Ghostbusters: The Video GameESRB:
Platform: Nintendo DS , DSI
Category: Action Games
Developer: Terminal Reality
I have fond memories of watching Ghostbusters the movie (both 1 and 2) as well as playing the game on Commodore 64 as a youth. When I heard that Atari was releasing a new game based on this franchise, but with a totally new storyline, I was eager to try it out. I had the chance to check out the DS version. After some time with it I think it is safe that while it may be light on features when compared to its console brothers, the handheld version does a good job of capturing the essence of what I remember Ghostbusters to be.
Ghostbusters takes place a couple of years after the second movie. A large paranormal surge sweeps over the city and the Ghostbusters team are tasked with doing what they do best: catching ghosts and wreaking havoc. The game begins at Ghostbusters HQ which acts as a world menu/hub. From your HQ you can choose which missions you may want to play or you can choose to just drive freely around the city. The DS version plays somewhat similar to GTA in such that you have a sandbox-style city where you can drive around freely , but in this game you can capture random ghosts roaming the city before finding missions to play.
The mission selection menu makes it very clear which missions are those that progress the story line and those that are just side missions. Surprisingly, side missions have a timed element to them meaning that if you do not prioritize which one you want to do first they will eventually “expire” and you will lose your chance to complete them. It may sound punishing but it really isn’t. You can use the side missions to earn reputation, skill, money and collect goo, but I found them terribly repetitive after a while.
Missions play out in an overhead view that is smooth and controls reasonably well. You move the characters using the d-pad, interact with objects using the face buttons, and shoot your proton pack using the stylus. The game controls well enough but I had issue with the camera as I would often get attacked by an enemy that was off-screen. I would eventually end up having to spin the stylus around the screen in a blind attempt to hit the ghost with it (when you hit a ghost with your proton beam, its status bar appears). This became frustrating after a while. Fighting consists of shooting the ghosts with your proton pack until their health meter is depleted where you can activate the trap to contain them for good.
Ghostbusters also offers a somewhat neat RPG element or two that I did not expect. You earn money by both capturing ghosts and doing odd jobs. You also get the chance to collect ectoplasm. This is used for technology upgrades that you can build in Egon’s lab at HQ. The catch here is that you can only do one project at a time and each project costs a certain amount of money and ectoplasm. Upgraded health packs may take six in-game days to create. Once developed, technology still needs to be built in Ray’s shop. You have the option of speeding up these processes by adding more cash once per day. So you will find that making decisions has you thinking and choosing wisely!
The RPG elements aren’t done just yet. Each character also earns experience points as you play which allows you to upgrade each member’s skills. It’s a nice balance of not just deciding what to upgrade for each character, but figuring out how things balance across the team. Very well done.
More good news: the famed Ecto One is driveable. Unfortunately, this good news comes with some bad as the driving mechanics are a mixed bag indeed. In the game the Ecto One is outfitted with a proton cannon which you can use to bag ghosts that roam around the city. You do this by using the stylus to point where you want to shoot onscreen. The issue here is that this leaves you only one thumb to operate the vehicle controls which are mapped to the d-pad. You press up to go, down to stop, and left or right to steer. I didn’t like this set up at first until I figured out that the car keeps a constant speed and you do not have to continue holding up on the d-pad to go. I’ve heard a few criticisms about this layout, but once I figured out that up and down were only used to accelerate and decelerate, it wasn’t really that hard to control. Just don’t expect a really in depth driving experience as you’re really only driving to get from point to point.
In terms of playing as any of the characters, you can choose any one of the four Ghostbusters to control simply by touching the stylus to their picture on the right side of the touch screen. You can also command the three other Ghostbuster characters you are not controlling to either hold or follow you as a group formation or as individuals. Again, I found this another nice RPG’ish touch.
I love the art style in this game! It’s just too bad the DS format doesn’t really show it off save for a few static images of each of the characters. The screen is just too small to really show off the artistic touches, not to mention you play the majority of the game from an overhead point of view. Technicall speaking, everything runs nice and smooth whether you are in a mission or just driving around town. I did note that there is a significant amount of fog during the driving sequences, but to be honest it didn’t really bother me that much.
Other than the fact the game captures Ray Parker Jr’s proper Ghostbuster’s theme music properly the sound disappoints. Limitations of the game card aside, the sound is pretty lame. I can get over the fact there’s no actual voices. In fact, I found myself imagining the actors’ voices while reading the dialogue (I actually laughed at myself doing that). The rest of the sounds in the game are largely forgettable. They just didn’t have any character as they seemed to be generic buzzes, beeps and growls.
Ghostbusters for the Nintendo DS has some really cool elements to it but I found things become too repetitive for my liking. In the end though, the RPG-type elements outweigh this repetition and make it a fun play, especially if you are any sort of Ghostbusters fan or one who likes to game on the go.