Ghostbusters: The Video Game Review
Posted by Scott Bartle
Don your proton packs and answer the call.
For years, many of us had childhood dreams of being a Ghostbuster. We longed to don a brown jumpsuit, strap on a proton pack and take down some ghosts - and get paid for it. The days of dreaming are now at an end - besides the getting paid part, Ghostbusters: The Video Game allows us to finally live a day in the life as the newest recruit to the team.
Right from when you start playing, you can feel that this is a game made by fans for the fans. One of the first things you’ll notice is that the game uses all the original music from the movies and - even better - features the voice talents of all the original Ghostbusters. Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Bill Murray, and Ernie Hudson - and even some minor characters (like Annie Pots as the Janine the secretary) - all reprise their roles and play them just like they did back in the 80s. And let's face it, Ghostbusters just isn’t Ghostbusters without Janine working the phone.
The presentation of Ghostbusters for the Wii has a very different look than other systems. This version was crafted by Red Fly Studios specifically to give the Wii a distinctly different game than the others. Instead of just pulling down the graphics and special effects, the Wii version was given a cartoony, super-deformed look to the characters and their surrounding world. Thankfully, it all looks great; characters move fluidly in cut scenes and it all comes together to give it a real sense of style that make it one of the better looking Wii games currently available.
The story in Ghostbusters runs similarly to the original films: the team is busting poltergeists like any other day when another ghostly entity chooses New York as the place to bring about chaos and destruction. The plot still manages to throw in some twists and allows you to revisit many settings from the movies like the Sedgewick Hotel from the first film and the Ghostbuster’s (former fire house) HQ.
Right when you start and in between missions, you’ll be in the fire house which you can explore to your heart’s content; you'll discover the containment grid downstairs, Slimer locked in a telephone booth, Ecto-1 parked by the door and even Egon’s lab upstairs. You can go the lockers to change profiles, use the TV upstairs to replay levels and, of course, go down the fire poles. Without a doubt, this bringing together of the music, settings and characters will already be enough to totally immerse any devoted fan in the Ghostbusters world.
The missions themselves follow a linear path as you tag along with the crew around New York on different jobs to unravel the newest caper. Throughout the game you’ll be equipped with your own proton pack. You control the direction with your pointer and the B-button will fire the stream.
As you progress, you will be equipped with new abilities beyond the usual proton stream that can be switched on the fly using the D-pad, such as a stasis beam to slow enemies down and even the slime guns from the second movie to shoot puzzle-solving blasts of ectoplasmic slime.
Most proton pack abilities also have extra functions that aid in puzzles and battles and are activated with the A-button. You won’t be able to shoot continuously though, as each ability of your proton pack builds up heat or uses up chargers as they’re fired. Overheat your pack and you’ll be defenceless for a few seconds until it cools and you’re back in business. This all adds a nice mix of strategy and makes for some interesting fights to break the usual proton blasting for all the spirits and ghosts you come across.
When you fire at any ghosts, a green life bar will appear as you whittle away at their energy until their tired out. When this happens, your beam will switch to a capture stream (which you thankfully don't have to worry about overheating) and you have to work on stunning your catch by slamming them around the room. While they're caught, red arrows will appear, telling you which way to slam them. By thrusting your Wii Remote in the given direction, the ghost will be slammed against walls and ceilings, losing a portion of his red stun bar. Once he’s knocked out it’s just a simple toss of the trap to bag him by holding the Z-Button and letting go in bowling ball motion with the Nunchuck. Beyond catching and trapping, you’ll occasionally need to bring out the PKE Meter, a ghost tracker of sorts, to find hidden ghosts, see invisible doorways and make scans of various objects and spirits.
The controls work surprisingly well and will be a thrill to anyone to control their proton stream with the precision of the pointer, catching ghosts, and destroying the environment. One problem that some people may come across is that the slamming portion of the catch requires a good, full thrust of the Wii Remote in the given direction, as a simple flick will usually not register. Beyond using the Nunchuck to shake off slime if you get hit, motion controls are kept to a basic minimum.
Each mission has it’s own unique ghosts and monsters that look great with the cartoony style. Each level will have you catching several ghosts, vaporizing countless spirits and flying books, solving environmental puzzles or finding ghosts with keys and eventually finding your way to the big ghost causing all the commotion. Between the battles you’ll come across puzzles to unlock doors, seal away black slime or find invisible pathways. The boss battles are also really well done, requiring a bit more than just blasting away; instead you have to locate weaknesses or useful parts of the environments to take them down.
However, difficulty in the game can sometimes be erratic; some missions are simple with only a few ghosts to tackle while other see you swarmed on all sides. The damage they deal can also vary with some big ghosts doing little damage and some simple enraged spirits taking out you or teammates in two or three quick hits. Your fellow Ghostbusters all fight automatically, but sometimes even they fail. If they do, you can run over to any downed teammate and hit A to revive them, and this is the same for how they get you back on your feet if you get knocked out. The problem here is that your life is entirely in the hands of the AI. Your team will automatically try to revive you and fellow squad mates, but they move slowly and sometimes get caught by the same ghosts that took you down and occasionally objects in the environment such as floating tables and such. This can get very frustrating when you have to constantly revive teammates, leaving you no time to attack, which in turn, could get you knocked out, leaving your whole team out of commission. If you get put out cold and no revives you, the screen will begin to fade to black and if it fades entirely, you’ll start again at the last checkpoint. Sadly, this means you’ll have to go right into the same situation where you and your team met your previous fate.
The full game is rather short, coming in at around 7 to 8 hours for most. And, while there are a few unlockables by gathering enough secret art pages and ghost scans in levels; after a single play through, there is little reason to go through it again, at least solo. The Wii version has a multiplayer option that allows two players to play the game as two separate recruits with split screen local multiplayer. Although it is fun to go through the story with a friend, the game can sometimes chug at points with lots of effects and objects on screen and as a result the entire mode feels like it was tacked-on as an afterthought.
Putting aside a few jumps in difficulty and a rather disappointing multiplayer mode, Ghostbusters: The Video Game is without a doubt the best attempt at capturing the thrill of the movies in digital form to date and a real service to fans who grew up watching the films and cartoons. Red Fly has put a lot of work and effort into making this a great experience and in making the Wii version a lot more than just a simple port with waggle. If you’re a fan of the Ghostbusters, you will certainly love this game - just be careful to not cross the streams.