Thursday, July 9, 2009

Bustin' Makes Me Feel Good!

As a child of the late 80's, I grew up amidst a host of truly awesome cartoon and toy franchises; many of which are currently seeing revivals as summer blockbusters. My all time favorite was born from a blockbusters however; While other beloved franchises have been eroded by a number of disappointing sequels and lame revivals almost everything Ghostbusters is golden. Case in point: Ghostbusters: The Video Game.

I know what you gamers out there are thinking. I thought it myself when I heard a title was in the works. For those who didn't think anything because they don't play video games, don't worry, I will explain.

Video game adaptations typically fail due to a fatal flaw: corporations view videogames as mere merchandise as opposed to vehicles for story telling, and the effort required to market merchandise is much less than the effort required to craft compelling stories or gameplay. TVTropes goes into the issue in much greater detail, and any skeptics out there can be easily cured by playing pretty much any videogame based on a summer blockbuster release. Admittedly, there are lots of fine Star Wars games out there, and a couple of decent Lord of the Rings titles as well, but a handful of exceptions in a sea of licensed realeses hardly makes for a good track reccord. Games based on the Transformers movies are prime examples. Hah! you get it? Cause Optimus Prime is... *cough* moving on.

I was pleasantly surprised to find favorable reviews of Ghostbusters: The Video Game around the net, and given my fondness for the series, I decided to give it a rent from Gamefly (a service I heartily recommend by the way as it has allowed me to experience a number of titles this summer in a reasonably economic fashion). The reason this post missed deadline is because I felt compelled to keep playing the game to provide you with a thoroughly researched account of it. I can now tell you, with absolute confidence: Ghostbusters has set the standard for every video game adaptation to follow.

Not only did the developers get the original ghostbusters (Murray, Ackroid, Ramis and Hudson) to reprise their roles with excellent voice acting, Ramis and Ackroid even worked on the script for the game. Wikipedia says they 'doctored' it, but based on the quality, I'm willing to wager their contributions went way beyond simple adjustments. The script truly captures the humorous spirit of the original movies (while at the same time implementing bits and pieces from The Real Ghostbusters cartoon, like a semi-domesticated Slimer). The music is also classic Ghostbusters, and I'm not just talking about the Ray Parker Jr. Song, (though thats there too of course), but the charmingly quirky mood music as well. Hell, they even got Annie Potts to reprise her role as snarky yet lovable Janine!! The only ingredients missing are Rick Moranis' Louis Tully and Sigourney Weaver's character Dana Berret. Dana is most sorely missed, as Ilyssa Shepard, the new object of Venkman's philandering, is a boring and flat substitute.

All the same, this game is the Ghostbuster's sequel fans have been waiting for. If the third movie (now reportedly in production!) actually gets made, it should be cannonically regarded as Ghostbusters 4. The Game also fits in well with The Real Ghostbusters, which I only just realized had 147 episodes (a hell of a run for an animated kids' show!). Since the game is it set in modern day, it seems to shove Ghostbusters: Extreme out of the cannon. While this saddens me, it's the cut which makes the most sense; even though it was a decent incarnation of the franchise, at least in my book, the attitude-rich approach of Ghostbusters Extreme seemed to alienate it from the humor of its predecessors, which is where Ghostbusters: TVG truly shines.

It grasps the humor of its fore-runners through the gameplay, which is legitimately fun in its own right. Each level has a bunch of cursed artifacts and ghosts which you can scan using a PKE meter. Once you scan a ghost, a humorous entry about its nature or history is added to your Spirit Guide, and all the artifacts you scan gradually start to clutter up the firehouse as you progress through the camapaign. Even the game's Achievement System has a sense of humor. In addition to the standard "Clear this level at this difficulty!" or "kill X number of enemies!" objectives, each level has a humorous secret achievement. The funniest of these is called "Kosher" and it has you blasting the ham off a buffet table for a bar mitvah when you crash the grand ballroom at the sedgewick hotel (you remember, the original hotel from the first movie?)

Beyond that, there's the actual ghost busting, which is thoroughly enjoyable. You yourself take on the role of a rookie Ghostbuster who is referred to in game as "The Kid," "Sport" "Scooter" "Champ" and a slew of other thoroughly demeaning yet somehow endearing nicknames, and you serve as something of a guinea pig for Egan's new inventions. You've got all the classic equipment from protonpacks and neutrino wands (which you use for blasting) to nuon traps (for err, trapping) , along with some pretty slick new gear. My personal favorite is the slime-thrower, which fires positively charged slime to clog dimensional rifts, free possessed people, uncover invisible objects, and tether objects together. This last application seems to have the making for a "fun with physics game" in and of itself, as a double-ended tether that stretches its targets together has a surprising number of applications.

I have not played any of the multiplayer yet, but I intend to. And in the interest of making sure this title gets as much well-deserved publicity as possible, I will be writing an article on the multiplayer of Ghostbusters: The Video Game sometime this weekend for Biased Video Gamer Blog. So be sure to look for that in your near future. In the meantime, I highly recommend you check out the game for yourself, even you don't consider yourself a gamer. And if for some horrible reason you have not seen both ghostbusters movies, do that. Or else, to paraphrase the gangster from the in-game message machine in the Ghostbusters firehouse (most obscure reference ever), "something sudden and blunt may befall your legs." and that would be a real shame.

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