RetroSpective – Ghostbusters
Well we’ve got a brand new Ghostbusters film coming up, and many people aren’t happy. But let me tell you what I’m not happy about, and that’s the fact that I’ve had to play the NES game of the original film. Yep, I’ll bet no matter how bad the upcoming movie is, it won’t be as bad as this game.
Immediately you’ll notice the ear piercing “Ghostbusters” shout. It’s so bad it’s as though it’s warding you away. This does lead into the well-loved theme that many will think is well made, accurate, and pleasant to the ears. Well tell me how pleasant it is hours later, as this loops over and over again, even through to the credits.
Now I mentioned that this game is based on the original movie, well you wouldn’t know from looking at it. Yes it has the overall threat of Gozer returning and of ghosts overrunning Manhattan, but that’s all. Yep this is another game that’s pretty fast and loose when it comes to source material. It doesn’t even feature Slimer, or all of the Ghostbusters, with those it does feature being un-named identical pixelated messes. The lack of a plot also has a larger bearing on the gameplay, as you’ll constantly be questioning what you are meant to be doing.
The first thing you’ll see when you begin is a bare bones set of pixelated squares, all delivered with an abundance of grey. Get used to that, as you’ll be seeing a lot of grey. This is the overworld, and straight off you’ll notice the building labelled “Zuul” with ghosts floating towards it. These ghosts act somewhat as a timer leading you to your demise. However, you can’t actually catch these ghosts, no they’re nothing more than annoyance. To be honest the whole overworld is. From here you move the poorly animated Ghostbusters logo around, looking for flashing buildings where ghosts are present, so you can roll up and catch them. Before you do this though you’ll need to buy a series of items. Why it couldn’t just provide you with the basic items is beyond me, but this is only the beginning of the frustration you’ll experience.
Once you begin hunting for the ghosts the game becomes something of a mini game. The aim being to catch the ghosts in your beam, before sending them into the trap. This sounds easy, but the length of the beam is so short you’ll more than likely just end up activating the trap, hoping to randomly hit one of the four passing ghosts. Just like the gameplay, the presentation here is also bare bones. The buildings and streets are lifeless and generic, something that is also seen within the characters. As not only do the Ghostbusters look identical, but so do all of the ghosts in the entire game. They don’t even look threatening, resembling Casper more than a threat.
Driving is required in order to move between areas. This not only feels out of place, but is frustrating and disappointing. You have two choices, slow and careful, or just drive fast and get it done. The latter is the better option, but driving fast pushes you to the top of the screen, meaning it’s impossible to collect items or avoid damage. Even worse, all of these journeys decrease the amount of petrol you have. Yes, the developers decided to add in a little bit of realism by making you fill up regularly, and if you run out and don’t have the finances, then it’s Game Over. Again, this is all presented in lots of grey, with any lack of heart or spirit. Streets are empty, and all of the cars look identical, with the Ecto-1 looking more like a squashed van.
What I have just described makes the bulk of the game. Quite honestly it feels like an exercise in pointlessness, with needless additions thrown in to bloat what little the game offers. Shop – drive – trap – drive – deposit ghosts (if you don’t have the endless trap) – drive, and yes move around the map. It’s so repetitive you honestly question whether you’re missing something. Eventually, just when you’re about to give up, Groundhog Day ends and you’re finally allowed to enter the “Zuul” building. This all seems to take an age, and I still am none the wiser as how exactly to make this occur. You’d hope escaping this repetitious hell would lead to a brighter future. It doesn’t, it leads to something far worse.
What greets you here seems like the Stairway to Hell itself. The aim here is to repeatedly hammer the A button to make the Ghostbusters walk single-file, step-by-step, up the stairway, whilst avoiding four floating ghosts. This staircase is quite possibly one of my worst experiences in gaming, and once your lives are gone its back to the start of the game. The frustration you’ll experience here is second to none. The ghosts are near impossible to miss and regularly trap you, the hit detection is horrendous, and you’ll feel like your fingers are about to fall off.
Honestly I thought the stairs were impossible by the eighth floor, little did I know there were 23 button smashing floors left, and what’s worse, if you didn’t buy the Proton pack then you’re not allowed entry to the roof. Another thing the game fails to tell you. But if you have the luck and perseverance to make it, you are finally treated to a half decent final boss fight. It may be difficult and manic, but it’s actually a competent schmup-esque battle. Though to be honest I was left wondering if I only thought this because the rest of the game was so poor. Once this is done it’s all over. There is one last insult though, as the final screen congratulates you by saying “you have completed a great game”. I certainly didn’t feel that way.
All in all the game is a confused mess of mini games that is completely devoid of any of the heart or spirit when compared to either the source material, or other games from this time. It’s Ghostbusters so I wanted to find some redeeming qualities, but there just aren’t any, it’s so sad. Take my advice when it comes to this game and whatever you do, please don’t call the Ghostbusters! There is no game here, only Zuul.
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