Here’s a copy of my latest review for the Omaha City Weekly. I’ll post the link to the site later after it’s up.
You just know they’re going to cross the streams
This is the Ghostbusters game fans across the world have been waiting for. It is as close to a true successor to the original films as could be hoped, and the paragon of how to turn a successful movie franchise into a great video game.
Children of the 80s will want to play this game. While it still does not hold a candle to the movies, the plot is so entrenched in their mythology that it feels like an organic growth of the franchise.
I was one of those kids who was a Ghostbuster for Halloween. I had all the toys… literally, ALL the toys. I had all the lines memorized. I watched the cartoon. Suffice it to say I had high expectations for this game. I am happy to announce it has met them all.
The game’s release coincides with the 25th anniversary of the original movie. Original authors Harold Remis and Dan Akroyd wrote the game’s script. It features their voices as Egon and Ray, as well as those of Bill Murray as Peter Veckman and Ernie Hudson as Winston. Annie Potts returns as the voice of secretary Janine and William Atherton reprieves his role as the Ghostbusters’ bureaucratic nemesis Walter Peck. In addition, Alyssa Milano lends her voice for new character Dr. Ilyssa Selwyn.
With so many actors involved, it should not be a surprise that the game follows a cinematic and linear model.
The game takes place in 1991, two years after the events in the second film. The plot is full of the same outlandish scenarios of the movies. Without giving too much away, a Gozer exhibit at the museum of history sparks an event that triggers ghostly chaos across the city. To save the day the Ghostbusters must further investigate other buildings and “unnecessary renovations” designed by Ivo Shandor, the Gozer-worshipping architect who designed Dana Barrett’s apartment building in the first movie.
The game is thick with humor, and having actual comedians writing the script produce better results than most games. The player has a silent role as the Ghostbusters’ new experimental equipment tester, which rightfully allows the story to hang on the interactions between the existing and well-loved characters instead of making the player the center of attention.
The smartest thing Ramis and Akroyd did with the game’s narrative is embrace the nostalgia by having many familiar settings and situations in the game. The first level is a revisit to the Sedgewick Hotel to catch Slimer. You also make a stop at the Library for a second meeting with the Librarian ghost and blast the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from the side of a building.
Ghostbusters: The Video Game perfectly captures what I would imagine is the feeling of actually being there busting ghost heads. To capture a ghost in the game, first the proton stream is used to weaken it. Then you capture it in the stream and wrestle with it until it is weak enough to be pulled into a trap. This mechanic perfectly mimics the tactics used in the movies, and is masterfully pulled off by Terminal Reality.
As fun as it is to catch ghosts, other demonic creatures require different weapons. The Ghostbusters’ proton packs are equipped with several gadgets, each tailored to defeat a certain type of enemy. A strong variety here ensures the game does not get stale.
To find out an enemy’s weakness it must first be scanned with the PKE meter. A scan also reveals a generally humorous back-story for the creeps, and helps locate cursed artifacts hidden throughout the levels.
Multiplayer adds hours of replayability to this game. In multiplayer you team up with other players in a variety of modes that can have you racing to trap the most ghosts, defending artifacts from supernatural thieves to staying alive as long as possible while facing endless waves of spooks. It is successful in taking the most fun aspect of the single-player game and giving the player a heaping serving on a platter.
Graphically the game is wonderful. The proton streams look even better than they did in the movie. The environments are varied, beautiful and destructible, and the ghosts have the same ethereal translucent feeling from the movies. The soundtrack is that of the original movie, which adds familiarity and continuity to the game’s missions.
Despite doing so much right in porting Ghostbusters from the silver screen to a video game, the game is not without some flaws. Namely, the controls, which are clunky and not as smooth as gamers might be used to. Your character can be snagged going around corners, or on knee-high debris. There is a jump button, although there is not one instance in the game where it was required. That it’s unnecessary is a good thing, as it appears he can only jump three inches off the ground.
You would think that this button could be better mapped as a dodge button, because it can be impossible to avoid some attacks. Your character does not move very fast, especially from side to side.
For the most part the game is told in CG-rendered cut scenes, although some instructional dialogue takes place in game. These can jar the player out of immersion, since the other Ghostbusters occasionally talk to while standing dozens of feet away from each other facing brick walls.
Because of this, it can be confusing to tell where your next objective is located. This is compounded by the fact that glitches can make finding your next objective literally impossible. No less than two times I had to reload a checkpoint because a glitch did not trigger a door to open.
Ghostbusters: The Video Game succeeds because it capitalizes on the nostalgic value of a beloved franchise. This is what it looks like when the full creative, cross-medium force of filmmakers and video game developers team up. You have been waiting for this Ghostbusters game.