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Ghostbusters Review

Solid Gameplay Brings this Title Above Mere Fan Service
by Ben Reeves on Sep 22, 2009 at 02:02 PM
Reviewed on Xbox 360
Also on PlayStation 3, Wii
Publisher Atari
Developer Terminal Reality
Rating Teen

It was hard to be an adolescent in the '80s and not develop a fondness for these paranormal psychologists. As soon as Ray Parker Jr.'s synthesized theme started with, ''When there's something strange...'' I couldn't stop the well of child-like delight that bubbled out of me. As Ray and Egon bantered back and forth, I'd almost forgotten the last two decades ever happened. It really was 1991, and I was hanging out with my childhood idols. This is the ultimate Ghostbuster's fan festival.

The story is a mix of throwbacks to the old films and creative new bits that fit right into the mythos. As the silent new recruit, you follow the team around New York's most popular haunts. With a governmental oversight committee breathing down their neck and a ghost named Shandor making a muck of the city, it's no surprise they need the extra hands.

As the new blood, you are the Ghostbuster's guinea pig, testing out all their new equipment. The upshot is that you get a lot of sweet new toys to play with, like the stasis stream, which basically works like a freeze ray. Fans will also recognize the slime blower from the second film, which you'll use to tether objects in the environment in order to solve many of the game's puzzles.

Tons of great scripted moments help sell this experience. I scaled the side of a building and shot down the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, and explored a basement where monsters made entirely out of coal jump out of the furnaces. All the while Ray Stantz freaks out like a dork about paranormal phenomena and Peter Venkman delivers sarcastic one-liners. The repartee from all four original actors sell every minute of the game in which they are onscreen.

I only wish as much love and care had gone into crafting the gameplay. The mechanics Terminal Reality developed around capturing ghosts work well; I had fun slamming ghosts against the furniture, wrangling them into traps, and making a mess of any room I stepped into. But I wasn't always trapping ghosts. You spend a lot of the time shooting down annoying bat-like animators or other pithy creatures that don't require trapping. The health system feels widely unbalanced as well, and you find yourself on the ground without warning. The other Ghostbusters can resurrect you, but they aren't any better at dodging these cheap shots than you are, so if you all go down together (and you will) it's game over. Most of the time it feels like you're doing all the work, which has the adverse effect of making you feel more powerful than these legendary heroes.

If you can put up with these annoyances, the game rewards you with its moody atmosphere and epic encounters. A few multiplayer modes pit you against other players to trap ghosts and survive waves of enemies, but the only real draw is getting to play as the four main Ghostbusters. The real meat of the game is getting to play through the Ghostbusters experience we always dreamed about as kids...a story that could have easily been Ghostbusters III.­

It's Thanksgiving in New York, 1991. A ghostly plague brings the city to its knees. Who you gonna call?
Authentic. Even the game's new digital props look like they were made by cobbling together thrift store junk
The original four actors do a phenomenal job bringing these characters, and this world, back to life
A few cheap shots can send you to the game over screen, but catching ghosts is plenty of fun
Unfortunately, you won't be able to play as your favorite Ghostbuster during the single-player experience. You can online, but it's not quite the same

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PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii
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