A Short History of Ghostbusters Video Games
- Updated: November 26, 2011
Ghostbusters is one of my most, if not the most, favourite franchises of my life. Beginning with the first movie in 1984, it went onto spawn The Real Ghostbusters, a massively popular cartoon series that continued the timeline, and the successful movie sequel Ghostbusters II. With forums currently rife with speculation and rumours surrounding an allegedly confirmed third movie, and with the release of a re-mastered original Ghostbusters movie for Halloween, has the video game industry done this fantastic license justice over the years?
Let me take you through some of the highlights.
Ghostbusters (Amstrad, Commodore 64, Spectrum, others)
Fondly remembered for me as one of the first video games I ever laid eyes on, this movie tie-in was actually originally developed at the same time as the original box-office hit, albeit as a different title to begin with, named ‘Car Wars’. The version I had was for the Sinclair Spectrum, which is unfortunately inferior to the Commodore version, in particular the graphics, colours and sound. But still a fine game, for 1984.
The plot was the same as the movie, but a large majority of the game took place driving from job to job with a close top-down view, sucking up any ghosts that came across the screen. From what I remember, control responses were capable but not great, and the sections were mostly very long and quite tedious. Nonetheless, these sections were also engaging and necessary to raise cash for more equipment. It did somewhat improve with the ‘busting’ portions of the game which followed.
Upon reaching your destination you’d control two Ghostbusters attempting to catch the little bugger with your proton streams and then trap it. So it was a case of tactically placing the heroes in order to make the shots count. This was by far the most fun section of the game; quite challenging and the controls were intuitive, too. If the ghost got away, or a trap attempt was missed, the ghost would then proceed to knock over one of your heroes, which in turn triggered the soundbyte ‘He slimed me’, direct from the movie.
On the Spectrum it sounded more like someone throwing up, but hey, this was 1984, remember? Touches like this are great for fans, as was the whole game. For the faithfulness alone, this should definitely be considered a classic.
Ghostbusters II (Gameboy)
Following on from the massive success of the original movie and the cartoon and merchandise that came with it, a sequel was inevitable. As is almost obligatory, particularly these days, a licensed video game was released to coincide with the movie.
I tackled the GameBoy version myself, which was a very fun, although simple and short game, and a welcome addition to a somewhat short list of decent movie-licensed video game releases. Our four heroes were represented as tiny, miniaturised versions of their movie counterparts.
After choosing your character, you then chose a second. However this was an NPC character who followed wherever you went, and this formed the simple but intuitive system for capturing ghosts. Your chosen character performed the proton blasts to hold the ghosts while the NPC held the ghost trap, and activated it on command by the player in order to trap ghosts and progress.
Ghostbusters fit the mould of the perfect Gameboy game with intuitive controls that suited the D-pad and buttons perfectly. With a Zelda-esque view incorporated and its dungeon-inspired levels, you couldn’t go wrong. Great fun.
Ghostbusters: The Video Game (Xbox, PS3)
I love this game. Yes, this will be a very biased view of what is critically considered a decent, but far from perfect video game, but I don’t care. I love it. I even got a copy from the US due to the publishing nightmare it endured on the Xbox 360 in the UK, as they kindly left it region-free. For a Ghostbusters fan, this game is the ultimate experience. You play the new recruit to the original team, who are voiced by the entire original movie cast also (fandom EXPLOSION!), as they teach you the “tools and the talent” to be a Ghostbuster. It doesn’t disappoint.
Using the ever-popular third person view that makes Dead Space and the latter Resident Evil games so great, you make your way through streets, buildings and spooky cemeteries, flushing out ghosts with the PKE meter. You spend your time zapping then trapping them, using the wonderfully presented Ghostbuster equipment that we all know and love. There are some excellent variations on the norm too. The slime tether is used to pull heavy objects. The stasis stream freezes ghosts in their tracks for a limited time. The zapping and trapping system is everything you could want from a Ghostbusters game; proton beams weaken the enemy enough that they are then dragged to the trap and sucked inside. This looks almost exactly like the movies and cartoon series and you also get a real sense of pulling the ghost around, whether it’s to keep them in check, or guide them to a ghost trap.
This certainly was the game created with the fans in mind the most. As mentioned above, the original movie cast have reunited to provide the voices of their respective characters. The soundtrack is taken from the original movie, which is hardly original, but it’s still excellent to this day and fits in with the game very well. Even the achievements/trophies are named with quotes from the movies.
Unlike some movie franchises, Ghostbusters has been treated pretty well over the years. Only the most recent Sanctum of Slime seemed awful, so much so I couldn’t even bring myself to upgrade from the trial version. For anyone who thinks that all the Ghostbusters games were sub-standard, the 2009 video game is the exception to the general movie licensed video game mediocrity, and an excellent game in its own right. At £14.99 from Microsoft’s Games on Demand, Ghostbusters: The Video Game is also now a bargain.