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TVG crosses the beams and gets more than little excited about ectoplasm, proton packs and containment traps...
Coinciding with the 25th anniversary of the original Ghostbusters movie, Terminal Reality, Atari, and SCEE (over here at least) have teamed up to deliver the video game with a spooky sense of timing. It's been a long time since Ray, Egon, Venkman, and Winston crossed the streams and put Gozer the Gozerian back into the nearest convenient parallel dimension, but surely it's been long enough for a resurgence - besides who can resist the funky beats of Ray Parker Jr's theme tune and strapping a Proton Pack on?
Cast as the 'rookie', a new addition to the team who never threatens to upstage the Ghostbusters, but is merely there to test out Egon and Ray's experimental equipment is a clever touch, as it allows the stars of the show to take centre stage. But it's not just the Ghostbusters, Terminal Reality has made sure this is a fan's dream by re-enacting memorable moments from the films and packing it full with numerous references and the return of familiar faces; whether it's trapping Slimer in the Sedgewick Hotel, fighting against the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man in Times Square, listening to Janine's inane phone conversations, or suffering Peck's constant attempts to stand in the Ghostbusters way.
Although it's an integral quality of the game to have the likenesses and the voice acting, it's the fact that Dan Akroyd and Harold Ramis have put their pens together to tinker with the script and deliver the sharp one-liners that really makes Ghostbusters: The Videogame stand out. If the game hadn't received this level of support then it's hard to imagine any redeeming qualities. As a result, the plot which incorporates strong elements from the series helps to ensure the game sits more than comfortably alongside the films. It may not quite reach the same standards (of the original movie at least), but it's more than an adequate substitute for the on/off situation that has engulfed any chances of a third film. The heavy involvement of the original cast behind the game, however, wasn't strong enough to pull Rick Moranis out of retirement, and if there's one thing that's missing it's a little nerdy humour from Louis Tully. Alyssa Milano plays Venkman's inevitable love interest, serving as a critical link to the game's plot and serving as an adequate substitute for Sigourney Weaver. Perhaps the only complaint is Venkman's tendency to drift in and out of the plot; at times it almost seems that Bill Murray perhaps didn't have as much enthusiasm as the others, but it's a small quibble.
Sitting in the crowded third-person action genre, Ghostbusters: The Videogame is far from the terrible outing that we first feared, especially after it had been described as 'Gears of War Lite'. Admittedly it never threatens to bring anything new to the genre, but it does at least portray the mechanics of busting ghosts in a fun way. It's a wish come true for anybody that was a kid growing up in the 80s, particularly anybody like myself that received a dismally disappointing plastic Proton Pack kit for Christmas.
Capturing ghosts initially with the standard Blast Stream involves wearing them down with relentless blasts (taking care not to cross the streams), before locking onto them when their energy is virtually depleted and wrestling with them to suck them into the trap. Wrangling with the ghosts is an enjoyable dynamic, made more satisfying by the various strategies and upgrades that become available throughout the game. A 'Slam Dunk' upgrade reduces the time that's needed to trap a ghost, by literally slam-dunking it into the trap. As play progresses three upgrades to the Proton Pack bring a host of different techniques. Each variation is activated with a tap on the corresponding d-pad, with alternative firing techniques available for each variation. This helps to bring a little variety to the combat, which could otherwise have become overly repetitive quite quickly. The challenge of capturing ghosts is staggered sufficiently enough throughout the game, requiring different strategies and posing an increasingly tougher challenge. Although once you've mastered the basics the overall challenge of trapping the ghosts does become a routine affair. Even the bigger ghosts fall into this category, and quite quickly you realise that as long as you're constantly moving they'll pose little threat.
Busting ghosts naturally provides the majority of the gameplay, whose only other component beyond a couple of menial puzzles largely involves finding the correct way through the exceedingly linear levels and scanning ghosts and collecting cursed architects all with the help of the PKE Meter. It does grow a little monotonous at times, particularly towards the latter stages of the game where the recurrence becomes a little too much and the pacing tends to dip. Each of the seven stages typically ends with a boss fight and these are generally implemented to good effect. Often large in size and stature, defeating the bosses requires varying strategies beyond the typical trap mechanic. There is an underlying feel that the game could have done with something to offer a little respite and variety. It didn't need to be anything too drastic, perhaps taking control of the Ecto-1 or a little more to do in the Ghostbusters HQ beyond listening to answerphone messages and the picture of Vigo chatting away to itself.
With only seven stages, Ghostbusters: The Video Game doesn't pose too much of challenge and offers between 6-8 hours of gameplay. It's probably a good thing that Terminal Reality didn't decide to stretch it any further, as the latter stages do tend to drag on a little and it comes at the cost of the otherwise sharp dialogue and witty banter. Not even Akroyd and Ramis could keep the gags coming. It's doubtful whether the allure of scanning all ghosts and discovering all of the cursed artefacts is strong enough to keep you coming back for more. A multiplayer mode allows you to take control of any members of the team, but unfortunately at the time of review this option wasn't available. Obviously the game's main appeal stems from the single-player mode, but the multiplayer should provide some laughs if unlikely to keep the disc wurring away in the tray for too many hours after the single-player campaign has finished.
Despite featuring some impressive character models that present an incredible likeness and striking little details, Ghostbusters: The Video Game is definitely a mixed bag in the visual department. Although certain stages and the Ghostbusters HQ are packed with little things to catch the eye, some stages are more than a little rough around the edges and have a distinct last-gen appearance. That said, the emphasis is on the Ghostbusters and the ghosts, which come together in a fantastic light extravaganza when you're struggling to trap them. The same certainly can't be said about the sound. Beyond Ray Parker Jr's iconic theme tune, Ghostbusters: The Videogame makes heavy use of other classics from the movie soundtrack that further cements the iconic feel. More impressive is the constant chatter throughout the game and the carefully delivered dialogue during the cut-scenes.