Ghostbusters is one a staple of 80’s movies, with big hair, slightly dodgy special effects, and questionable fashion sense. Due to a liberal dose of comedy and a strong cast, it has passed the test of time and still enjoys a sizable following, evidenced by the almost constant calls for a third movie. Gamers got a small dose of Ghostbusters with the release of the imaginatively-titled Ghostbusters: The Video Game back in 2009, and now, we’re now fortunate enough (if that the right phrase) to be treated to Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime, a Geometry Wars-styled shooter. Does it live up to the Ghostbusters name?
WE CAME, WE SAW...
Who You Gonna Call? � When starting up Ghostbusters, the first thing that hits you is the classic theme song, a clever use of the licence to bring you right into the Ghostbusters world. Even those who haven’t seen the movies will recognize the iconic music, so this is a smart move by developer Behaviour Interactive. The presentation is kept at a high level through the cutscenes as well, as they take on the guise of a moving comic book. This is a playful way of telling a fairly-dragged out story, as the story-related parts of the game seem to go on for quite a while.
Busting Makes Me Feel Good � Sanctum of Slime’s control layout is smartly done, with movement tied to the left analogue stick, and aiming and shooting done with the right stick. Wherever you point the right stick, your character will aim and shoot, and will continue shooting so long as you keep the stick pointed in that direction. This lets the combat flow well, as you will face a large number of enemies through the course of this game, oftentimes with multiple enemies attacking you at once, and being able to merely point and shoot in an enemy’s general direction saves your thumbs a lot of pain and anguish.
EGON, YOUR MUCUS
Turned Into A Dog � Imagine playing a dungeon-crawler. The main driving force in the majority of games in this genre is the thrill of seeing what’s around the corner, which enemy you will be testing yourself against next, or what weapon or piece of armour you’re going to pick up to complement your set. Sanctum of Slime is at a basic level a dungeon crawler, but with Proton Packs instead of bows and arrows. Unfortunately though, Sanctum of Slime gives you no sense of progression, and no desire to see what’s around the next corner, as you don’t level up and the majority of enemies you battle you’ve already encountered before. Sure, you unlock new weapons as you progress, but aside from shooting a different colour out of your gun and hurting different coloured enemies, the pattern is basically the same. You enter a room and the door shuts behind you, waves of ghosts attack you and your teammates and you colour match your weapon to the colour of the ghosts. Once the ghosts are vanquished you move on to the next room and rinse and repeat these motions until the level is over. Then you do the same on the next level, just with a slightly different aesthetic, be it hotels, sewers or something other. It gets boring fast.
Before His HEAD Died... � Compounding the lack of sense of progression is the feeling that you’re never really being told where to go or what to do, you’re merely placed in a level and have to follow the linear path to the end, battling ghosts along the way. The story feels almost separate from the levels themselves, with the only connections between the two being the locations. In an effort, I imagine, to keep the file size down, no speech is included in the game, which prevents you from forming any bond with your AI-controlled teammates. The only real interaction you have with them anyway is when you (incredibly frequently) die, and they have to come and revive you, which thankfully they prioritise over everything else. Death in this game isn’t too punishing, as even when your entire squad collapses under the relentless barrage, your only punishment is a slight knock in score, and being pushed back to the beginning of your current room. If the punishment was any harsher, with the amount of times the game kills you, I may have had to invest in a couple of spare controllers, and maybe a new wall.
I wanted to enjoy Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime, I really did. I loved the movies as a kid, and I still feel a pang of nostalgia when they come on TV on a dreary weekend afternoon, so when I booted up this game and heard the music I got genuinely excited. However, having played a couple of levels, this excitement quickly turned to apathy, and then boredom. A good game can sometimes do the same thing over and over again, and be forgiven, either because the enjoyment of carrying out that particular task is extremely high, or the task itself is innovative. Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime is neither of these; it is not innovative, and not highly enjoyable. Instead, it is just average. A solid game, with no real technical issues to speak of, but just very, very average. The biggest word in our entire medium is game, and when there’s not much fun to be had, it stops being a game, and instead becomes a slog. Sadly, Ghostbusters feels like a slog through slime of the stickiest kind.
- Jack Moulder
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