Atari did something special in 2009, they managed to take a beloved film franchise and turn it into a video game people genuinely liked nearly 20 years after it had last been in theatres. This is a feat rarely accomplished by games for new movies, so to do so with a film franchise as loved as Ghostbusters was an incredible accomplishment. So to say that Atari’s digital follow-up offering has big shoes to fill from a franchise standpoint is an understatement; it also has to fight its way out from behind the shadow of Ghostbusters: The Video Game. So does the batch of new recruits manage to make us sing “Bustin’ makes us feel good!” at the top of our lungs?
Artistically the game actually fairs very well. The environments, while limited to basically 4 locations that are essentially re-used twice each, are surprisingly detailed, certainly far more than was needed. Unlike most twin-stick shooters which typically keep the camera up high due to the lack of art development, SoS occasionally brings the camera in close to show off the visuals. They certainly aren’t stunning, but I appreciated that they didn’t just take the easy route either. The sound and music is also really well done, so much so that I would say it just simply feels right. The comics that make up the cut scenes between levels are actually very, for lack of better word, cool. The story isn’t even half bad, and openly references and even includes a character from Ghostbusters 2. At least, from what I was able to pick up, the story wasn’t bad, since despite having a very large HD TV I was unable to read probably 40% of the comic text because it was too small, or, they sped through large paragraphs very quickly. A shame really, since the story is probably the best part of the game, and really the only way we can get introduced to the new characters. You were aware that there are four new Ghostbusters right?
Lets face it, when you pick up that phone and call 555-2368, you expect Ray, Venkman, Egon and Winston to answer, not Alan, Samuel, Gabriel and Bridget. These are the new Ghostbusters in SoS and for the most part they don’t matter (really, they don’t). The characters are largely undeveloped, flat, humorless and just offer a vehicle for which to get your ghost busting on. That being said the characters managed to not hinder the game, which is honestly quite impressive; all things considered. They are just simply there. The story does explain briefly why the new recruits are handling the first call in the game (the old guys having just gotten back and being too tired), but actually fails to mention why the original four never really get involved beyond that (even after they appear in the comic cut scenes later on but then apparently choose to not get involved). Atari really does deserve some credit though for deciding to go with “new recruits” for all the main characters, having to be fully aware that many would be turned off by the lack of the original Ghostbusters.
In terms of game play I’m sad to say the game simply isn’t much fun. It is repetitive, sometimes annoying and even borderline aggravating at times. The entire game is basically a series of rooms that you enter, defeat all the ghost in the room, enter the next room, repeat. There are no puzzles, nothing really to figure out. Hell there isn’t even much strategy as there are no upgrades, limited power ups (most of which do nothing but boost your meaningless score/cash amount) and three gun types that pretty much only work on the ghost of a corresponding color. (i.e. yellow gun works on yellow ghost and does basically nothing to red ghost and so on) The color of the ghost seems to be randomized, which means that sometimes areas are painfully hard and sometimes incredibly easy as the guns are not created equal. The yellow gun seems to do less damage and has a slow fire rate; the blue gun does more than the yellow, but is harder to aim. The red (which is the traditional proton pack) does the most damage and has a constant rate of fire but, again, is only really usable on red ghost. More importantly, the ghost all act differently depending on their color, and some are simply more deadly. This is particularly true of the “Abominations” which are the biggest enemies you fight that aren’t technically bosses. The red and blue are relatively harmless if you don’t get too close, the yellow on the other hand will run at you (oh, you move pretty slow by the way) with an attack that can kill you in one hit, and leaves a trail of slime that will kill you if you touch it, and more often than not will pin you in a corner of slimy death. This is made even more frustrating as the friendly AI may in fact be the dumbest friendly AI in the history of video games. They really are that bad. They group together, meaning in cases like the yellow abomination then tend to get wiped out in one attack. They also are programmed to immediately forgo everything else to revive team members that are down; this includes rushing to revive you even if a giant ghost spider monster thing is literally standing over you. Expect to see your AI partners rushing to help you, start to heal you, get hit, start to heal you, get hit, start to heal you, die themselves. Repeat till none are left standing.
That being said the game has a very friendly check-point system, basically every new room of ghost, so you don’t have to repeat much if you die; but it’s all or nothing in terms of finishing the levels as you can’t walk away and pick the game back up mid-level. Playing online makes almost all difficulty the game posses dues to the faulty AI in single player vanish, in fact I would go so far to say that the online mode is too easy if you have four human players. With no other difficulty settings it simply is what it is.
Online multiplayer is much more fun than the single player though. Like most games you are going to run into the same issues: namely that people drop out or don’t co-operate (by doing stuff such as healing). There is also the issue that most likely half of all games that came up in searches where for the first “chase” level because people were going for the achievement associated with it. As most of the initial players get the full 200 achievement points, expect this game’s multiplayer to die off quickly. The replay value just isn’t very strong and the community isn’t all that large even in the first week. (I constantly got paired up with the same gamers while finding games) Multiplayer is the highlight of the game, unfortunately in the end it is only highlighting what is ultimately a very mediocre game.
To sum it all up, Ghostbusters SoS does have some charm, almost entirely in its’ visual presentation, but fails to please in any other significant way. As a big fan of the franchise you will likely find some enjoyment in experiencing the story and the simple fact you get to bust some ghost; but then it is likely to go right back to collecting digital dust on your digital shelf. I certainly can’t recommend it at the 800 MSP ($10) it launched at, but for 400 or less a fan of the series could probably bear a couple of hours of repetitive game play all in the name of some ghost busting.
Final Rating: 4/10
CBR Break Down:
Console Played On: Xbox 360
Approximate Time to Completion: ~6 hours
Gamer Score Earned: 200G
Price Bought at: N/A – Furnished by Atari
Current Price: 800 Microsoft Points ($10)
Recommend Purchase Price: 400 MSP ($5) at most.
So I may not be crazy about the game, especially in terms of value for the buck, but it is hard to beat free, especially if you are a fan of Ghobsusters. That is why Clearance Bin Review is giving away a copy of Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime for XBLA to one lucky winner.
To enter, simply answer our short little poll: Should they make a Ghostbusters 3 (movie)? Copy and paste one of these answers below:
Yes, but only if the original cast returns and stars in it.
Yes, even if the original cast are only supporting characters.
No, not even if the original cast returns.
No, never, ever, ever, ever, ever should they do that. Ever.
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@ClearanceBinRev is giving away a copy of Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime for XBLA! Details: http://bit.ly/dNjSIE
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Contest will go until Friday at 6pm CST. A pool of all eligible entries will then be randomly selected from and the winners will be notified. CBR reserves the right to disqualify any entry we feel either violated the rules or spirit of the contest, including attempts at duplicate entries. Winner selected with no twitter name provided will be notified by email and have 24 hours to respond.