A day before Halloween, Google has reworked its logo into an online multiplayer game called The Great Ghoul Duel to help people get into the spirit of things. While the company has featured games on its homepage before, this is the first that actually lets you play against other random strangers around the world.
I know what you’re thinking: why would you want another way to engage with randos on the internet? But the game is actually fun and doesn’t involve actually communicating with other people. Instead, you simply run around small mazes trying to collect more spirits than the other team. While it’s not super complex, there are a few wrinkles that make it easy to forget what you came to Google to search for in the first place.
In order to get the spirits you collect to contribute to your team’s total, they have to be deposited back at your base. The spirits follow you around in a trail like JRPG characters, and if an opposing player collides with it they automatically steal that portion of the spirits you’ve collected. The more spirits you collect, the faster you go, which certainly helps, but having a longer tail makes you more vulnerable to opponents. An alternative strategy is to simply stake out an opponent’s base and try to ambush them before they can deliver their spirits.
As your spirit tally increases, you can get various buffs like night vision and magnetism, which make it possible to see bigger spirits that are worth 10 and attract smaller ones from around the map as you glide by. The fact that teams get stronger as their totals grow creates an interesting snowball effect as well.
Google’s first interactive Doodle was back in May 2010 when the company made the logo on its homepage into a recreation of Pac-Man to celebrate the arcade game’s 30th anniversary. It debuted its first Halloween-themed game in 2016 with Magic Cat Academy where players traced shapes to cast spells and defeat enemies, but The Great Ghoul Duel is a lot more complex by comparison.
At the risk of severely over analyzing a simple browser game, the underlying mechanics actually remind me a lot of Destiny 2’s latest competitive mode, Gambit, because of the rudimentary risk-benefit calculations involved. Maybe next year’s Halloween Doodle will take the next step and add microtransactions.