Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Ghostbusters: The Video Game Review

Like most people who grew up in the '80s, Ghostbusters was a big part of my childhood. Granted, for me it was mostly about The Real Ghostbusters cartoon. Good times. Of course, at some point I did watch the film and its sequel. As a kid, I think what stood out the most for me was how Egon was blond in the cartoon but he had dark hair in the films. I definitely appreciate them, especially the original, a lot more as an adult.

I was naturally curious about Ghostbusters: The Video Game. After all, the mechanics of what the Ghostbusters do seems like it'd translate well into a game, as long as the story is good. And with the original writers writing the game, and the original actors lending their voice to their characters, it certainly seemed like it should be a good story. Dan Aykroyd himself said, "This is essentially the third movie."

As it turns out, the story is the game's strongest point; it just doesn't start out that way. When the game starts out, it's essentially one big fan wank. You begin the game as "the Rookie," a new Ghostbuster recruit just getting an orientation when a massive PKE surge sets Slimer free. Slimer takes off for the Sedgewick Hotel... that is, the hotel where he was first encountered in the movie. And of course, the PKE surge is caused by Gozer, the villain from the first movie, who is of course back in our world as the Stay Puft Marshmallow man. Not enough fan wanking yet? Well you get to go to the library from the first movie, too!

A strange thing starts to happen around then, though. The story starts coming together, stuff from Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II become tied together, and everything starts making sense. And as the story starts to kick in, the game suddenly goes from mediocre to really good.

Why mediocre before? Well, the game does do a lot of things right. It lets you use the money you get for catching ghosts to buy upgrades. It gives you some variety of enemies including some that can be dispersed so you don't always have to get out the traps. That helps to keep you in the action. It even adds a few weapons to the standard proton pack, so scanning enemies, finding their weakness, and using the best weapon for the job or to solve certain puzzles helps keep things from becoming repetitive.

What ultimately bogs the game down are the controls. Dodging enemy attacks and turning to shoot at the enemy you want to hit just feels clunky sometimes. Fortunately, the game is rarely difficult. If you go down, one of the other Ghostbusters will come and revive you. There are only a few moments in the game that are truly difficult, but when those moments come expect to curse and maybe throw a controller or two.

The clunky controls can be easily overlooked if you're having fun with the game, though. And whether or not you'll have fun is very much dependent on whether or not you like the Ghostbusters. If you enjoyed the original movie, you'll enjoy the game, it's that simple. If you thought the movie was dumb, you're going to think the game is just as dumb. Personally, I liked the movies, so I liked the game.

One final side note: if you've got a PC that can run it, you might want to look into the PC version. You'll sacrifice multiplayer, but I frankly didn't miss it. What you'll get in return is a price tag that's half the Xbox 360 or PS3's.

Final Score: B

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