Review: Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime
Last month, Atari released Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime, a new foray into the Ghostbusters universe. If you remember, 2009 brought us Ghostbusters: The Video Game, a third-person shooter that placed players in the role of the Rookie, a new employee hired by the original 4 Ghostbusters to help out with the increased workload brought on by the return of Gozer (the bad guy/hot chick covered in bubbles from the first movie). It’s important to point out how and why Ghostbusters: The Video Game was as good as it was, because the new Ghostbusters release shows that maybe it was just too damn good to follow up.
The 2009 game was voiced by the original cast from the movies, and both Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis (who wrote the scripts for both movies) helped out on the game’s script. Ghostbusters: The Video Game managed to recapture the humor of the films without sacrificing the fun that a video game should entail. Ghosts had to be wrangled into ghost traps, and stray shots from your proton pack would fry the furniture around you. There were a few issues such as the length of the game, lip sync bugs, and the proton streams being difficult to aim at times. On the other hand, the streams were hard to aim in the movies too, so I wasn’t too bothered. As far as the whole gaming experience went, Ghostbusters: The Video Game actually made you feel like a Ghostbuster. Unfortunately, playing Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime actually resulted in a severe gastric seizure (well, it was that or the improperly cooked pork I ate the night before).
Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime is a top down twin stick shooter like SmashTV, Zombie Apocalypse, or Burn Zombie Burn. However, unlike Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime, those games are actually playable. Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime takes place a number of years after the movies when the famous quartet decides that in order to deal with the surge in the ghostly population of New York, they need to hire some new recruits. This ensures that rather than play as whichever one happens to be your favorite Ghostbuster, you instead must choose from a generic white guy, a different generic white guy with a hat, a black scientist guy (you know he’s a scientist because he wears glasses), or some random goth girl. I’d like to say that the characters stand out in some way, but in reality they are so painfully dull that they had me actually wishing I could choose from the cast of the hated Extreme Ghostbusters cartoon series of the late 90’s. The game then has you wander across generic and ugly looking levels based vaguely off of a drunk’s late night description of the plot to Ghostbusters 2. The story has something to do with stopping an ancient evil spirit, god or whatever named Dumazu the Destroyer, but most likely you’ll stop giving a damn after the first level’s intro cutscene. Cutscene is a generous term mind you. Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime instead tells its story through poorly drawn comic book pages complete with voice bubbles.
The core gameplay is crap, which is surprising as the developers had both Ghostbusters: The Video Game and thousands of better quality twin stick shooters to steal from. Ghosts float around the screen, mostly ignoring any NPC ghostbusters, instead focusing their attacks upon whoever the player is actually controlling. When their attention is turned towards computer controlled ghostbusters, the ghosts tend to have an easy time of killing them as the idiots prefer squeezing together into a big, easily hit huddle. Ironically, while lumped together in an easily killable pile, your computer run companions seem to enjoy getting between you and your targets, ensuring that while none of your fire actually hits the ghosts, the absence of a friendly fire mechanic will keep you from attaining the mild satisfaction you’d get from murdering their assess. While the classic proton pack makes a return, ghost traps only make an appearance in boss fights. Instead of requiring player to actually trap them, this core concept of the franchise is ignored as the majority of the game’s evil specters are simply blasted away by energy beams until they dissolve.
As the levels progress new weapons are unlocked automatically. I think the weapon system for this game was designed as part of an elaborate bet among the design team, as this is the only game I’ve ever played where I actually became pissed off whenever I unlocked a new weapon. Rather than providing variety and a certain amount of tactical planning to combat, the weapons in Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime only make the game more frustrating. Initially, the ghosts you fight are colored red, but by the second level yellow ghosts appear that immune to blasts from your red proton pack. “luckily” that’s when the game provides you with a yellow, shotgun thing that damages yellow ghosts and only yellow ghosts. A blue ricocheting rifle heralds the appearance of blue ghosts and so on. This mechanic requires players franticly switch back and forth between weapons as rainbow hued swarms of enemies float towards them. Instead of having to choose the right weapon for the appropriate situation as in every other damned game on the planed, in Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime you’re merely matching colors frantically. The effect is a feeling of being hassled rather than one of entertaining challenge. This is especially the case as the game punishes you harshly for wanting to temporarily cease playing. Character deaths can be healed easily by running up to the fallen companion and hitting a button repeatedly, with failure only coming when all 4 Ghostbusters have fallen at which point the game restarts that part of the level. But if for some strange reason you actually want to stop playing and try to tackle a difficult area again later, then you’re utterly screwed as Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime does not have any sort of save system. You can choose to restart any chapter you’ve completed so far, but that’s it. There’s really no excuse for this sort of thing these days. Every damned game has some sort of save function, even crappy flash games you play via web browser.
Ghostbusters: The Video Game had a clever system where the more property damage you did while trying to catch ghosts, the less you got paid at the end of a mission. Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime on the other hand rewards you for wrecking as much of the surrounding area. A good thing as the only way to find the game’s hidden collectables is by destroying chairs, lockers and tables in order to make them appear. Not that there’s much of a reason to as every single hidden item is a toy Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. While each level introduces new types of ghosts, once they appear they keep coming back no matter how inappropriate. The first level brings players back to The Sedgewick Hotel where they’re introduced to flying skulls and ghostly bellboys. Later on in the sewers of New York City, player face, swarms of rat like ghosts, giant slimy hands, and…ghostly bellboys. At which point, it feels as though the developers just stopped trying. All of that pales in comparison to the awfulness that is the game’s driving levels which has players shooting from the back of the new Ecto4, which looks like the bastard child of a Humvee and a delivery truck. That’s right the developers thought the game would be improved by turning the classic Ecto1 into a Humvee.
I suppose the main reason why I hate Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime so much is that it is an utterly shitty knock off that bastardizes its source material in the pursuit of a quick buck. The graphics quality is laughable and the gameplay is torturous. It’s a barely playable game the likes of which I was fairly sure we had seen the last of ten years ago. I’d like to be able to say that there’s some sort of saving grace to the game, but aside from the fact that when launched it did not immediately crash my computer, I can’t think of anything else. I’m not a violent man, and I respect the rights of men, women, and all living things. But I honestly think that Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime might be a good enough excuse to forcibly spay and neuter some of the game designers over at Behaviour Interactive in order to make sure that those responsible for creating this pile of drek are never allowed to contaminate the gene pool with the evil within them. Under no circumstances should pregnant women or anybody else ever play this game. It’s not worth the $9.99 being charged for it on Steam or PSN, or the 800 Microsoft Points it costs on the Xbox LIVE Market. Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime is the kind of game that if bundled free with the purchase of a better game, you’d still never have the urge to install it and try it out. I say FRY IT!