In short, this long-awaited title is a loving tribute to the first Ghostbusters film that started it all 25 years ago.
To fans who fondly remember watching Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis lay waste to an entire hotel ballroom, Ghostbusters: The Video Game provides a nostalgia trip like no other and an opportunity to finally realize what it’s like to fire an unlicensed nuclear accelerator.
Heat Up That Proton Pack as the Fifth Ghostbuster
The game takes place in 1991, two years after the pink slime drama of Ghostbusters II, as New York City is once again under siege by otherworldly entities.
Jumping into the boots of the fifth Ghostbuster, a mute and unnamed rookie dubbed the “experimental equipment technician,” the player quickly gets re-acquainted with the original cast from the films in the familiar firehouse headquarters. But it’s not long before the action picks up as the gluttonous green vapor Slimer escapes from his containment pen and heads toward his old haunt, the Sedgewick Hotel.
The opening sequences act as a sort of tutorial, led by Dr. Raymond Stantz (voiced by Aykroyd). Firing the proton pack and wrangling specters into the vortex-like trap takes a bit of getting used to (the whole process is not unlike an ethereal fishing simulation, actually). But once learned, the lassoing of ghosts proves to be truly thrilling and unique, and it’s a mechanic that, surprisingly, doesn’t get repetitive.
Of course, this being a Ghostbusters game, the proton streams are used to attack more than just ghosts. The pack’s propensity for wanton property damage, as seen in the movies, is faithfully and satisfyingly recreated in the game as walls char, tables crumble and chandeliers explode to bits.
Indeed, destroying the various colorful environments is often just as satisfying as nabbing the game’s apparitions.
Aykroyd, Murray, Ramis Deliver the Laughs in Ghostbusters
It’s no secret the major selling point of Ghostbusters: The Video Game is the Ghostbusters universe itself.
Developer Terminal Reality knew when it began work on the title more than two years ago that this was a game that would be judged not only on how well it played but also how well it reflected the tone and feel of the first two movies.
In this respect, the game certainly delivers.
Not only have most of the original actors returned to lend their voices and likenesses, but the game’s story (which revisits the machinations of Ivo Shandor – the evil architect mentioned in passing in the first Ghostbusters) has been approved and finessed by Ramis and Aykroyd, the film’s original writers. And while the plot recycles a lot of past ghostly encounters, it manages to answer many questions and tie some loose ends from the first two movies.
The game bleeds authenticity in other areas as well. The proton pack, the PKE meter, the jumpsuits, the firehouse, and the Ecto-1 are all crafted in loving detail and stay true to the source material. Fans who’ve been waiting a good two decades for the next Ghostbusters chapter will truly appreciate the various nods and references.
But Ghostbusters, above all else, was always about the laughs and the chemistry between the characters. And this, thankfully, stays true in the game.
It’s just pure fun listening to the core cast of Murray, Aykroyd, Ramis and Ernie Hudson banter and wisecrack throughout. The irreverent quips and technobabble balance well with the game’s occasional scares – just as it was in the movies. Indeed, aside from some lip synching issues and stilted character animations, playing the game almost feels like watching Ghostbusters 3.
The voice acting is for the most part solid, with all of the actors sounding as they did way back in 1984. Aykroyd, in particular, sounds like he’s clearly having a blast reliving his ebullient Stantz character. But Murray’s Peter Venkman sounds off in parts, with his trademark sarcastic deadpan sounding tired and phoned in.
A Few Shortcomings Detract From Ghostbusters’ Ectoplasmic Fun
While Ghostbusters certainly sets the bar high for movie-based games, there are some flaws that are hard to ignore.
For one, the game is very short and ends a little too abruptly. A playthrough of the game’s seven stages on the normal setting takes only about seven hours on average to complete (although the game’s team-based multiplayer modes do help lengthen the title’s shelf life).
The game can also be punishing in its difficulty, especially in the later stages where much time is spent reviving downed teammates and replaying missions ad nauseum.
Ghostbusters also suffers from some poor level design in certain spots. The familiar city locations are generally the most engaging (particularly the Sedgewick Hotel and the New York Public Library), but the game’s evil island and cemetery finale feel a tad uninspired and, well, clichéd.
But these gripes aren’t enough to pull the beloved boys in gray completely into the void.
Despite its shortcomings, Ghostbusters ultimately succeeds where other movie-based games have failed time and time again by staying true to the original films while still being fun in its own right.
It’s still the closest gamers will ever get to wreaking havoc on a ballroom with their own unwieldy proton packs. And for now, Atari’s title remains the de facto Ghostbusters 3, at least until Hollywood decides it’s officially time for a film-based revival of the classic franchise.