Review: Ghostbusters

Upon starting FireForge Games’ Ghostbusters, the player is greeted with a barely animated cutscene establishing the heroes and where the game fits in the time frame of the new film. This vignette gives life to the worst fears of the group that was against the path that the movie reboot has taken. I have no problem with the film’s concept and the wife is on board all the way, but the dialogue in the game’s opener is pure unfunny nonsense, peppered with forced words like “herstory” and “foremothers” when alluding to the protagonists of the film and their heroics. The wife found it gross and pandering and I was left wondering if it was a deliberate troll of the film’s detractors. This is the least of the game’s issues.

Ghostbusters takes place after the events of the movie reboot, starring four nobodies. The heroines of the film are nowhere to be found, much to their credit. The “plot” centers around these four — a meathead, goth woman, black woman and a pretty boy — as they take calls to catch ghosts that are reported during short level intros. If there is concern over these generalizations of the cast, rest assured that this listing is the beginning and end of the characterizations. The voice acting for these scenes are an artistic achievement: not even the band Throbbing Gristle could capture abject pain and mechanical anguish the way the featured thespians accomplish.

The gameplay itself devolves into plodding through meandering, copy and paste levels that take about a half an hour each to complete. Each character is equipped with a famous proton pack and a specific ranged weapon, like dual pistols or a shotgun. Up to four players can run through the stage at once to shoot ghosts. There are times when a larger spirit is encountered and the health must be whittled down. Once this is done, the players switch to the proton pack and hold it on the specter. Once a meter is full from use of the right stick, the players press a button to slam the ghost. Two or three slams prepare the ghost for capture. Rinse and repeat, again and again, occasionally stop to use the PKE meter to scan for hidden objects and points, and repeat and again and again, and holy mother of mercy, just &@#$ing end.

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The word “monotonous” has too many vowels to describe the experience. Everything is reused dozens of times. Ghosts, one liners, environments, et al. will be witnessed numerous times in a sitting. It feels like the skeleton of a game was built, a proof of concept. Somebody from the publisher Activision’s office must have called the studio and said “the game goes gold next week! Make it.” So, they tried to pad it out. “Longer!” The content is stretched like silly putty across a football field. “Longer!” The silly putty snaps, along with my patience.

Of the handful of mid-level quips, the player can expect to hear “ghost in the box” many, many, many (many) times after trapping a larger spirit. This led into the one heartening discovery that I had during this ordeal. Should the player decide to sing “Ghost in the Box” to the tune of Alice in Chain’s “Man in the Box,” changing only the noun of the title and leaving the rest of the lyrics alone, some small amount of entertainment can be gleaned, as well as a pretty darn good review of the game in and of itself. Sadly, I don’t think my editor would let me get away with just submitting that.

Oh, yes. There is a leveling/experience point system, too. Anyone forced to play this game should pour everything they can into foot speed and damage to speed the completion process.

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Closing Comments:

Much of this review has been spent pointing out Ghostbusters’ flaws and issues. Each statement is well deserved as this is an obvious nominee for worst game of the year. There are two reasons that the score is as high as it is: it never crashed during play (though this also falls into the flaw category) and this is the perfect item to break a friend or family member’s out of control video game addiction (“So you like games, huh!? Then here, smoke a whole carton of Ghostbusters!”) This thing is so awful that it isn’t even worth the effort to cram in an obligatory reference to the original films. The real problem is that the likelihood of these criticisms being heard by the person responsible for releasing this mess is practically zero, seeing as how the complaints would be drowned by the deafening sounds of the giant metal clackers required to think this was okay.

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