Red Fly Studios, developers of the well-received Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars for Wii, have released their second title in Ghostbusters: The Video Game. Published by Atari, this third person action adventure has gamers teaming up with the original Ghostbusters crew in an attempt to thwart the plans of a diabolical architect who intends to destroy the earth by building right over top of it.
Cross the Beams
At the outset, players choose between a generic male or female character. You don't get to play as one of the original Ghostbusters, but you will work with them almost constantly. What was rather amusing is that even though everyone calls you the intern or cadet, you are literally the only competent one on the team. It's up to you to capture every ghost, complete every puzzle, and defeat every boss. Watching the Ghostbusters use only their plasma beams, even though probably half, if not more, enemies require you first to attack them with another weapon, is lame. Furthermore, the Ghostbusters AI is smack-your-forehead bad sometimes, especially against a couple of late game bosses with melee attacks. In those cases, rather than run, they're more than content with standing right in front of the oncoming slam that kills them almost instantly, leaving it up to you or another teammate to revive them. Of course, it doesn't help that their using their plasma beam the whole time anyway which has zero effect until said boss is more exposed.
Fortunately -- the disappointing AI is really the biggest letdown of the Ghostbusters experience. Other than that it's a smoothly paced and fun experience. The average gamer will be able to complete the campaign within eight hours, but completionists will spend more time as they try to find all of the pages of Tobin's Guide hidden and scattered about. These pages are simple pickups that reveal details on various objects the 'busters encounter, including enemies and miscellaneous door locks and other mechanisms. Finding a page is just one half of a total 'scan'. To complete a scan, you have to not only find the art page, but also scan the object with your PKE device. In the Profile screen, as well as at the end of every mission, players can check their status in this regard. At some point in playing through the campaign, I passed the 50% mark on each of these and I was rewarded with faster scanning and improved health regen speeds. There are three other Unlocks I didn't get, too. As you Unlock these extra abilities, you can toggle them on and off at the Options screen. That said, without trying too hard, I managed to get about 70% on both the art pages and scanning. Other than satisfying the urge to hunt these pages down, players also get a description of the object and Ray's tips (in text) on how to deal with it.
You'll find art pages by destroying objects, which is actually a lot of fun in itself. Ghostbusters has a tremendous amount of destructible objects that all shatter rather satisfyingly. Everything from furniture to massive glass tubes containing slime to crates and computer control stations are destructible with a quick hit by your plasma beam. A counter in the lower left of the HUD appears whenever you break something, keeping track of the damages done that the mayor (and later Walter Peck) will have to pay for. At the end of the mission, your total is shown and it's associated with one of at least a dozen different tags like 'Nice Shootin' Tex' or 'Zealous Zapper' or 'Conservationist.' I was expecting, and would have liked to have seen a grand total at the end of the campaign, but this wasn't available to me.
The Ghostbusters campaign is spread out across twenty-nine missions, connected together with an overall plot. Missions are also split into chapters, although the game makes no reference to chapters, that are separated with visits to the Firehouse, or HQ. From the HQ, players can do several things like view profiles, replay missions, read up on scanned objects, etc. It's where a lot of plot developments occur too via cutscenes that present a new weapon or discovery in the storyline. Not all missions start at the Firehouse, but those that do let you decide when to get started by placing an interact icon next to Ecto-1. When pressed, you can have a friend join you or go it alone.
Most missions will have the team split up, and the player is usually paired with one of the other 'busters. The crew will eventual always meet up to face a boss, of which there are probably seven or eight, including Stay Puft, The Gray Lady, a possessed Dinosaur, and the Spider Widow. Before fighting these, the Ghostbusters will first have to fight dozens of other enemies that are related to the area that they're currently in. The Sedgewick Hotel, a museum, an office building, a graveyard, and a library are some of the locations the team visits as they continue to try to unravel the mystery of this impending ghost invasion.
Enemies, Things That Kill Enemies, and Controls
Enemy types include floating ghosts, flying imps, melee based ghosts, and swarming foes. Each 'chapter' also includes a tougher foe like a the Graveyard Golem or Queen Scuttler. The ghost enemies have to be trapped in a containment trap, but many times you must first counteract their black slime shield with your green slime. Since your NPCs only ever fire the plasma beam, they won't cause these enemies any damage until you remove the black slime shield; with that done, you can use your beam and Boson Darts to reduce the ghost's health meter. When their health meter is empty, it's time to slam them around and trap them. This is done by wrangling it with the beam; on screen indicators show you which direction to flick the Wiimote. Most ghosts take four to five slams, and you can keep track of progress with a second health meter that appears during the slamming sequence. The final slam is always one that you can pick which of the four directions you want to slam the ghost in (I normally chose straight down). At this time, if not before, you need to have a containment trap out, although your team members will occasionally do this for you. To throw a trap, simply press Z, or to slide it out further, hold Z and move the Nunchuk like a bowling ball. These controls are fairly 'safe' Wii motions and they worked very well, adding to the experience.
The various enemies you encounter require different tactics, but most succumb to the beam once their shield is removed. Shields vary in type, but you always have a weapon for the job. Somewhere near the halfway point of the campaign, the story advances in such a way as to provide you with all three major weapons, which are accessed with the d-pad. Pressing B fires the primary weapon while A fires the secondary mode. Down the d-pad switches to the all important beam. Left switches to the Slime Blower, with secondary fire mode being a slime mine (which is also be used as a sticky bomb). Right on the d-pad brings up the Shock Blast, whose effect is similar to that of a shotgun. The secondary mode is a Stasis beam that can hold enemies into place, perfect for setting up a clean shot with a Boson Dart. Up on the d-pad brings up the PKE, which isn't a weapon, but a detection tool. The PKE includes antennas that raise when paranormal activity is near. Switching to goggles mode by holding B is the most useful; with the PKE goggles on, you can see traps, doorways, and a faint trail of energy that is used as the game's compass, should you get lost. Items displayed in the PKE goggles are keys to various puzzles that players have to slime to be able to interact with. Once an item is slimed, you can wrangle it with the beam. This allows you to pull down doors, access hidden passages, activate small bridges, and so forth.
I liked how Red Fly designed the enemies and weapons in such a way that forces you to constantly switch between your weapons. Each weapon also has an overheat and cooldown timer on it, so using the same weapon constantly will only overheat it, which is indicated with an onscreen meter and vibration of the Wiimote. By having you switch weapons back and forth, not only is the experience more engaging, but the overheat mechanic is well balanced, especially for a more aggressive or younger audience that wants to constantly shoot all the time.
Presentation And Conclusion
Ghostbusters on the Wii looks and sounds good. As there are a lot of cutscenes and dialogue between the team members, I'm happy that Red Fly and Atari were able to get the original talent to do the voiceovers. Other effects are very good, and the soundtrack (which includes the Ray Parker, Jr. theme) provides a fitting atmosphere and tone. Visually, Ghostbusters is packed with a lot of color and flare; animations are good, the enemies look cool, and all of the destructible objects shatter very nicely. Some minor clipping and some framerate drops occur at times, but I didn't find this to be a big deal.
Once the campaign is over and the credits have rolled, you can go back to the Firehouse and replay any mission you'd like. Hopping into the Ecto-1 takes you back to the final boss fight, which honestly was one of the best boss fights I've played in some time; it was just a ton of fun. Adding a local friend for co-op play isn't a bad idea, and would definitely help is finding art pages and scanning objects.
Let's get to the summary.