Posted by: smirkdirk | November 13, 2009

Some Thoughts on “Ghostbusters: The Videogame”

Two and a Half Cookies – decent try. but totally whatevery.

I suppose some of the charm that the original Ghostbusters film holds for me is due, in part, to the time of its release, the summer of 1984. I had finished eighth grade but had not yet entered high school – the dog days of childhood so to speak – and on a lazy summer afternoon of nothing to do I convinced my mom to drive me down to Torrington and drop me off to watch Ghostbusters all by my lonesome. Only it wasn’t so lonesome. There was theatre full of other kids there jacked up on Jujubees and Whoppers. After a season’s worth of marketing – ads and trailers since the previous Christmas – and, of course, the Ray Parker Jr. song being played to death on top 40 radio, I was pumped and, blessedly, Ghostbusters did not disappoint. Scary to a certain extent, funny for sure, and excellent special effects – that still hold up surprisingly well some 25 years later – left me and the hundred other kids in that movie-house satisfied customers.

By the time Ghostbusters II came around in 1989 I had graduated high school and it was too little too late. The characters that made such an impression a mere five years earlier – Venkman, Egon, Ray and Winston – just came off as types, as cardboard cut-outs trying to be what I already had begun remembering with a fond wisp of nostalgia. And so it is with this videogame. Its the Ghostbusters all right – in fact, the whole gang is even back to voice their characters – Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Harold Ramis, and even Bill Murray show up to give soul to their characters – but like the sequel it comes off as, well, a ghost of the original. A lot like the real thing, but not all there.

I cannot put my finger on exactly what it is that is missing, but with both the sequel and with this game, neither completely sweep the viewer up into the magical world of Ghostbusters, the total essence just isn’t there. Neither goes completely off the rails or anything, but neither really lives up to expectation.

That isn’t to say that there isn’t a lot that this game has to offer. Although the graphics tend towards the cartooney rather than the realistic ultimately they are still gorgeous and shiny. The characters themselves are designed as more caricatures than “real” – although they are still very good I’m not sure that this was the right direction. The guns completely look and play and handle like one would imagine they would from watching the movie – almost out of control, yet in control. Even the plot wisely decides to tackle the famous scenes in the original movie right in the first two levels letting you tackle Slimer in the hotel and Stay Puft in the streets of New York as your first two tasks – then its off to the library where you get the story behind the librarian ghost.

He is so cute when he’s angry!

After those initial levels the game firmly establishes its own plot, although I doubt any of the events in the game will have anything to do with the new Ghostbusters III due out in 2012. (No shit!) In the game even Peck becomes a major character with motives that may or may not have something to do with the events in the Ghostbusters I. Some funny dialogue and chuckle-worthy one-liners are spouted by the cast – but they are, actually, few and far between.

Did you just call me “chuckle-worthy”?

All of this being said, I liked Ghostbuster: The Videogame, but my problem is that I wanted to like it a lot more. Dana (Sigourney Weaver) is suspiciously absent as is Rick Moranis, both of whom would have been nice additions. There were times I came home with some solo time for gaming and the thought of playing this game just sorta made me shrug and want to find something else to do. (For the record: I tend to play one game at a time and don’t move on to another until I either finish, or officially determine that either it sucks or is not my cup of tea and return it.)

Here is a good metaphor: In the first level you discover that there are going to be times that you are between levels and the game lets you run around the firehouse at your own leisure – a home base of sorts. There are a few fun things to do in the firehouse like listen to funny answering machine messages left on the Ghostbusters answering machine (Okay, to be honest, most of the messages are not nearly as funny as they should be), or turning the water on and off in the showers (Actually, why they built this worthless item into the game, I do not know,) or playing Q-Bert… That’s right, you heard me, Q-Bert! There is a Q-Bert machine off in a corner of the firestation and upon seeing it I ran up to it excitedly because not only do I have fond 1984 memories of watching the original Ghostbusters, but I also have fond 1984 memories of playing Q-Bert! Guess what? The Q-Bert machine in Ghostbusters: The Videogame is there, but its not playable. So why have it, you ask? I don’t know. That’s the metaphor – you figure it out.

“You wanna hear about our specials? We ain’t got any.” Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me

In closing, I know this review sounded harsh and the game is actually quite good – but considering its pedigree, I guess I just expected more. If you are a Ghostbusters fan this game will be of interest to you and is worth playing, however, I’m not sure those who don’t have an appreciation for the original movie are going to find much here other than a bunch of old comics cashing a paycheck and some art designers doing their best to earn theirs.
Here’s the trailer:

As good as that was, sometimes simpler is better. Here’s a better trailer – Ghostbusters old-school.

(Okay that wasn’t that good, but you gotta admit, it was interesting…)

Here’s something even more interesting:

“Ghostbusters” was actually a 1975 low-budget TV show. One of the “ghostbusters” was an ape. In the 80’s, after the success of the Ghostbusters film we all know and love, that old 70’s Ghostbusters live-action TV show was turned into a syndicated cartoon complete with ape by Filmation (Yes, the animation studio behind He-man and the Masters of the Universe.) This confused a lot of kids, and soon a ghostbusters cartoon appeared billed as “The Real Ghostbusters” which included all the characters we know and love from the 80’s film. To the lay person, including myself until I started searching Youtube to research this post, that weird Ghostbusters with the ape was just a rip-off, but actually, it was the original. The Ghostbusters we all know and love is actually the rip-off. In fact, here’s the opening to the 1975 Ghostbusters live-action tv show.

Now that’s some Ghostbusters trivia! Remember, if you ever tell this piece of trivia, it might behoove you to have the internet nearby, because without it, very few people are going to believe that what they thought was a rip off was actually what was being ripped off.

As far as Ray Parker, Jr? He’s grown some dreads and is happy now playing the cruise circuits.


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