For many children of the '80s, Ghostbusters will always be fondly remembered. Sure, the second movie had some issues, but between the original film and the animated series, there was much love to go around. When Ghostbusters: The Video Game debuted in 2009, it had a few rough spots yet still received a warm welcome as it was, in many respects, "Ghostbusters 3." The XBLA title, Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime, tries to build off that nostalgia, but fails to deliver.
Packed with some great ideas, Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime sounds great on paper. Where the game stumbles is solely in execution. For example, instead of cut scenes, the developers at Behaviour Interactive decided to use comic-book style storyboards. The art is great and no doubt looks awesome on the printed page, but on the screen? Let's just say the net result is slow and plodding. The visuals may be striking, but instead of enjoying them, you're most likely just going to want them to be over.
The developers seem to have realized that the "comic-as-cut scene" idea didn't work, as one of the game's 20-point Achievements is obtained by watching all of them without skipping. No, we're not making that up.
Gameplay is centered on blasting ghosts with your proton pack. To keep things interesting, ghosts come in three colors — blue, red and yellow — the same as your three different colors of weapons. Blast a ghost with a matching color, and it goes down faster. Hit it with the wrong gun, and it'll still take damage; it just takes longer to eliminate the spectral beast.
Unfortunately, the prior paragraph describes the majority of gameplay. You shoot a bunch of ghosts in a room, the door opens, and you move on. Lather, rinse and repeat. Some of the maps even use a circular path, so rather than always seeing something new, you're just replaying the same rooms to extend the length of the level. Getting on board the Ecto changes up things a bit by putting you on the back of a moving vehicle, but the focus is still on the shooting.
While repetitive, shooting down ghastly ghouls wouldn't be that bad if it weren't for the atrocious AI. Because the Ghostbusters work as a team, each level has you and three other characters along for the ride. If you're playing with three other humans, it's kind of nice, as you can coordinate attacks and pick off ghosts one by one. If you're playing with three other AI players … good luck. The AI tends to cluster around you, and that's not very useful when you're trying to flank a monster. It also isn't aware of ghostly dangers, or it just isn't smart enough to avoid them. For example, in one level, we faced off against a slime monster that would periodically charge. What did the AI characters do to fight it off? They ran up, as a group, and got right in its face. That worked for almost a whole second, until the monster charged and ran right over all of them, knocking them out.
To their credit, the AI characters are good at one thing, and that is reviving a downed player. If you do it as a human, you have to smash a button as quickly as possible. The AI can simply do it faster.
Visually, Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime looks good, with relatively detailed environments and sharp textures. Because most of the game is played from an overhead view, you don't really get to appreciate the finer details for most of the game, and that's a disappointment. Every so often, the camera zooms in for a quick in-engine cut scene, and it is here that you realize how the engine could have easily handled a third-person adventure.
In the end, referring to Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime by its abbreviated name, Ghostbusters: S.O.S., is probably the most appropriate thing to do. Even without the license, this is a game that's on life support. Coming in at 800 MSP ($10), it may seem like a fun impulse purchase, but your money is better spent by tracking down a used copy of Ghostbusters: The Video Game. Even for the hardcore fans, there really isn't much to see here.
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