Ghostbusters Review

   23/11/2009 at 20:33       Tom       8 COMMENTS. - Score 2/5
 - Ghostbusters, PSP, Ghosts
Ghostbusters - PSP

"I ain't afraid of no ghost". Ghostbusters has the classic movie theme, but that statement is a double negative - Ray Parker Jr. was actually saying he is afraid of ghosts. Personally the idea of ghosts doesn't bother me that much. My mum always told me as a child that it's only the living that can hurt you. I'll tell you what I am afraid of though - bad ports of average games.

Ghostbusters PSP is based on the Wii version of the game, rather than the 360/PS3 version. This means the story and structure remains much the same, with the Ghostbusters finding themselves in the middle of the return of a Gozerian worshipping architect who is channelling spirit energy for an unknown reason. In a third-person adventure you play a rookie Ghostbuster hired to lighten the increased load and to be a "tester" for new ghost busting weaponry. Although shortened by a few levels, the big set pieces such as the fight against the Stay Puft Marshmallow man remain intact. The character design is also in the cartoony style seen on the Wii, rather than the realistic style seen on the more powerful systems.

It's the graphics I probably have the biggest fault with though. God of War this is not. In fact God of War was the shining example of how to properly do 3D graphics on the system. Ghostbusters quite possibly represents the opposite of this. All the environments are small and blocky. Every room, every outside environment is a rectangle with a small amount of furniture to make it look a bit different from the last one. The textures are terrible; everything looks like a smudge from afar and a blurrier smudge up close. Nothing has any kind of detail and the colour scheme feels beige and neutral pretty much the entire way through.

The character design is quite charming though and carries over well to the PSP despite the graphical problems. The charm is taken away somewhat during the cut-scenes where something causes the faces of some characters to remain frozen in a blank expression. In fact I can only remember one scene where Walter Peck's face actually animates. It can be quite off-putting to see Ray Stantz's face staring coldly towards you as he talks about the spirit world.

There's also an issue with clipping in game as well. Light fittings, paintings and other objects attached to walls clip through them as you walk past, meaning they partly disappear and you see the wall behind them. The clipping extends to the enemy ghosts and demons within the levels. I've seen ghosts get stuck on scenery and spider demons get stuck in the wall and ceiling with only their legs sticking out. There are also occasions where the rooms disappear entirely for a couple of seconds, leaving you looking at a sky box. This happens mostly on one level where you're travelling between portals admittedly, so it would seem the engine or the PSP (or both) is struggling to keep up.

More problematic is the moments where the player character clips through the scenery. In the one play-through I've had of this game twice I've been left stuck in a wall, and twice I've had him fall through the floor into the abyss below. Each time I've had to restart the level, but that in itself is a problem. There is no "restart" option, but rather you have to choose to return to the firehouse, wait for that to load, then walk through the firehouse to Ecto-1 which starts the mission again from the start - after another load of course.

The sound on the other hand is pretty good. It's not of the greatest quality in terms of bit rate of course - but that's to be expected. However they have included all the speech. I was expecting text to replace some of it, but I'm happy to say you are accompanied by the voices of the entire cast. The iconic sound of the proton stream is also present and correct, as it streaks across the screen, destroying furniture and restraining ghosts. All the other weaponry fizz and pop in a suitable way too and generally feel like a well considered part of the world.

In terms of the game play, the controls do a perfectly functional job. Movement is using the analogue stick, with the face buttons used as if they were the right analogue stick, looking around. The shoulder buttons are primary and secondary fire with the d-pad selecting weapons, throwing the trap or activating the PKE meter. Using the face buttons to look never is as good has having another analogue stick, but it still works and as such there is a very generous auto-aim involved.

The problem this creates is that Ghostbusters is not a particularly hard or involving game. I don't recall ever having to restart due to the player character being incapacitated by a ghost (some of the later puzzles are a different story however), and the actual trapping of ghosts is incredibly easy. As I mentioned before this version is based on the Wii Ghostbusters, where you had to flick the Wii remote to slam the ghost against the walls and ceilings. On the PSP you simply push the face button appropriate to the direction to slam, it just doesn't feel satisfying at all.

Factor into this the fact that the levels are designed so that you can't progress until the ghosts in the room are cleared and you just feel like you're being guided from one tiny area to the next. There hasn't even been any attempt to hide this, with some ghosts even carrying keys to unlock spectral barriers blocking door ways. Things do get a little more involving later on with rudimentary puzzles barring the way but they never evolve beyond "match up the shapes", "find the ghost" or "place this object in a certain area".

As such we're left with a game that just falls flat on nearly all counts. If the bugs were fixed and the graphics improved then Ghostbusters would probably be classed as an average but enjoyable game. As it is though you're looking at an ugly and broken game with nothing outstanding to make it worthwhile. Back when the Ghostbusters game was first announced, Atari originally denied a PSP port was on the cards, and I think that nicely summarises the game itself - it's like they never wanted to be bothered with it in the first place.

User Comments:

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DDevil - on 24/11/2009 at 00:02 wrote:
Oh man, I wish this game looked like those screenshots!

Oh and one thing I didn't mention in the review is how painful this game is to play. I mean literally after 20 minutes of play my hands would crap up badly. Although I think that's more the PSP's fault than the game itself!

Murbal - on 24/11/2009 at 12:43 wrote:
I thoroughly agree with your closing comments Tom, I'm certain a publisher has never cared less about a game. Certainly one that's never going to be clogging up my pro-duo.

peej - on 24/11/2009 at 13:35 wrote:
Seems sad that memorable films such as these rarely ever convert well to memorable games. Off the top of my head I can think of a dozen or so 80s movies that would make excellent game properties in the right developer's hands. It comes to something when the dizzying power of modern consoles can't dish up anything better than David Crane's original 8 bit versions of Ghostbusters (or indeed anything better than the bonkers Megadrive platformer)

DDevil - on 24/11/2009 at 14:21 wrote:
I kind of wish they had done something different than try to port the Wii version. Looking at the DS version it appears to be top-down, and I wonder how THAT differs. They've certainly done the right thing by not making it a 3rd person shooter. Play to the platforms strengths and weaknesses and all that.

peej - on 24/11/2009 at 14:41 wrote:
Yeah it would've been even more disastrous as a straight up third person shooter. Reading back through Kalel's review and playing the game meself it seems annoying that the developers made you spend an inordinate amount of time pissarsing around with the PK meter early on. Bored the piss out of me that did.

Don't think this has sold in sufficient numbers to keep Atari afloat and at least it doesn't look like there'll be a sequel any time soon.

Murbal - on 24/11/2009 at 16:10 wrote:
This is #2 in the top downloads section of the PSP store after FFVII. This makes me sad, all that quality stuff and people are forking out for this tat :-(

peej - on 24/11/2009 at 18:00 wrote:
Oof! Either people aren't reading the reviews, or people only ever hear about games via the store and just impulse-buy shite.

DDevil - on 25/11/2009 at 00:41 wrote:
Well, I got to admit when Hairy offered this up for review I was all "*squee* GHOSTBUSTERS!" even though I knew it couldn't end well. It's the power of the franchise!

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