Wednesday, June 24, 2009


I enjoyed it quite a bit. Unlike too many games these days, it succeeds precisely in what it wanted to do, to say the least what I had wanted it to do. In this case, it's to smartly tickle the tits of fans of the Ghostbusters franchise.

The major details are rendered exceedingly well; right off the bat, you are greeted with the pitch-perfect Ghostbusters score and a jaunt around their firehouse, depicted in loving detail. Easter Eggs, minutiae, hat tips, references, just about everything you can think of, is in. The achievement titles are 90% movie quotes, meanwhile, see this classic Rick Moranis-as-Louis Tulley-as-Vinz Clortho rant? The part where he mentions a "slor"? You get to fight one. Nice.

Even elements of the series originally underwhelming are in regardless, often improved or lovingly mocked. One of my only fond memories of the tepid second film is my best friend, Derek, lamenting of the accursed, credibility-sapping "cum cannons": "You see? I HATE this shit. The Proton Packs have always worked JUST. FINE. But now? Now we need those 'cum cannons', for no real reason, other than 'buy those action figures, kids,'". D, if you're reading this, still makes me laugh, man. :D Anyway, yeah, the cum cannons are back, but this time as a more logical, specialized weapon (it counteracts a sinister new form of ectoplasm called "Black Slime") , and best of all, it no longer shoots flaming pink. Speaking of Ghostbusters II, its meager villain, Vigo the Carpathian, still voiced by Max von Sydow, makes a deserved a sad sack haunted painting you can kick around in the Ghostbuster's firehouse. "Stop burning the popcorn!" he futilely commands. Oh Vigo! Still sucking after all these years, I see. Appreciate those prophecies about Dubya and rising gas prices, though.

I also appreciated that they chose to further flesh out its rich mythology for this one, rather than opt for something more cynical. Instead of predictably "modernizing" the series (the Ghostbusters deal with the ghost of reality TV show stars and haunted iPhones! Ho ho!), or worse, reboot it (a mythology-killing device all too cynically knee-jerk, as James Bond can ascertain), the setting is instead sensibly rooted in the year 1991, when the Ghostbusters would logically still be in their ghoul-catching prime. The opportunity is seized to answer, expand on, and resolve just about every loose end and riddle from the past films, from characters previously handled in aside, to why Slimer's preferred hotel is such a ghostly tourist spot, to why the fuck was there a random river of "mood slime" underneath First Avenue. It also doesn't waste time with explanations and who's whos to the n00bs , instead challenging them to keep up. It all works to make the Ghostbusters mythos more rich and enjoyable, which is actually kind of rare in this day and age of, say, Spider-Man making deals with the devil to take that stifling marriage off of his hands.

Best of all, the cast does their job really well. Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis are spot on in both in writing and character; the intellectual geek regality of Ramis' Egon Spengler is better than ever, while only Aykroyd's Ray Stantz could make exposition, whether it's "What Are We Supposed To Be Doing Now?" or "Whut Button Does Whut?", that much more fun. Ernie Hudson, one of my all-time favorite character actors, actually has more fun with Winston Zeddemore here than in the films. In the films, Hudson spent too much of his talent tempering Winston's regrettable Token Blackness with a refreshing common sense that the rest of the Ghostbusters tended to lack. Here, though, the character has much more to say, do, and contribute, and so Hudson takes opportunity to have delightful fun with it. The one I was worried about was Bill Murray, notorious for turning in feckless performances when he finds the project wanting, whether it's Charlie's Angels or even Ghostbusters II. Thankfully, he delivers quality comedy that frankly hasn't been this good since, depending on your taste in Bill Murray movies, either The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou or Lost in Translation. He not only makes for plenty of LOL-moments, but even gives a few of his lines some of same caliber of quotability as he did in the original Ghostbusters (my favorite is his off-hand summation of architects during the final boss battle, a dig that caused Melissa, herself a former architect, to laugh and fume simultaneously).

As a game? I've enjoyed it as well. While the ground is perhaps shakier with the apparently graphically-weaker PS3 version (this after it was explained that the Xbox 360 was holding back the PS3 version) and the expected forced-cartoon-graphics-to-compensate-for-the-hardware-limits Wii/PS2 version (speaking of art, the latter of which has not been without controversy regarding proper credit thereof), the Xbox 360 sees itself with a fine action romp for 2009, a sort of "Gears of Ghostbusters" with some enjoyable set pieces and gameplay (aside from a slow first level). In modern games, trapping ghosts with the Proton Pack's beams could've easily been a, sigh, Quick Time Event. Here, thankfully, it's a (gasp?) actual gameplay mechanic, in where pros will soon find themselves satisfyingly wrangling and slamming offending ghosts into environments and traps (unless you are playing the Wii version, in which case it's unfortunately a Quick Waggle Event). Another example is the Knee-Jerk Collectibles, which are usually time-wasting "find the random tiny cogs/pigeons/intel/whatever" chores that ultimately are their own "enjoyment". In Ghostbusters: The Video Game, the "Cursed Artifacts" you find and collect (gasp again?) involve a gameplay mechanic. in this case tracking them using the Ghostbuster's famous PKE Meter, and are fun in their own right. They add color to the Ghostbuster's firehouse (love the possessed bell bottom jeans that wander about the station), have funny backstories (a haunted traffic cone that causes accidents? Here in LA, they must be legion), and some are yet more Easter Eggs (The "hot beverage thermal mug and free balloon for the kids" that Egon is holding here is a Cursed Artifact in the game. As shameless merch often is.)

Its drawbacks, as most know by now, is a short game length that clashes a bit with the $60 price tag. The multiplayer is interesting, but perhaps not enough for some; it would've been nice if they had included some sort of extra, more gameplay-intensive singleplayer mode a la Resident Evil 4's "Mercenaries" mode. But for this fan, after years of some truly hideous Ghostbuster games, $60 is worth it to, at long last, enjoy a good one.

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