Twenty five years ago one film sent both children and adults into hysterics. It had scares, laughs, memorable characters and a gigantic Stay Puft Marshmallow Man; it was everything anyone could ever want from an epic comedy, fully cementing itself as one of the all-time classics of modern cinema. Developers Terminal Reality are faced with the tricky task of creating a product to live up to the name so many adore, and after a bout of development limbo, it’s finally here to create mass hysteria among the masses (cats and dogs included). So rip out that classic jumpsuit, strap on a proton pack, heat ‘em up and get ready to tackle a disaster of Biblical proportions; Ghostbusters: The Video Game is here at last, and Terminal Reality have definitely lived up to their end of the bargain. To put it bluntly, it makes me feel funky, and that’s one of my favourite sensations.
Taking place in 1991, Ghostbusters: The Video Game is treated as the third film in the franchise – even if Dan Aykroyd took some of the shine off that statement by actually announcing a third movie. The original cast is back with the aforementioned Dan Akyroyd lending his voice and likeness to the game along with the rest of the Ghostbusters: Bill Murray, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson; while all the other cast members also return, from William Atherton’s Walter Peck to Annie Potts’ Janine Melnitz – the only exceptions being Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis who are left out for various reasons. This is an amazing coup for fans of the series, especially when you consider Akyroyd and Ramis are also credited as writers – adding to both the quality of voice acting and writing. Having the whole gang back gives the game that special Ghostbusters feeling and firmly puts it on a high platter even before the game has begun.
“Despite the presentational issues, the comedy still manages to hit all the right notes.”Disappointingly some of that original excitement is lost during the in-game cut scenes. While the whole cast look impressive, the animation is pretty stiff and lifeless, they’re really poorly compressed and the lip synching is bordering on being terrible. It does zap you out of the immersion and puts a damper on things; however, despite the presentational issues, the comedy still manages to hit all the right notes. Sure, it will occasionally miss, but you’ll most likely spend the majority of the game giggling at each wisecrack and reference to the movies, especially when you’re able to view it all as an onlooker. You see, rather than play one of the original members of the group, you’re the new kid – the rookie. He doesn’t talk so you’re free to sit back and listen to the Ghostbusters in all their glory. It might seem odd that you have no real affect on the narration as a whole, but it’s actually the perfect set-up; we don’t want to concentrate on some new guy, we want to see Bill Murray try to entice the love-interest and Harold Ramis use an over-abundance of techno lingo – it’s what makes Ghostbusters such a joy.
Although most of your enjoyment will come from the actual act of busting ghosts. The reason you’re only known as the rookie is so the team won’t become emotionally attached to you. You’re in charge of testing out all the new wacky gadgets the crew come up with, and their previous experience shows it’s probably not a good idea to get close to someone who usually meets an untimely end at the hands of these unstable contraptions. In game terms this essentially means you’ll get your hands on four ways of tackling the supernatural spirits that litter Ghostbusters: The Video Game. As you progress through the game you’ll unlock weapon add-ons and can easily switch between them on the d-pad, occasionally combining all four together to become the ultimate ghost busting machine. You’ll spend most of your time with the default proton stream seen in the movies, as you drain down a ghosts strength before wrangling them into a trap. It’s a unique way to play that remains extremely enjoyable throughout the games seven levels. It sounds simple but capturing ghosts is an engrossing experience as you try to reel them in like a particularly large fish, smashing up the environment in the process as you blast them with the secondary fire boson dart before laying down a trap and slamming them in. Just remember not to cross the streams.
Sadly the other weapon types aren’t quite as gratifying, although they’re still relatively fun to use when you feel the need – which isn’t often. Two of them work like more conventional weaponry with a shotgun-esque shock blaster (complete with secondary stasis stream for freezing enemies) and a meson collider that feels awfully familiar to any form of automatic weapon. Like I said, they’re not bad weapons, but you’re guaranteed to spend most of your time with the proton stream and the forth and final weapon: an attachment that shoots streams of lovely green goo. This stuff can soak enemies while also coming in handy when it comes to clearing a path through the evil black slime. It’s an effective way of draining enemy health and its secondary slime tether provides an excellent way to tackle certain puzzles, working as a sort-of grappling hook to drag objects towards you, pull doors open or even hook up plenty of the games spooky inhabitants.
All of which you’ll be able to track down with the handy PKE meter. Using this device will take you to a first-person view where you’ll be able to track down hidden ghosts and special artefacts to unlock Trophies. The view is a little restricted – annoying when you spend a lot of your time using it – but it’s great fan service and actually proves to be quite entertaining as you track down each ghoulie and log them in Tobin’s Sprit Guide. Eventually it turns into a Pokemon style Catch ‘Em All as you try to log down every single ghost in the game, from old classics such as Slimer and the Library Ghost, to flying heads, civil war ghosts and a number of the magnificent bosses. There’s truly a lot of enemy variety here, with the game getting pretty hectic in the latter stages.
“It sounds simple but capturing ghosts is an engrossing experience as you try to reel them in like a particularly large fish”Sometimes this means the framerate can’t quite keep up, but on the whole it runs fine. There’s some poor texture work and screen tearing on show, but generally Ghostbusters: The Video Game is a splendid looking game, due in part to the fantastic art design. You’ll travel to familiar locales from the film with the famous Sedgewick Hotel making an appearance along with the public library and Central Park, and there are plenty of paranormal areas as dimension shifting is eventually introduced. With the destructible environments playing a big part, the game truly is an assault on the eyes with the amount of colour, pesky creatures and splintered wood all flying at your face. It can definitely become overwhelming at times, and while Ghostbusters isn’t particularly challenging, there are some points where the difficulty spikes to frustrating degrees. You’ll constantly get knocked down – having to view the odd-looking rag doll animation each time – as you wait for a team-mate to help you up. Surprisingly, though, your team-mate AI is actually quite good. They’re perfectly adept as taking down ghosts themselves, and they even give you audio cues as to where an enemy may be. It might only be a simple “Up above you”, but they’re amazingly accurate and it definitely helps when you’re in the thick of the action.
And the rest of the sound design is impressive as well. Ghosbusters implements the soundtrack from the first movie so obviously that’s fantastic, and the voice work from the original cast is just as great as you would imagine. At times it can feel like they’re phoning it in, but there’s enough enthusiasm here that just goes to show these guys still love this franchise, even after all these years.
If you’re still a fan then you can throw all your doubt away right now, Ghostbusters: The Video Game lives up to the series’ name with a quality product. All the right ingredients are here to combine for an excellent package, with a witty, humorous plot; unique and enjoyable gameplay and a boss fight against the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man; this is everything you can ever want from a Ghostbusters game. There are some presentational issues that let it down, some of the weapons are a little underused, there are large chunks of inactivity and it’s relatively short at just over five hours, but that isn’t quite enough to stop this from being one of the best movie tie-ins in recent memory. They came, they saw, they kicked its ass!