For about a year now you could not turn around on the internet without hearing some bombastic statement about Ghostbusters: The Video Game. “It has the original cast, even Bill Murray!” “It has a script by Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd!” “It’s officially cannon, it’s going to be basically a third movie!”
If reading isn’t your bag (you play video games, of course it isn’t. Zing! I’m kidding, I do too, no hatemail, please.) here’s the one line review: nothing could live up to the expectations spurred on by the above statements, and the game doesn’t.
According to most critics the game is a tepid success. The general critical consensus seems to be “it’s good not great” and that it will “please fans of the original film.” A couple of weeks have passed since the game’s release and I have finally had a bit of time to sit down with it. I was encouraged by the critical response. I wasn’t expecting the game to be any kind of masterpiece, but I hoped for a fun, long-overdue return of the characters I grew up loving, and it sounded like that’s what I was getting. In the end I have mixed feelings, very mixed.
Let’s get the good stuff out of the way so I can begin unfairly trashing the things I hated about this otherwise decent game that suffered from the impossible expectations trumped up by its publisher (see, I’m softening already).
The mechanics of actually busting ghosts is great. You strap on your proton pack and it has the same manic out-of-control feeling it has in the movies. You toss out a trap and it sucks in weakened ghosts, you even have walk over and pick it up, just like the movies.
The voice-work is surprisingly solid all around, and there is a lot of it. Aykroyd, Ramis, Hudson, even Annie Potts give it their all. Murray does not, but at least he’s in the game for its entirety. When I first heard about his involvement, I figured they would have to find a dues ex machina to get the notoriously hard to wrangle actor out of the plot for a good portion of the game. No, he’s with you every step of the way, hurling witticisms that, while a bit sleepy sounding, are one of the few bright points of the game. If you’ve ever wanted to hear Bill Murray order you around for 7 hours: then this game is for you.
The plot is just a poor excuse to string together retreads of jokes and locations form the first film (thankfully, they spared us the dancing Statue of Liberty). For example: you will hear approximately five permutations of Egon’s “Twinkie” joke. You will also fight Slimer in the Hotel Ballroom, the Librarian in the NY Public Library, and the Stay-Puft Marshmallow man in Times Square (which is quite obviously NOT Times Square in 1991…when the game is supposed to take place. It is a real testament to the overall sloppiness of the developer that the art department couldn’t be bothered to Google a picture of Times Square in the early 90s for crying out loud!).
The main problem of the game is that as a “third movie” the plot and dialogue are iffy at best, and as a video game it is shockingly light on actually game. Most of your time is spent walking around liner hallways waiting for the rest of the Ghostbusters to catch-up and trigger some kind of event. You catch whatever ghosts pop up and then you wait around for another 10 minutes listening to aforementioned lackluster dialogue. It’s not a movie. It’s not a game. It’s just $60 dollars worth of mediocre filler. The only attempt to make the game challenging is by having enemies that occasionally knock you down and momentarily take control away from you. It doesn’t make the game hard, just annoying. The amount of time you spend running around reviving the rest of your brain-dead team is equal to the amount of time you spend BUSTING GHOSTS!
The game is a chore. There are isolated moments of genuine Ghostbusters-magic, but they don’t makeup for the game’s shortcomings, or its price point.
I’m not giving up on the boys, I feel that the game was made with the best of intentions on Ramis and Aykroyd’s part. The scaffolding for a great game is here. Maybe there will be a sequel with all the bugs ironed out, or—better yet—maybe they will finally make that third movie Aykroyd has been talking up for the last decade. Hey Dan: I’m ready to believe you.