"There is a sadness in me… "
There is a sadness in me…
Only a few games this year have piqued my interest. Made me say “I absolutely must play that” and meant it. Of those, Ghostbusters was among the top three, and a game that I really, truly wanted to work. All because of the fond memories I had for the movie--one I still quote to this day, and one I play out scenes from in my head if I get bored. Typically prompting a laugh--usually in public--making all those around me believe I’m crazy.
Now, I think that of myself.
Ghostbusters had all the elements to be a really good game: It promised an all-new storyline written by Ramis and Aykroyd set two years after the second movie ended, cool weapons, new ideas and great antics. It was hyped as having everything I know and love about Ghostbusters, and the ability to interact with it.
And when I found out that almost everyone who made the movie entertaining--Murray, Aykroyd, Ramis, Hudson--was on board, I was ecstatic. Truth be told, I squealed and clapped like a little girl.
But the story was hit-and-miss for me. It starts out new, with a rather dark, cryptic cut-scene taking place in a section of a museum aptly named the Gozar exhibit. It follows a security guard making his rounds, then pauses on a random statue long enough to see its eyes start to glow. Immediately after, the camera shifts to show a young woman come barreling down the hall, clutching more files than she can seem to carry. The guard chases after her, and tells her she’s not supposed to be there. He’s so enamored, he misses the wave of blue smoke that’s creeping out of the exhibit, out of the museum, and eventually across the entire city.
The scene shifts, the infamous theme song plays, and you follow Ecto-1 to Ghostbusters HQ. Inside an introduction is made to the team’s newest member--you--who just seems to go by “Rookie” (evident also by his nametag).
While in the middle of your orientation, Slimer’s cage cracks and the annoying little apparition bursts out. You try to catch him while he’s still in the confines of the building, but to no avail. The over-sized booger escapes into the city, and it’s up to you and your team to catch him.
Unfortunately that’s where it lost me, and where it may lose a lot of other fans. Slimer ends up in the same hotel, in the same banquet room as he did the movie. And he’s captured the same way. The opportunity for variety and diversity exists, and believe me I can understand Atari’s desire to implement famous scenes from the movie, but they never took a chance, and spun it to give gamers and fans something new.
That is, sadly, how the rest of it plays out--giving you bits and pieces of a new storyline, then drawing back to the original movie and re-hashing a scene from one set two years prior. Whether it’s in the public library to see the librarian floating in front of the card catalog, shushing you every chance she gets or battling the Stay-puffed Marshmallow man in Time Square, and splattering him on the streets below. Even the whiney, pencil-neck Peck makes an appearance and once again--big surprise--tries to shut the Ghostbusters down.
And the new levels, and new ideas aren’t much better. You travel to different locations, but they all start out the same way: Some big, mama-jama of a ghost appears at the beginning, taunts you and then fades away into some unknown recess, leaving you to battle minions and work your way towards it--blindly I might add, seeing as there’s no map to guide you--all to end in a fiery, proton pack showdown.
These are things I could like past, or even spin to make them sound grand. I couldn’t endure them because this game is missing one very crucial element: Humor. Atari seems to have forgotten that every fan out there was expecting this game to make them laugh. It needed great lines like “Let’s show this prehistoric bitch how we do things downtown.”, “"Get her! That was your whole plan, huh, Ray? Get her. Very scientific” or “Ray, when someone asks you if you’re a good, you say YES!”
Instead I got a bunch of scientific babble spouted by Ray and Egon, teaching you how to use the unlicensed nuclear accelerator attached to your back, or vague, wordy assumptions as to why the world is suddenly torn asunder. The movie had that same element, but you always had Venkman to lighten it up, dumb it down for the rest of us, and throw in a witty retort. Most of the time Venkman is either missing, or too distracted by Alyssa Milano. Bill Murray was the funniest person in Ghostbusters the movie, but in the game he’s missing every last bit of talent, timing and wit that made him so great; making Venkman a very dismal, boring character.
And your character is a complete tool. He doesn’t have a name, he’s referred to as “rookie” or “haas” or “chief”. He’s ignorant, and clumsy. He goes the whole game without saying an entire word like a cheap 90’s RPG hero and he’s always wearing this bizarre facial expression. One that says “I just felt something squishy in my pants, and it wasn’t Ectoplasm.” Rookie is lacking personality, charisma or even any likeable qualities. It’s hard--almost impossible--to immerse yourself in the role, adding to an already large list of downsides. If I can’t care about the main character, what would make me care about the game?
Yes, Ghostbusters does have positive elements. It’s a great looking game, the character rendering is flawless and the expressions, be it from Venkman’s dimwitted stare to Egon’s nerdy facial quirks are pinpoint accurate. Minus Murray, everyone gives a decent performance for the voice-overs and the sound effects for ghosts, the proton pack and random slime or street noises add that little extra.
The most entertaining part, however, is capturing the ghosts. It’s not simply shooting them until they die. You wear them down with your proton pack until they’re limp, wrangle them, slam them around and fight them into the ghost trap. As the game progresses, you gain access to new weapons like the Stasis beam that will slow a ghost down and eventually turn them to stone. You’ll unlock a Slime gun that will douse any apparition in sticky ooze--vengeance for them doing it to you so many times. You can also use its secondary option to send out a string of slime that will snap together once both ends are attached to something. It’s useful to either clear a path, or pull a wandering ghost directly into your trap. The game has an abundance of ways to capture spirits, and the entertainment exists in the variety on how to do so.
That, however, also leads to another downfall. Capturing Ghosts is a great idea, but often times you have to do something very specific, like using the slime to attach an indestructible apparition to a wall, slamming him into it to break it down, or prying open a conduit and blasting its weak inner-core. Each time you’re forced to endure other ghosts throwing you around or draining your life while you’re trying to focus. Your teammates provide you no help, other than spouting off the same line over and over “we’ve got to figure out a way to get that wall down” but making no effort to do so, leaving you to blindly solve the puzzle or die in the process. There were several fights that left me more frustrated than entertained.
In the end, that’s how I felt about the entire game. Because I wanted it to work, and it had the elements to do so, but each one was lacking the effort. The storyline was missing creativity, the character’s personalities were dormant, and the action was as irritating as it was involving. So, yes, maybe I am crazy. Not for renting it first before I bought because I was nervous. Not for throwing my own funny lines in when something happened, even when I was by myself. And I’m not even crazy for playing it again, wondering if it would change the second time around.
I’m crazy for thinking--and hoping--Ghostbusters was going to be something more than cheap merchandising.
Community review by True (June 30, 2009)
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