Throughout the game there's an awful lot of standing around while you wait for your fellow Ghostbusters to finish conversations, catch up with you, open doors and so on. Why can't you open all the doors yourself, anyway? Why some and not others? How come you have to wait for Ray to traipse over and twist the handle of a door that isn't even locked, as if your character's hands are covered in margarine?
In short, Ghostbusters adheres to some of gaming's worst clichés and inconsistencies. But it's still Ghostbusters. It has the look, sound and feel of the original movie, and it goes some way to fulfilling a dream many of us have had since the age of six: it makes you feel like you're a Ghostbuster.
This is partly down to the way levels play out. You're rarely on your own, and often accompanied by three of the other characters. There's a lot of teamwork as you fire your proton streams at the same ghosts and revive each other, medic-style, when knocked out. The other Ghostbusters issue warnings about enemies behind you and projectiles heading your way with an impressive degree of consistency. But most of all, there's nothing quite like firing your very own proton gun to help Bill Murray and Ernie Hudson wrangle a transparent valkyrie into a box.
The wrangling mechanic will be familiar if you've ever played a fishing game. Your first job is to weaken enemies by firing at them with your proton stream, pressing L2 to slam them satisfyingly into walls and floors. Then you drag them into the cone of light emerging from the trap. The tricky bit is ensuring they don't escape - fiddling with the sensitive left and right sticks to keep them within the cone until the trap snaps shut, the pink light comes on and the thin plume of smoke emerges.
It's a good job trapping ghosts is so gratifying as there's not a lot else to do. There's no exploration, unless you count wandering round rooms and corridors until you find the single doorway you're supposed to go through next. There's no proper puzzle-solving and not much variation in combat. As the game progresses you do get different guns and equipment to play with, such as the Slime Tether - a sticky rope used to pull objects towards each other. There's a limited selection of upgrades to earn and none of them are particularly interesting. You can get through almost the entire game with your standard proton gun and Boson darts, switching to the other weapons only occasionally.
There are some decent boss battles, notably with the marshmallow man - during which you get to dangle off a skyscraper and shoot him in the face. There are also some rubbish ones, such as the battle with the sexy tarantula-riding spider-lady - during which you wander endlessly round identical tunnels, followed by useless puppydog Egon, trying to stumble on the next invisible event trigger before the spider-lady regenerates, and mostly failing.
There are no driving levels so you don't get to try out the Ecto-1. You don't get to "be" any of the big name Ghostbusters, but this doesn't matter - it's more enjoyable to watch them in action anyway. If you're that bothered you can play as all four in the online multiplayer mode. We weren't able to test this as the game hadn't been released at the time of writing, and no other players were online. The options look standard though: quick and unranked matches, customisable options, stats overviews and so on. There's no offline multiplayer and it does seem they've missed a trick here - co-op could have been great fun.
However, multiplayer was never going to be the main attraction of Ghostbusters: The Videogame. It's about the single-player experience and whether it makes you feel like you're one of the gang, living in the world of the movie. In this regard, Terminal Reality has succeeded. Unlike so many movie tie-ins, Ghostbusters doesn't feel phoney, cheap or hastily put together. The developers have taken their time, respected the source material and paid attention to what fans of the film want.
Ignoring the blockbuster licence, you'd probably describe this as a nice looking but pretty average action-adventure. The game mechanics work fine, it's entertaining enough to play, but there's no real innovation and a fair few frustrating niggles. The thing is, you can't ignore the licence - not when it's so fundamental to the game's entertainment value, and when Terminal Reality has worked so hard to do it justice.
That's why Ghostbusters: The Videogame works. You get to play with a proton gun. You get to fire Boson darts. You get to explore the Fire Station, battle Slimer, fight the marshmallow man, destroy the library and hear Bill Murray do jokes. It's all wrapped up in a package authentic enough to make you forgive the linearity and inconsistencies, tied with a big bow made of pretty graphics. And when you open the package the first thing you hear is, "Nerny ner-ner ner-ner, nerny-nerny ner-ner-ner."
If you love the film it's impossible not to like this game, despite its faults. That would be like hating a puppy just because it's got a wonky leg. This might not be the best videogame ever made but it's one of the better movie tie-ins out there, and it's the closest to being a Ghostbuster most of us will ever get.
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