Games based on movie licences have a bad reputation, but the idea that they’re universally rubbish is simply untrue – there are plenty of examples of movie-based games that range from 'pretty good' to 'excellent'. Ghostbusters: The Video Game fell somewhere between the two when it launched ten years back, exceeding low expectations with its mechanical competence and high level of authenticity. Now it's back on Switch with 'Remastered' tagged on the title, but how does it hold up after a decade?
Well, the first thing to get out of the way is that this is a ‘remaster’ in the very loosest sense of the word. Beyond the increased resolution – something that on Switch you’ll notice less than on the 4K-capable consoles – there’s very little here that doesn’t sync with our memories of the PC version. Textures may have been touched up, but there’s no extra content (indeed, multiplayer modes from the previous console versions have been removed, although they may be reworked and patched in at a later date) and we were hard-pressed to find anything that earns the game its new tag. A static screen inserted during the intro dedicated to Harold Ramis is touching, but hardly qualifies. The option to remap buttons is welcome; the lack of gyro controls less so. It’s possible they’d have made the game a little too easy, but there’s really no excuse for their absence, especially in a game that has the gall to call itself a remaster. ‘Bare-bones’ barely covers it.
It’s got more in common with one of those classic album reissues. Apparently, the tracks have been digitally scrubbed and tarted up using the latest techniques for unsurpassed audio quality, but unless you’ve doing a side-by-side comparison with your original copy of the White Album, you’re unlikely to notice any difference whatsoever. Ghostbusters: The Video Game Remastered is like that. If you don’t already own it, there’s a great game awaiting you (now in portable form), but you probably don't need to buy it again if it’s already sitting on the shelf. There are no new liner notes or fancy packaging on offer here.
What you do get, though, is a very solid port of the best Ghostbusters game ever made. Nomenclature aside, Saber Interactive has done a good job of bringing the now-defunct Terminal Reality’s original to Switch, with a rock-solid framerate and generally great presentation. The original game looked nice already, with some lovely lighting and detail, and the same is still true. You shouldn’t go in expecting bleeding edge visuals (hair tech has certainly come a long way in the last ten years), but Terminal Reality did more than enough to evoke the movies beautifully, and that work holds up on Switch.
While this is the same game that released on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC in 2009, it also came out on Wii in a system-exclusive adventure with added pointer controls and reworked cartoon-y style visuals. We enjoyed the Wii iteration, but there’s something special about having the ‘proper’ Ghostbusters on screen – for one thing, the voicework marries with the more realistic visuals far better. We recall a general feeling at the time of release that Bill Murray, in particular, was giving a phoned-in performance, but everyone sounds on fine form to us.
Once you get through a whole bunch of company logos, the game sets the scene a couple of years after (the highly underrated, we reckon) Ghostbusters II with the guys still in business keeping the good folk of NYC spook, spectre and ghost-free, now with a city contract. With plans to franchise out the whole ‘bustin business, new staff are required – that’s where you come in. As the rookie, you’re the guinea pig for a host of new, unlicensed equipment as the game revisits areas, ghosts and other characters from the original films.
Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis are the only notable cast members missing in this reunion – and Alyssa Milano’s bland love interest for Venkman highlights the former’s absence. Virtually everyone else you could want is present and correct, though, and this really does feel like a genuine continuation of the story and characters from the films. The script and story (penned by Aykroyd and Ramis and incorporating elements from unused sequel ideas) works perfectly in the context of a fun nostalgia trip, brimming with references for fans to enjoy. As a movie, it would arguably feel too derivative and fan service-y, but as a game it ties in a bunch of lore elements and absolutely nails the look-and-feel you remember, giving you the opportunity to 'bust alongside the boys, just like you always wanted.
The game excels in making the act of busting ghosts satisfying and appropriately tough. Draining ghosts’ PK energy with a proton beam before lassoing, slamming and wrangling them into a trap ‘feels’ suitably Ghostbuster-y. Pulling your goggles down with ‘X’ enables you to scan ghosts and your environment, unlocking them in your Spirit Guide and giving the world more texture, if you want it.
Your over-the-shoulder view puts the iconic Proton Pack and associated ghostbustin’ paraphernalia on screen most of the time, adding to the richness of the world even when the environments themselves might be a little bland. The pack’s flashing gauges and meters indicate your health, when it needs venting and which of the various modes you’re in. Purchasable upgrades unlock along the way which improve beam accuracy and open up a variety of gameplay options while remaining suitably authentic to the source material.
Mechanically, there’s nothing revolutionary going on, but gameplay feels remarkably solid and all the visual and audio elements you know and love help keep things ticking along nicely during the occasional lull. Your proton beam is appropriately chaotic to wield and destroying things nets you cash for upgrades. You’ll quickly start strategising to deal with threats in a certain order and you’ll need to keep an eye on Egon, Ray, Winston and Peter – ignore their calls for help and there’ll be no one to revive you when you take a tumble.
It goes out of its way to play on your affection and memories of the movies, and it works nearly all of the time. Elmer Bernstein’s oddball, jaunty soundtrack from the first film is used on heavy rotation and by the end you’ll have heard the same cues repeated an awful lot. It works wonders in providing that authentic feel, though a few tracks from the sequel wouldn’t have gone amiss.
Still, as the name suggests, Ghostbusters: The Video Game sets out to deliver everything you loved about the films in video game form, and it succeeds in doing so better than anyone could have reasonably expected. If you played and enjoyed the Wii version, for our money it's worth revisiting in its ‘realistic’ guise a decade on, especially if you know your Magical Paths to Fortune and Power from your Tobin's Spirit Guide. For owners of the non-Remastered version on other platforms, though, this is a tougher sell, even given the portability inherent in the Switch version. The lack of multiplayer (though it's supposedly coming) is a disappointment, and gyro controls really should have been included, but for anyone who missed the game first time round, this is a fine way to catch up and get in the mood for next year’s movie.
Enjoyment of Ghostbusters: The Video Game Remastered depends almost entirely on your affection for the movies – we love 'em, but if you don’t then knock at least one point off the score below (and perhaps take a long hard look in the mirror). For the rest of us, this is a wonderful form of time travel. It has no business calling itself a remaster and is best approached as a straight port of a ten-year-old game, but it’s a fine one. Mechanically-speaking, there's little you haven’t seen elsewhere, but it’s a good-looking, fun third-person romp dripping in slimy nostalgia, and the chance to spend time in the company of these old friends – some of them dearly departed – is too good to pass up if you've ever strapped on your school backpack and gone out to catch ghosts in the garden.