The year was 1984 and the movie was Ghostbusters. Written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, this feature film was a huge hit. It's a quirky tale of three down-and-out scientists and their desire to make a buck by ridding the city of wacky spirits and apparitions. It also introduced some great visual effects that wowed the film audiences of the time. Followed in 1989 by an equally good sequel, the team then went their separate ways; until now.
Yes, they're back - in a video game, but even Dan Aykroyd acknowledges that Ghostbusters: The Video Game is actually better considered as the third movie in the series. Not only do the characters make a comeback, but the actors from the original have lent their looks and voice-overs to the game, together with the charm and humour that made the original movie such a hit. The PlayStation and Xbox 360 versions were released back in June this year, a move designed to coincide with the Blu-Ray release of the original motion picture. Roll on to November, and we finally get to see what the game plays like on the PC.
Before looking at the game in detail however, it's hard to go past the installation. Atari, what was going on in the quality control team with this one? It stuns us that a game could be released where the installation could have such a serious glitch. Install the game on anything other than the C: drive and you will get a failed install. The install application will somehow only install some of the files on your alternate drive or partition, while installing the balance on C:. Takes a while to find it, but copying the rogue files into the right directory eventually solved the problem.
This unpleasantness aside, we got into the game proper. It was like going back in time. Here we were, standing in the converted fire station donning the famed and coveted suit of a Ghostbuster. Played in third person, you'll stand in front of your team getting instructions on the use of your Proton Pack. You can almost feel the glowing warmth of its atomic energy, and only half hear the warnings on overheating and venting as you itch to blast some ectoplasmic no-good spirit. Perhaps pointing it at the main containment unit was a bad idea, but the escape of the Slimer sets you off in your new career as one of the team.
The game is an adventure-shooter crossover. You get to upgrade weapons by earning cash and capturing the bad guys, and you solve puzzles along the way and collect items to decorate the station. The blasting is really well done. You feel as if you're holding in your hands an uncontrollable stream of pure energy that wants to arc on to the nearest object. Its course across the room is seared in the walls, carpet and anything of value. Chandeliers and vases are grist to the mill as you try to pull your stream on to the ghost. Once caught, it squirms and bolts to try and break the beam. You in turn slap your leashed ghost against the nearest hard object to knock it senseless prior to throwing out your containment trap. Nothing feels better than leaving a once pristine restaurant a charred wreck holding onto a smoking containment trap. A man happy in his work, so they say.
We mentioned Slimer, Stay Puft and the Librarian make an appearance, but it's the bevy of new spirits that make the game a sequel rather than a copy. Pappy the Fisherman manages to turn a whole floor in a hotel into an aquatic spiritual wonderland, leaving Bill Murray wondering who left the bath tap running. Marshmallow Mini, Sloth Ghost and Black Slime Giant all round out the new collection of ghouls.
Rather than the standard Plasma Blaster, you can also upgrade to a Freezing Ray, Blaster and Slime Teethers for moving objects. With upgrades such as heat load reduction, as well as modifications to your traps you have a heap of opportunity to customise your personal kit. You also have the PKE meter, which is a sort of a thermal imaging device that exposes ectoplasma. Using this helps you to track down those rascally apparitions and also identify points of ghostly interest.
The graphics are excellent, however to make levels seamless the entire environment appears to be loaded, judging by the amount of time it takes to start playing. The animations are smooth with your fellow team members looking and acting like movie heroes. They are not casual observers either, as they actively help in blasting away (don't cross the beams). You can rush to a team members aid if he is slimed and likewise they will revive you. Some levels though, it's strictly solo.
An excellent game that feels like a movie, and is both nostalgic and innovative at the same time. Great fun to play, and a game we can thoroughly recommend.