Version tested: Wii
Cut through all the fan service, ignore the not-bad script being performed with something approaching enthusiasm from the original cast, and the Ghostbusters game is as ephemeral as the glowing spectres that Venkman and friends spend their time chasing and zapping. That was true of the version released on the 360 and PS3, and it's even truer of this Wii-flavoured spin on the same source material, which strips the already slender gameplay to the bone for no good reason.
Don't go expecting anything radically different in structure to the existing game. Events unfold in much the same way, although certain elements have been moved around - the book golem appears in a different form, for example - but since it uses the exact same script and dialogue, there's clearly a limit to how distinctive it can be. Bill Murray's alimony payments may be steep, but they're obviously not large enough to get him back into the recording booth just for Nintendo owners.
So, as before, we get to recreate the ballroom battle with Slimer, then dash off to face the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, before jaunting over to the New York Public Library to meet up with the Gray Lady for a spot of narrative closure on the one that got away. As an opening salvo it shamelessly grabs the nostalgia nodes and tweaks them until they chafe. These are the bits that fans dreamed of playing for years, and the game falls over itself in its rush to deliver.
Sadly, with those movie-based peaks out of the way, the storyline slumps to the level of the justifiably derided Ghostbusters II. Locations and plot elements get rehashed and reused, while the script bravely tries to attain proper sequel status, tying it all back to the events of the original movie. It's a commendable effort, and done with no small amount of affection, but ultimately it ends up feeling like over-eager fan fiction.
During those early levels, this hardly matters. After virtual lightsaber duels, it's a fair bet that wielding the remote as a proton pack is probably the second most popular Wii fantasy, and there's certainly something much more satisfying about grabbing a rogue spirit and flinging it around the scenery when you've got the tool - or a close facsimile at least - clutched in your hand instead of a joypad.
With the nunchuk stick moving your rookie Ghostbuster around, the remote also doubles up as your camera and does a pretty good job. Aiming isn't all that precise, but it doesn't need to be, while the motion controls are wisely restricted to wrangling spooks into the trap. Things sometimes get flaky in close quarters, and the other Ghostbusters have an annoying habit of getting in your way, but there's a decent and dependable third-person action engine at work.
Capturing your first ghost is a blast, but it doesn't take long to realise that there's very little else to the gameplay. For all our yearning, there's simply not much game to be had in the Ghostbusters concept - at least not in the way it's been realised here. Drunk on the appeal of the proton pack, the game contrives reasons to keep you busting ghosts even as the action goes from dream fulfilled to slightly dreary gameplay mechanic.
As ghost after ghost pops up to be taken down, it's a bit like playing a Star Wars game in which you do nothing but trip up a constant procession of AT-ATs using tow cables. We may have wanted to relive these movie moments for decades, but repetition quickly smudges those rose-tinted spectacles. I couldn't help feeling that a modern update of David Crane's 1984 game might have offered more longevity, using a spot of resource management and ECTO-1 exploration to better ration the core ghostbusting action.
There are puzzles, but they're basic stuff. You'll find lots of batteries to restart lots of generators, wrangling them into place with your proton pack since Ghostbusters apparently don't have hands, while later on you'll use your spectral goggles to locate hidden objects. You may, for instance, have to find an invisible stone ball which must then be sprayed with green slime to allow you to manipulate it with the proton pack before firing it through a hoop. It's hard to ignore the fact that while the on-screen result may differ, all these rudimentary gameworld interactions use the same old aim and fire technique as everything else.
Noticeably and often unnecessarily abridged from the existing console version, it's hard to shake the suspicion that the Wii is being slightly patronised in its treatment here. Apart from the obvious disparity in visual power and fancy physics, there wouldn't seem to be much in the original version, gameplay-wise, that couldn't be done on the Wii yet while the game is structurally similar to its HD sibling, there have still been cuts and excisions. Online play has gone, obviously, replaced with a well-intentioned but cramped split-screen co-op mode. You can no longer earn money or upgrade equipment, for example. There are less collectibles, and the rewards for finding them are fewer and less interesting.
Mostly you'll be hunting for pages from Tobin's Spirit Guide, which occasionally include handy tips for defeating certain spooks, but mostly serve to fulfill your recommended daily allowance of pointless item-hunting. These pages are hidden inside smashable objects, so if you really want to find them all you need to destroy pretty much everything you see, right down to the last table lamp.
As with the ghost catching, this is fun for the first level but soon becomes a mindless chore with no tangible payoff. Pages must also be matched with scans taken from enemies and objects so you'll find yourself switching from proton pack to scanner in each room as you check to see if there's anything collectible to be found. Or, of course, you won't. This long-winded task is only good for accessing a handful of unlockable abilities - such as, ooh, faster scanning speed - and even that requires you to find half the secrets in the game.
It's the visual change that is most bizarre though. The Wii is perfectly capable of handling realistic human characters, but perhaps labouring under the assumption that Wii owners are confused by anything that isn't broad and cartoon-like, developer Red Fly has instead opted for a squat caricature style. It's not unappealing, and even has echoes of The Real Ghostbusters in its design, but it does feel unnecessary and leaves poor Bill Murray looking like a zombie Ian Hislop.
Ghostbusters was, let's be honest, never a particularly good game. Coasting on the enduring appeal of its licence, and paying more attention to the cast and catchphrases than any long-term entertainment potential, it stops short of offering any real depth or engagement. The Wii version shows no more ambition than its big brother, boasting solid, repetitive action but little else.
Instead we get another merely serviceable theme park ride; a brief, unchallenging jaunt through linear corridors decorated with just enough "official merchandise" appeal to mask the threadbare design. That will likely be enough to placate eager fans for one weekend playthrough, but it doesn't really do justice to their long simmering passion or the film that inspired it.
6 / 10