Preview: Ghostwire Tokyo is a wild game with cool magical combat, scares and hilarity

OPINION: Before playing this I had never realised how much I wanted to help a ghost use the toilet in a game before.

Ghostwire: Tokyo has a side mission in which you have to help a spirit in desperate need of bog roll in a public loo. I'm afraid to say the poor thing needs two whole rolls before they are relieved.

Once you deliver, they thank you profusely and can finally depart to the peaceful afterlife.

Yep, this is a truly weird game. It's packed with humour as well as scary stuff, and it's bursting at the seams with creativity.

A few friends who have liked the trailers for Ghostwire: Tokyo have admitted to me they remain a little mystified as to what the game actually is. Now that the embargo has lifted, I can share my preview impressions about the first two chapters.

It's a first-person action-adventure with sorcery-based combat that plays quite a bit like the Yakuza games with some Silent Hill elements thrown in.

You play as Akito, a chap who becomes possessed by a spirit named KK in the opening of the game, as he's also tormented by another nasty, mysterious bloke in a hannya mask. KK, with whom you quickly form a humorous and testy relationship, is also after the man in the mask, so helps you develop the magical powers needed to track him down for answers and revenge.

Before you know it you're using those powers to lay waste to countless ghosts that have taken over Shibuya, while exploring increasingly larger areas of the gorgeously designed Tokyo district and trying to work out what on earth is going on.

Ghostwire: Tokyo screenshot.
Ghostwire: Tokyo screenshot. Photo credit: Tango Gameworks

It's a very trippy experience whose combat that pops with psychedelic colours as you dispatch all manner of Tokyo's inhabitants that have been turned into ghastly ghouls. Not all of them you waste, of course - as well as helping that one use the lavatory, there are plenty of others you free from torment.

You can also help cute shiba dogs that wander the streets of Shibuya, very eager for you to give them pats and dog food. They're hungry because all the humans have been evaporated by some terrifying fog in the game's opening sequence.

You can buy the dog food, along with a wide range of edible treats for yourself, from magical cats who run convenience stores and tekiya stalls in the absence of humans.

The magic you command is called 'Ethereal Weaving', drawing on the four elements to dish out damage on your foes. It's a lot of fun, with the PlayStation 5 controller making some of it really physically feel awesome.

Ghostwire: Tokyo screenshot.
Ghostwire: Tokyo screenshot. Photo credit: Tango Gameworks

You can also fire arrows from a bow, perform basic melee hits and deliver what are generally one-hit-kill stealth attacks if you sneak up behind enemies. But this arcadey fighting is really all about casting spells, which is addictive fun.

The different types of magic and your other skills can all be upgraded as you progress through the game, allowing you to specialise in an array of different ways that suits you. It's also open-world and packed with side quests to explore, not all of which are toilet-based.

And wow, it's a cool game world to explore, especially if you've been to Tokyo in real life. If so you'll get a thrill out of recognising a lot of the city's character in the game, albeit with little twists presumably to avoid legal action.

Expect to stop in at many a 'Fujiya Mart' (instead of Family Mart or Lawsons) where you'll see familiar onigiri and bento on shelves. Many of the streets have blaring music competing with other blaring music coming out of shops, clubs, girls bars, love hotels, pachinko parlours and the like, all catching the eye with bright neon signs.

Hannya and oni in Ghostwire: Tokyo.
Ghostwire: Tokyo screenshots. Photo credit: Tango Gameworks

Also about the sound design, this is one of the few games in recent years I actually prefer playing through the speakers rather than with a headset on. This is because it utilises the speaker in the controller to make some demon voices extra unnerving.

While it's definitely not as gory or intense as developer Tango Gameworks' previous Evil Within titles, it can still get under your skin. Do not play it if you have a serious phobia around scary masks! Traditional Japanese masks are often frightening, but the way they're presented in Ghostwire: Tokyo is especially freaky.

Beyond the loving representation of Tokyo's Shibuya district, the game celebrates Japanese culture in other ways. You're constantly picking up items like a Daruma doll, kagura suzu and kendama; each time you do, you can opt to view an info card explaining what it is.

Even if you don't view that at the time, you can open up a comprehensive in-game database to read about it later. Toilet paper gets added to that database after the aforementioned side mission, too.

Ghostwire: Tokyo toilet paper screenshot.
Ghostwire: Tokyo screenshot. Photo credit: Tango Gameworks

Like the Evil Within games, the plot comes at you thick and fast in a way where I didn't follow it much, and didn't really care. You're playing a person seemingly in-between realms, there are dream sequences and nightmare sequences - you don't know what's real and what isn't a lot of the time, and what is real is crazy supernatural stuff anyway.

It's not silly and so crazy that it's absurdist or anything, I never felt put off by it being overtly zany in an annoying way. I just gave up on trying to follow everything closely and simply enjoyed the visuals, getting enough of the gist of what was going on to drive me forward to the next objective.

One cool, core gameplay mechanic will give a bit more insight into how different the game is. After you cleanse a torii shrine of demon magic, you get a magical piece of paper with which you can then collect transitional spirits the menacing fog has reduced into their current form.

To release them, you find a phone booth, all of which have been hacked by some ally. Pressing the magical paper to the interior of a hacked phone releases the trapped spirits through it, giving you a form of currency you can then spend with the cat gods for food and stuff.

I think? Look I didn't follow everything, but I had a lot of fun going with it.

Ghostwire: Tokyo screenshot.
Ghostwire: Tokyo screenshot. Photo credit: Tango Gameworks

Oh and after that first torii shrine, other ones you cleanse will reveal parts of the map.

At their core, these are basic gameplay mechanics you'll be familiar with from other open-world action-adventure games, they've just been dressed up in a super creative, fun way.

The game isn't very hard, at least on the Normal difficulty setting. You always have an abundance of consumable items to up your health and it's rare I ran out of magical energy to cast spells. Survival horror with limited supplies this is not.

The combat feels quite weightless, especially after playing a bit of Elden Ring. Getting around this game version of Shibuya, especially with the verticality it offers, means there's a lot of the vast level design which just isn't as carefully polished as other games, too.

And if you're after a moving storyline with compelling characters, well, look elsewhere.

But if you want a wacky, wild, thoroughly imaginative game that offers decent scares, cool magical combat and lols like nothing else, Ghostwire: Tokyo is definitely worth checking out.

Newshub was provided a preview build of the game on PlayStation 5 for this article.