Fans of the Ghostbusters franchise would remember the 1980s movies with a broad smile on their faces. The films introduced some of the most memorable characters to grace the silver screen – the tech wizard Egon, the eccentric mad scientist Peter, the relatively sane Ray and the down-to-Earth Winston – who formed the original ghostbusting quartet and embraced fame for their quirky quotes and strange career choice – that of hunting ghosts. With some colourful ghosts and interesting side characters and villains, such as the 200-foot Stay Puft Marshmallow Man (made up entirely of, you guessed it, marshmallow), thrown in, the movies more than earned their legendary status.
Fortunately, Ghostbusters: The Video Game sticks to the same formulae. Written by the original writers, the game feeds on the same familiar universe created by the movies and features the same star cast lending voices to the main characters. Add some locations lifted straight off the original material and a few recognisable un-dead faces, and the game seemingly manages to strike all the right chords.
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The game starts off with the player assuming the role of a new cadet, the 5th Ghostbuster referred to as ‘Rookie’ throughout the game. The non-customisable appearance and lack of speech and personality would have left a pretty sour taste in the mouth had the other characters who surround him not been overflowing with their own quirky styles. Halfway through the game, it becomes obvious that having the player replace one of the original veterans would have been blasphemy.
The story is the usual run-of-the-mill affair which starts off with some familiar spectres, previously encountered by the Ghostbusters (in the movies), reappearing all over Manhattan. In dealing with these spooks, the Ghostbusters realise that the alternate dimension of Ghost World is trying to cross over into the ‘real’ world, and a young female museum curator is somehow related to the paranormal activities surrounding this event. In the course of the single player story campaign, which lasts 8 hours or so, the ‘Rookie’ would linearly traverse multiple gorgeous locations which include a slimy sewer system, an ancient castle, and a cemetery, and try to unravel the mystery of the grand architect of all things that go bump in the night. What appears to be a drab and linear narration turns out to be pretty entertaining nevertheless with subtle moments of brilliance thrown in.
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The gameplay is a mix of a typical coverless third-person shooter, with the cumbersome heavy sprinting sequences included, and some very interesting lasso controls. The former is used to hammer ghosts into oblivion and latter is used to capture some of the more reluctant ones once they are beaten and bruised. The mini-nuclear proton pack saddled on the player’s back serves as the lock, stock and barrel of the ghost-busting arsenal. With 4 different proton pack beams, each having dual upgradable modes, equivalent of shotguns, machine guns and rocket launchers, unlocked through the single player campaign, there is more than enough variety in the gameplay to tackle all sorts of pesky ghouls who fly by.
What makes the game a little less challenging is the fact that, apart from frequent checkpoints, there is unlimited ammo for each beam, making the player an endless source of ghost busting nuclear power. Capturing ghosts involves throwing a lasso around a weakened ghost and then trying to reel him into a mini tractor beam. Slamming the rebellious apparitions around or pulling them back as they amusingly try their best to escape the proton beams is pure unadulterated fun. Also, apart from the wacky ghosts, ranging from dead opera singers to kitchen chefs, there are numerous gigantic bosses who keep popping up often enough. Taking down these mammoths at the end of each chapter feels extremely satisfying and adds to the grand delusion of truly walking in the shoes of the Ghostbusters.
Next page: The verdict