Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Ghostbusters the Video Game: Bustin' Make You Feel Good!

If you’re anything like me, you used to spend your Saturday mornings in front of the television with a bowl of Cap’n Crunch waiting for The Real Ghostbusters (and that God-awful Slimer show) to come on, you dragged your poor mother to the theater the morning Ghostbusters II hit the theaters and you can practically recite the Ghostbusters film word for word. If that sounds like you, just get in the car and don’t take your foot off the gas until you’re at the mall, because Ghostbusters The Video Game is what you’ve been dreaming about for the last 20 years.

For the other six of you still reading this review, I can wholeheartedly say that the newest incarnation of the franchise is the definitive Ghostbusters gaming experience. Up until now, that was sort of like saying that it’s more fun to be beaten with an aluminum pole than with a steel one infested with tiny, venomous beetles. But with a story written by Dan Akyroyd and Harold Ramis, the men behind Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II, and the voice talents of Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts and wisecracker Bill Murray, Ghostbusters The Video Game will be sucking away your free time for days to come.

Its 1991, two years after Vigo the Carpathian tried to eat baby Oscar with a gooey bathtub and Lady Liberty took to the streets of New York via an NES joystick. The busters, now a city-funded operation like the police and the fire department, must track down the source of the newest surge in supernatural activity that’s crippling the Big Apple.You play as the new fifth Ghostbuster who’s supposed to represent the player, but it’s hard to feel a connection to a generic dude who communicates though frantic hand gestures and getting hit with debris. I’m sick of the silent protagonist shtick and I’m sure most people would have rather played as one of our four iconic heroes, but it’s a minor gripe: The guys come along with you every step of the way, although Winston shows up late to the party yet again. At least he made it this time – remember how Sega ditched him completely in the fun-but-flawed Genesis title?

As one would expect from seasoned comedians, the dialogue and voice acting is top notch. The script is oozing with nods to the films and the guys spout one-liners like a broken fire hydrant. Of course, Peter is as sarcastic as ever, and even item descriptions have a comedic kick. If the game itself becomes boring, the humor and the storyline will keep players engrossed until the game’s conclusion.

The graphics are excellent. The environments are crisp and detailed and the ghosts are slimy and disgusting. The character models share the likenesses of their on-screen counterparts, but after 25 years with the film, the gang looks a little weird with polygonal skin.

Perhaps the game’s greatest accomplishment is that it the player truly feel like he or she is a Ghostbuster. Fighting and incarcerating spirits a lot like wrangling cattle or tying to stop a child from running into a toy store: One must be patient, and at first, it’s more difficult than trying to push smoke into a bottle with a baseball bat. But within a half hour, the player has a good grip on the action, though the default control scheme leaves a bit to be desired in the weapons department. Movement is done via the two control sticks and can sometimes be a little chunky, but it’s nothing that can’t be forgiven, or a least ignored.

The action can be tense like Silent Hill as the player tracks down spirits with his or her PKE meter, or it can be frantic with waves of ghosts descending with reckless abandon. Both styles keep the player entertained on their toes.
The multiplayer is fun with teams of up to four taking on different tasks together, such as busting bunches of ghosts or protecting valuable artifacts from ethereal assailants. The team aspect helps players bond, but the action gets stale quickly. The story mode is where Ghostbusters The Video Game really shines.

Unfortunately, recycled elements from the Ghostbusters mythos give this title a “been there, busted that” feeling, knocking it down a notch. It’s a catch 22: It would have been downright sinful to make a Ghostbusters game without Slimer trashing a hotel and Staypuffed stomping through NYC, but it’s sometimes tough to accept Ghostbusters The Video Game as the sequel to the films like Aykroyd intended. Several parts of the game shamelessly play on two and a half decades of Ghostbusters nostalgia, but many players will eat it up with a silver spoon. The rest of us can’t help but smile and move on, hoping the rest of the game will be more of its own title than a shadow of things past.

That being said, Ghostbusters The Video Game stands up both as an entertaining extension to the Ghostbusters universe and a good video game experience. Existing fans and people new to the Ghostbusters mythos should take this one for a spin, because bustin’ really does make you feel good.

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