As a platform, the Wii tends to straddle the line between absolutely brilliant first-party games and mediocre third-party ports of PS3 and Xbox 360 games. While Nintendo has shown everyone what's possible with the Wii when you put the effort into it, few developers have followed the Big N's lead until recently. EA proved that by catering specifically to the Wii's strengths, it could develop a version of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 that outshined the competing platforms, and now Red Fly Studio has done the same with Ghostbusters.
The key to the game's success is quite simple: It's not a port of any sort. When developing Ghostbusters for the Wii, the team at Red Fly used the same script and design documents as the teams working on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of the game, but from there on out, they went their own way, playing to the Wii's strengths and compensating for its weaknesses.
Set two years after the events of the second film, Ghostbusters drops you into the role of an unnamed rookie recruit who has just joined the team. Alas, routine busting assignments may have been the plan, but due to a dust-up at the local museum (the Gozer exhibit went a little wonky) and ratcheted up PKE levels all around the city, it quickly becomes obvious that what you're hunting is a bit larger than Slimer.
With a script that was edited by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis as well as a return of all the principal voice actors, the story not only plays out like a third "Ghostbusters" film, but it also sounds like one. While there is some repetition in the voice quips during the battles, as a whole the dialogue is fresh and funny with ample references to past events. If you've never seen the original movie, you're likely to miss a few jokes, but fans are going to eat this stuff up.
Despite the story being the same, there are some noticeable differences between the platforms, with the most obvious being the visuals. The PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of the game sport impressive, high-definition graphics that are designed to emulate the movies and are, in all respects, a real treat for the eyes. Knowing that the Wii couldn't muster the same level of graphical prowess, Red Fly opted to go a different route. Rather than emulating the movies directly, the Wii game uses the cartoon incarnation of the fabulous foursome, The Real Ghostbusters, as inspiration for its visual style. When compared side by side with the PS3 or Xbox 360, it is easy to disparage the look of the Wii game, but standing on its own, it's a choice that works well and feels right at home with the subject matter. If it weren't for the comparisons, everyone would likely be praising the animation choice.
Another notable difference is the level design. As the story is the same, you'll end up traveling through the same general locations and fighting similar baddies — we're looking at you, Mr. Stay Puft — but the specifics can vary greatly. For one, there are more loading times on the Wii, as the larger levels are broken down into individual sections. Whereas you would simply run past an invisible checkpoint on the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions, here you hit a loading screen.
Individual level design can also be similar, such as in the library, or vastly different. For example, in the Sedgewick Hotel you'll start off in the same way, but after re-capturing Slimer, the Wii version sends you on a quest to battle a chef ghost in a possessed kitchen. The fisherman ghost doesn't make an appearance. When battling the minions of Stay Puft in the second area, you'll spend most of your time adventuring through the haunted offices of a video game studio before emerging on the roof to fight the marshmallow man himself. While the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions eventually get you up on a roof to fight Stay Puft, how you get there is completely different. Even the battle with Stay Puft is different. These level design differences continue throughout the game, ensuring that the Wii version stands alone and doesn't feel like a scaled-down copy.
Controls have been mapped to the Wiimote, which stands in for your proton gun. Looking and, by extension, aiming are controlled by pointing the Wiimote at the screen. Movement is controlled with the Nunchuk. At first, the look/aim combo is a might disconcerting as it is very easy to send your hero into a spaztastic spin simply by setting down the Wiimote for a second. Once you get used to constantly aiming at center screen, though, it becomes a natural extension.
One nifty tool that was added to the Wii controls is a camera lock. Being able to lock your view onto a specific enemy makes it a lot easier to keep track of what's going on around you and solves one of the most annoying problems with the other versions of the game — that of "death from behind." In the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions, it was not uncommon to suffer from insta-death due to an unseen enemy. While the Wii version isn't completely immune from cheap attacks, it's the exception rather than the rule here, and it's a refreshing change.
Ghost-wrangling on the Wii is similar in scope to its brothers. You have to first drain the ghost of energy and slam it around before guiding it into a trap. The slam mechanic is done differently on the Wii. Rather than simply being a button, here it is a short Quick Time Event. An arrow pops up on the screen, and you have to flick the Wiimote in that direction to slam the ghost. Once the ghost is exhausted, you use the Wiimote to drag it into the open trap. Of all the versions, capturing ghosts on the Wii feels the most natural; however, it is also one of the game's weak points. Rather than go for a balance of puzzle solving and ghost capturing, the designers at Red Fly seem to have gotten a bit enamored with their capture mechanic and, as a result, you will spend an inordinate amount of time blasting ghosts. If you're taking breaks between play, it's not so bad, but for the hardcore who are bound to have some extended play sessions, the capturing starts to feel a bit repetitive about halfway through the story.
Another annoyance that is sidestepped on the Wii is the bum-rushing of the enemy AI. In more than one instance, the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of the game simply toss large numbers of low-level enemies at you in an attempt to overwhelm. Here, the AI is a bit more balanced. It will still provide a challenge, but it doesn't focus the entirety of its force on you. Instead, the AI will spread its attacks around as well as attempt to use some strategy. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the partner AI. While the ghosts are there to provide a challenge, your fellow Ghostbusters usually feel as though they've been accidentally lobotomized by Egon in one of his experiments. It's not unusual to see them standing in one place, absorbing damage while the demonic beasties attack. Seeing a little bit of strategic play would have been a major plus. The lack of useful partner AI is easily one of the game's biggest flaws.
One way in which the Wii version makes up for the poor partner AI is via the Wii-exclusive co-op mode. You can take on any mission with a partner by going split-screen. Though there are some drawbacks to going split-screen, including the occasional frame rate dip, it's a great option to have, especially when so many games today seem to have forgotten local multiplayer in favor of online play. It is worth noting that the Wii version of Ghostbusters does not support online play.
Weapon choice is also different here, with the Wii version dropping some gadgets found in other iterations of the game and introducing some new ones. There is also no weapon upgrade mechanic here. As soon as a new weapon is unlocked, it is added to your arsenal at full power.
Last, but not least on the list of comparisons is the Wii version's bug-free nature. While playing on the Xbox 360 version, we ran into a few small glitches that either hampered gameplay or forced a reset. Yes, Xbox 360 gamers can always wait for a patch, but it's nice to be able to play a game without worrying about patches or bug fixes.
Though it's easy to assume that the Wii version of Ghostbusters is the "lesser" version at first glance, this is one book you don't want to judge by its cover. Red Fly has done an excellent job of building the game for the Wii from the ground up, and while it may not be perfect, taken as a whole Ghostbusters for the Wii is the best version currently available. Oh, and did we mention that it's $20 cheaper to boot? Unless you absolutely, positively, require online play, this is the one to get.
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