In case you’ve been living under a rock, a reboot of the cult classic film Ghostbusters is coming to theaters this week. Personally, I have zero intentions of seeing it, whether it’s good or bad, because it smells like a cheap cash-in on a nostalgic property (though I am happy that it served as an excuse to bring back Ecto Cooler). So as an act of… personal defiance, let’s call it, I decided, instead of seeing the new movie, I would replay the Ghostbusters video game.
Wha- no, not that one, that one sucks. I mean the 2009 one. The one that Dan Aykroid said was “basically the third movie.” Y’know, that thing we should’ve gotten instead of a reboot.
There it is.
Ghostbusters: The Video Game takes place two years after Ghostbusters II, and places you in the role of a new Ghostbuster cadet, hired on by Ray and Egon to field test experimental new equipment. What’s your name? Shut up, that’s what. The story reason for your character being nameless is that Venkman insists the other Ghostbusters only call you “Rookie”; in case something happens to you in the field, he doesn’t want them getting too attached to you. Right after you join up, a series of ghost alerts come in, requiring you and the rest of the team to travel all over New York, visiting several iconic locations from the movies, and, well, bust ghosts, all while uncovering a scheme by a worshipper of Gozer (y’know, the ancient evil god destroyer from the first movie) to bork reality.
All of the original Ghostbusters reprised their roles in this game; Dan Aykroid as Ray, Bill Murray as Venkman, Ernie Hudson as Winston, and the late great Harold Ramis as Egon. A couple of other mainstays from the films also make a return, such as Annie Potts as Janine and William Atherton as Walter Peck. Though, in spite of the star studded cast, the dialogue is a bit hit-or-miss. During the actual scripted dialogue segments and cutscenes, the Ghostbusters’ personalities are in full, lovable view. Venkman snarks, Egon says smart things, Ray is unfalteringly positive, and Winston is too cool to care. During combat and exploration, however, a lot of the lines get phoned in, not to mention repeated ad nauseam. When my PKE meter buzzed, if I didn’t pull it up right away, I’d always get a passive aggressive remark like “you should really look at that,” and when I was tussling with Stay Puft, Ray just would NOT shut up about boson darts. Still, for the most part, it’s nice to hear the quartet in character, even if you can’t contribute to the conversation.
Speaking of boson darts, ghost combat is a lot more involved than the movies would have you believe. As a proper Ghostbuster, you’re outfitted with the usual proton pack that can fire a damage-dealing proton stream and wrangle enemies in a capture beam. When a ghost’s health is low enough, the capture stream activates automatically, and you can stun them by slamming them into walls and ceilings, followed finally by dragging them into the ghost trap (or slam dunking them in if you’ve got the right upgrade). However, as the experimental tester guy, your proton pack is special; Egon outfitted it with a variety of new functions for field testing, and they can be remotely activated as the plot demands it.
While in the normal proton mode, you can fire powerful grenades of energy (the aforementioned boson darts) to tear up groups of enemies. As the game goes on, you’ll also gain access to a shotgun/freeze ray for dealing with fast ghosts, a slime thrower for cleansing caustic black slime, and a beam cannon for fighting corporeal opponents. Every ghost you bust earns you cash that can be used to buy upgrades for your pack, such as increased damage, decreased cooldowns, and immunity to your own explosives.
While it is fun to wrangle ghosts, the combat isn’t perfect. To create a more cinematic atmosphere, HUD elements are minimized; instead, your health bar and heat level are on the side of the Rookie’s proton pack, and can be very difficult to see in the heat of the moment (or when you’re turned slightly to the left). Certain ghosts can tear off big chunks of health with simple attacks, and you’ll be knocked on your ass before you know it. If you get knocked out, one of the other Ghostbusters will need to come over and revive you, and vice versa. They’re usually pretty good about this, but when multiple members of your team go down at once, you’ll have to drop what you’re doing and revive them, lest you lose your lifelines. During one segment in the library with just me and Ray, we were attack by a swarm of extremely fast flying books. When Ray was knocked out, he was flung halfway across the room, and the books would swarm me before I could get to him.
Complaints aside, it is a nice little love letter to a classic franchise. It ain’t the movie, and I won’t say it’s not trying to be, but look at it this way: These days, you can get the Steam version for ten bucks, and even less if you wait for a sale (I got it mine from the Humble Store for $2.50), and that’s certainly less than the price of most movie tickets (unless you’re really old or really young). So if you’ve got five bucks lying around, and want to have some fun with the real Ghostbusters, I’d say it’s more than worth your time. Now pardon me, I have a ten-pack of Ecto Cooler to pound.