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Ghostbusters: Needs more Rick Moranis

No no no I said DON'T cross the streams, jerkface!

Who doesn’t love Ghostbusters?  The cheesy 80s music, the ridiculously over-the-top special effects, and the bumbling antics of Peter Venkman, Egon Spengler, Ray Stantz and Winston…  Churchill? (IMDB says his last name was Zeddmore.  Do they ever say that in the movie?  I certainly don’t remember it.) quickly became cultural icons from 1984 and well into the nineties.  Cartoon shows were created.  Delicious flavors of Kool Aid were spawned.  The merchandising potential was endless.

So then fast forward about twenty years when Ghostbusters writers Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd got the old team together and decided to produce a game as a sequel to Ghostbusters 2.  Aykroyd, Ramis, Bill Murray and Ernie Hudson all gave eachother one final high-five and teamed up to do some of the best voice acting available in current generation games.  But don’t go busting out the proton packs just yet.  Ghostbusters has its share of problems as well, and you’re not going to be able to make them go away by stashing them in a containment unit.

The story picks up about two years after the events of Ghostbusters 2.  Business has been good for everyone’s favorite group of socially awkward paranormal scientists, and the residents of New York know exactly who to call when they find something strange in their neighborhood.  So, to help keep up with their ridiculously heavy workload and to test out some of the more dangerous improvements Spengler and Stantz are adding to the proton packs, the gang hires a new recruit into their flock.  THIS RECRUIT IS YOU.

Hmmm yes aha very interesting

Anyway, a sudden mysterious spike in PK energy causes the haunted New York City to go a little batshit crazy.  And when ghosts start hitting areas under protection by a Ghostbuster rehaunting insurance policy, well that’s just bad for business.

First, we’ll start with the good points about Ghostbusters, because you know what?  Despite the flaws I enjoyed my time with this game.  First off, wrangling ghosts is extremely fun.  It’s still the rope ’em, tag ’em, and bag ’em system you remember from the movies.  You simply blast away at a ghost with the ol’ proton beam until he’s sufficiently messed up, rope him with the capture beam, and then smash him against as much of the destructible environment as you can.  You do this so you can get him into the trap that you’ve inevitably dropped at some point during the fight.  Just…  don’t look into the light.

There are other kinds of baddies to fight as well, so it’s not always like watching a ghost rodeo.  Possessed candlesticks, dead fish phantoms, book golems…  if it can be possessed, you’ve gotta fight it.  Most of these creatures can be scanned with your trusty PK meter, which acts as an in-game encyclopedia, keeping you up to date on which slime is okay and which slime will kill you along with the weaknesses of your foes.

Basically what I’m trying to say here, you actually feel like a ghostbuster.  Scanning the environment, keeping a wary eye open for nasties, taking haunted and creepy floor samples, and listening to the endless insane messages left on the answering machine back at the station are just some of the many things an aspiring ghostbuster must do with his time.

This is a troubling development

The other positive thing about this game is the story.  Well, maybe not the story.  If you’ve watched both the movies or a smattering of the unexpectedly awesome children’s television show, you know what to expect.  Something evil is out there, and it wants to BRING THE WORLD TO A NEW AGE OF DARKNESS.  Antics ensue.

No, what really shines here is the writing.  The interaction between Peter, Ray, Winston and Egon is top-notch, and will take you on a trip back down memory lane to the late 1980s.  From Ray’s constant excited gibbering and Egon’s pseudo-science nerd babbling to Peter’s apathetic outlook and Winston’s over-confidence (hell, just like the movies Winston doesn’t even show up until you’ve put a solid hour or two into the game!), you’re essentially playing the only sequel to Ghostbusters 2 we’re going to get.

(Not sure if this is true, mind you.  Despite reports that things were moving along well with a plot for Ghostbusters 3, to the point where even Rick Moranis was considering coming out of retirement, I found a few references on the internet that Bill Murray was against the idea and making it difficult for the movie to go forward, mainly due to how badly Ramis’ movie Year One did at the box office.  Check out the story on that here.)

I mentioned dangerous weapons, and danger you get!  Due to Egon and Ray’s tinkering, your new recruit gets the ability to upgrade and add new weapons to your arsenal, from the destructive boson dart, which pretty much destroys anything you shoot it at, to the Ghostbusters 2 throwback, the slime blower, which is used more for solving puzzles, tethering ghosts to walls and destructible objects, or to help a possessed ally ditch any unwanted hitch hikers.  It’s a lot of fun and gives you options in your ghost hunting campaign.

ACTUAL GAME FOOTAGE!

The game will take you on a romp through several famous locations from the Ghostbuster movies, and pit you against some familiar baddies.  Facing off against Stay Puft is just as epic as you’d think it would be, and dodging between that dopey bastard’s feet is a lot more rewarding than it was in the original Ghostbusters game for NES.

One other fantastic thing about this game:  The development team was rather obsessive about converting the four main characters into their digital counterparts.  Ray looks like Aykroyd, Egon looks like Ramis, and you can even see the mottled Bill Murray flesh on Peter’s cheek. We’re not in the realm where digital avatars are creepily similar to real life, but man we’re getting there.

Okay, so on to the negative.  The entire game is excessively short.  It gives you the feeling that you just watched a movie or two, but, you know, you just dropped the price for a full retail game.  But hey, the story is well polished and is out the door before it wears out its welcome.  But man, the game just leaves you wanting a little more.  Just a little.

Second issue I had was that your character is a non-entity.  His name is The Rookie, so called because Peter “doesn’t want to bother learning his name,” and so he is called the whole game.  He’ll never throw in some commentary, never lend his voice to his team to let them know that he’s going to die, and never offer any snark when he’s being snarked.  This sort of works, I’ll grant you.  After all, why would you want to deal with a new guy when you have the four legendary Ghostbusters ripping on each other all the time?  But still, if I’m going to be playing as this guy, I’d like to be able to relate to him a little, you know?  Hell, it’d be nice if he showed up in half the cut scenes.

Yep. Book golems.

The second bad thing about this game is that your fellow Ghostbusters are pretty squishy dudes.  You’ll spend a significant amount of time resurrecting them, or waiting for one of them to come help you up off the ground after a baddie has thrown a table at you or something.  This works for me.  After all, the Ghostbusters are just people, right?  You can’t tell me you’d do any better if you took a sturdy oak table to the head.  It just gets a bit aggravating when you’ve finally got that annoying little table chucker in your sights, about to wrangle him into a trap and earn some cold hard upgrade cash, when you have to drop everything and go help out your team.

Also, there comes a point in the game when you start fighting ghosts that take bodily possession of living humans.  Sounds hilarious, right?  Well, the only person who can’t be controlled is the Rookie.  You will spend more time hosing down the other Ghostbusters with slime than you will actually fighting the ghosts that are possessing them.  It’s by far the worst, most aggravating part of the game.  Fear it.

The multiplayer doesn’t stand out much either.  I had the opportunity to hop into the multiplayer with Enosh a while back, and man is it mediocre.  It’s essentially team ghost hunting, with several objectives ranging from protect the artifacts to capture X many ghosts in Y amount of time.  And you can do this.  But something about the multiplayer just didn’t feel very lasting.  You get money for each ghost you capture, and the game keeps track of your career earnings, but there’s nowhere to actually spend your hard-earned cash.  It feels like something major was left off the multiplayer during the development stage.

Also:  There’s no Rick Moranis to be found in this game.  Though I think that’s mainly due to the fact that old Rickie gave Hollywood the one finger salute, what with all that money he made off of those movies about shrinking certain items/people and then maybe not telling his wife about it.

Still, Ghostbusters is a solid, if short video game experience.  This might be a good one to rent if you’re in the mood to boot up the proton pack one last time.

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One Response

  1. I hope you’ve all seen this Improv Everywhere video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKB7zfopiUA

    And I agree with the Rick Moranis thing.

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