game minigame in Midnight Ghost Hunt.

While you’re listening to (and even complimenting) the chosen track and waiting to reach your destination, you can also pull out your very own Gameboy-like Ghost-master, a handheld gaming device complete with its own delightful mini-game. There are even unlockable customization items for your Ghost-master, including that transparent purple case. It’s obvious at every step of the way how much love and care has gone into creating Midnight Ghost Hunt.

As Midnight Ghost Hunt launches out of early access, there is hopefully a bright future for the multiplayer survival game, and if the rearview roadmap is anything to go by, more delightful changes are still to come. You’re in luck if you want to give Midnight Ghost Hunt a try, as a free-play weekend is taking place right now on Steam, so download it and give it a go. I’ll see you in the Doll Factory.