Backlogvania Review: Ghostbusters: The Video Game Remastered (2019)

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Welcome to Backlogvania

Join me each month as I tackle one game from my backlog, try to complete it in a month, and then tell you if it’s worth playing now, leaving in your backlog, or skipping completely. Not that my opinion means anything, but you’re here. You have now entered the daunting, and traitorous world of Backlogvania!

This month’s game is…

Game: Ghostbusters: The Video Game 

System: Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PlayStation 2, Nintendo Wii, PlayStation Portable, Nintendo Switch (Remastered), Xbox One (Remastered), PlayStation 4 (Remastered) 

Released: 2009, 2019 (Remastered)

Publisher: Atari, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, Mad Dog Games (Remastered)

Studio: Terminal Reality (Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360), Red Fly Studio (PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, Wii)

Notable Creatives: Drew Haworth (Director), Dan Aykroyd (writer), Harold Ramis (writer)

Metacritic Score: 79, 66 (Remastered) 

Duration in my backlog: Approximately 11 years and 8 days (1 year and 8 days if you only count the Remastered)

Additional writing and editing: Joseph McBride

History Lesson

In honor of the first Backlogvania during the month of October, I figured I’d cover a spooky game from my backlog. Since my wife only has so much time in the day to sit with me to prevent my anxiety from spiking while I’m playing Resident Evil VII, I figured I’d go with something a little more lighthearted like Ghostbusters: The Video Game.

GB VG
No joke is flying over Stanz’s head

Now, to do the history of this one properly, one must go back to the year 1990. Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters 2 had both released in 1984 and 1989, respectively, earning approximately a combined $511 million on a total budget of roughly $70 million. 

Due to rumored disinterest from Bill Murray and a lack of critical success of the second film, future Ghostbusters movies were shelved for years with only middling content creeping out in the form of a few different animated series. While rough ideas for another sequel had been thought up by Aykroyd and Ramis, several factors caused a third film to be shelved for almost two decades.

Then, in 2016, we were all blighted with a disastrous Paul Feig reboot that wasted a tremendous cast on a milquetoast and largely improvised script that bombed terribly. Ghostbusters (2016) cost 2.5 times the budget of both original films combined and ended up barely scraping in more ticket sales than what the second film made. That’s not adjusting for inflation, either. I wonder what went wrong…

Walter Peck VG Image
I’m convinced Walter Peck is analogous to Paul Feig and he finally got his way with sabotaging the franchise…

Why are we talking about the history of the Ghostbusters movies? This is a video game blog, afterall… Well, that’s because somewhere in the middle between the supremely underrated second film and the awful third film/reboot, Ghostbusters: The Video Game was born. The idea originally sprang up in 2006 and, like the concepts for the theoretical third film, the project bounced around and eventually landed in the laps of developer Terminal Reality. 

Though they weren’t able to get their third film off the ground, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis were brought in to help write Ghostbusters The Video Game. The duo incorporated some of their unused ideas from their script for Ghostbusters 3 as well as untapped lore and ideas that were cut from the first film. The contributions from both as writers as well as them being joined by most of the original cast to provide their voices and likenesses helped made Ghostbusters: The Video Game the de-facto third film that we never got. In fact, of the principal cast of the original film, only Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis did not appear and not for a lack of trying.

Ghostbusters: The Video Game, starred Aykroyd, Ramis, Bill Murray, Ernie Hudson, Alyssa Milano, Annie Potts, Brian Doyle-Murray, William Atherton, and was released in 2009 to tie in with the first film’s 25th anniversary. The game received mostly positive reviews and even got a remaster 10 years later on current gen consoles which is the version I (mostly) chose to play.

Journey to the Backlog

Ghostbusters and Ghosbusters II are two of my favorite movies of all time and I watch them multiple times a year. I consider the first film to be a perfect comedy and I feel the second is a better sequel than it often gets credit for. Question Time: if I love video games enough to write about them and I love Ghostbusters enough to be able to recite a vast majority of it from memory, why did I wait so long to play a game that seems like it was made in a factory called “We Make Geoff’s Favorite Things?”

Up until 2009, video games and movie tie-ins usually didn’t mix. In fact, most licensed properties that made their way into video games were usually garbage or, at best, mediocre promotional tie-in products. Often these games were simply made to appeal to casual markets who don’t know a good game from a GameFly rental bad one and sacrificed story and gameplay for a fast release date. 

But when future scientists dig up our bones, to evaluate our history, 2009 could be seen as a banner year with titles like Ghostbusters hitting in July and, maybe the best example, Batman: Arkham Asylum coming out a short while later in the same year. Both games could be viewed as proof that video games can feature big time intellectual property and also be, you know, a good video game.

Venkman screencap
“Have you or your family ever played a truly good video game movie tie in? If the answer is yes, then don’t waste another minute pick up the phone and call the professionals! We’re ready to believe you!”

Despite the solid reviews, my mind was still in the 2008 mentality that “most licensed video games are hot garbage” and so I never gave either game a real chance upon release. I did rent Ghostbusters and briefly play it so as to say I did but that’s about it. The third person run & gun gameplay had me feeling like I was playing another generic Gears of War clone… probably cause I had just spent the last 3 years playing the Gears of War games. So, I got bored, didn’t make it past the tutorial and back to GameFly it went.

Then, huzzah! In 2019, it was announced that a remaster of the original game was coming to Nintendo Switch and just in time for the original film’s 35th anniversary. After hearing the hype from a whole different group of friends and because I collect games the same way Egon collects spores, molds, and fungus – I picked up Ghostbusters The Video Game Remastered on October 4th of 2019. I started it and got about halfway through before the same thing happened… 

As you’ll learn in this review, I definitely enjoyed it more the second time around but not enough to get me to commit to finishing it the second time around. So it got shelved again for over a year when I picked it up again this last week and smashed through it as the timing was right to get something spooky on the books for October’s edition of Backlogvania.

So, I left this game on the shelf for 11 years – you must be wondering what my thoughts are… let’s open the trap for Ghostbusters: The Video Game.

Ghostbusters Title Screen
Ghostbusters Title Screen

Game Review

**Warning: This section will contain spoilers for Ghostbusters: The Video Game. You’ve been warned…**

Ghostbusters: The Video Game starts with a disturbance originating from The Gozer Exhibit at the Museum of Natural History. This event sets off a chain reaction releasing ghosts in places all over New York including many of the films previous haunts (got em) like the Sedgewick hotel, library, and even the famous fire station headquarters. While investigating the hotel and battling a rebirthed Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, the crew learns that the big sailor was in pursuit of Dr. Ilyssa Selwyn (Alyssa Milano) who, as it turns out, is a long lost descendent of Ivo Shandor, the unseen villain from the first movie who worshiped Gozer and was responsible for much of the originally released ghosties.

Ghostbusters’s story is simultaneously mediocre and also the best part of this game. I’ll be perfectly honest with you – I don’t think I cared much about the plot at all, but hearing Ramis, Aykroyd, Hudson and Murray’s dialogue sang beautifully to the tune of Aykroyd and Ramis’s script was all I really needed to scratch that Ghostbusters itch. These guys could put out a record where they read aloud a recipe for pea-soup and as long as they did it in character and added a few quipps here or there, I’d pre-order that thing today.

GB Team VG
The caption in this photo is brilliant if you imagine Egon saying this in response to my previous joke…

Prior to 2020 being 2020, we were actually slated to get a true third Ghostbusters film with the remaining cast this summer, but that film’s been delayed until sometime next year which means this game is still the closest thing we have to Ghostbusters 3 and… you know what… I’m ok with that. I’m still holding out hope that Ghostbusters: Afterlife will be good, but if it isn’t – Ghostbusters: The Video Game is worthy enough to be considered a true canon third film in my book until Afterlife gets a release.

But I know what you’re thinking – how does it play? Well, earlier I referenced similarities to other third-person action games like Gears of War and it plays kinda like that. It plays like a very-ok third-person action-shooter (or an over-the-booty-shooty, as Girlfriend Reviews would put it). The start of the game is what you want from a Ghostbusters game: use the proton beam to rope the ghosts, throw the trap, and then slowly guide the beam towards your trap and snap it shut. Two in the box, ready to go! We be fast and they be slow! But, as you may imagine, that loop can get repetitive so the game throws stuff to switch it up.

Ghostbusters expands upon characters and ideas from the lore of the films but it also adds some new ideas, mainly in the form of the Busters’ arsenal. As enemy ghosts get tougher, your silent protagonist new recruit is helping to test out new gear each with varying capabilities, if only slightly. On top of the standard proton stream, there’s the slime gun from Ghosbusters II (although now the slime is green) and two other stream styles that act like a shotgun-type blast and a semi-automatic beam shooter. Each weapon has a unique cool-down that can be side-stepped by venting the pack before overheating.

GB VG
That’s a juvenile? Woof

When not fending off ghosts, you can use the PKE meter to move into first person and scan enemies, cursed artifacts and environmental clues for more details to add to the Tobin Spirit Guide. Each enemy defeated, or artifact scanned gives you revenue that you can use to slightly upgrade your gear to keep the bustin’ feeling good. When in the heat of battle, Ghostbusters have no HUD for health and, similar to Gears of War, the screen turns slightly more red as you get closer to being downed. You can be downed as long as your teammates are around to pick you up and vice versa but if everyone is downed then it’s back to the checkpoint.

And let me tell you, you’ll get downed a lot. Some enemy attacks seem to down you instantaneously and your A.I. partners may have PhDs in parapsychology and psychology but that doesn’t make them experts on avoiding attacks. When your partners aren’t already downed, the AI will often struggle to get to you in time to pick you up. Speaking of AI, the enemies are everything from non-existent to incredibly OP; I coasted through most of the game without issue but several points were frustratingly difficult and had to be restarted 8-12 times. They came, they saw, they kicked my ass, to say the least.

GB VG Combat
“Oh darn it. Oohh, darn it…”

Beyond gameplay, the visuals and audio are as true to Ghostbusters as any live action incarnation. The character models, especially during the cut-scenes, are perfect stand-ins for the real performers. While the in-engine models are not nearly as polished, for a last gen game, the models still look pretty good. One of my favorite parts of the visuals are the little nods to the lore of the films; the firehouse, hotel, and little things like the devil dog statues all look like they were ripped right out of the film. As a fan I couldn’t ask for much more.

The voice cast is all outstanding – each actor brings in a great performance with only a few lines here or there seeming phoned in (mostly from Hudson and Murray). The music, while repetitive, is almost all ripped directly from the score of the first movie which alternates between haunting and playful.

The sound effects of the equipment, specifically the proton packs are all beautifully and carefully brought to life here and the added sounds of the new equipment and ghosts all feel like the fit the new universe. In terms of presentation, you can tell that there was a lot of love and care for Ghostbusters put into this project and it’s clearly the best part of the overall experience.

GB VG
It’s beautiful…

General Commentary, Trivia, and Credits

  • According to IMDB, this was Harold Ramis’s last performance as Egon Spengler, may he rest in peace…
  • Sigourney Weaver originally did not want to to participate, but once she discovered that Bill Murray had signed on and was heavily invested, she decided to join in but it was too late in the process and her character had been written out
  • Brian Doyle-Murray, who portrays the mayor in this game, is Bill Murray’s brother and had a small role in Ghostbusters II
  • Joel Murray, Bill’s other brother, also has a role
  • Max Von Sydow, who voiced Vigo in Ghostbusters II, reprises his role here as well in just a small part that acts more as an Easter egg bug it’s awesome to see that level of commitment to the original films
  • Troy Baker and Laura Bailey, both who were performers in The Last of Us Part II, voice characters in this game – specifically Troy Baker portrays Slimer

Verdict

As a die-hard fan of the films, it’s a challenge for me to stay completely objective. As a replacement for the Ghostbusters 3 we never got, Ghostbusters: The Video Game is about as good as a fan can ask for. As a pure gameplay experience, however, it’s only ok. The difficulty spikes and repetitive gameplay loop don’t exactly create a poor gameplay experience, but there’s just nothing here that you can’t get from other, better games in a similar genre.

If you’re a die-hard Ghostbusters fan – this game is a must play, if even only as a loving replacement for the Ghostbusters 3 we never got. if you’re not a Ghostbusters fanboy, this one you can probably leave on the shelf until you run out of Slinkys to straighten.

Ghostbusters Verdict
Ghostbusters Verdict

Rating: Backlog it!

Final Thoughts and Next Game Up

Ghostbusters didn’t scratch my itch for spooky during October but it’s fine. As we get closer to the month of November and I start to think about giving thanks and eating so much that I’m just so full, I’m reminded of a game that really got me to give thanks to an old friend from my time working in retail – an older gentleman used to frequent the store I worked out of and sold videogames and when he heard that I had gotten a PS4 but wasn’t in love with any of the games I had played, he loaned me his copy of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, which I loved so much and rekindled my appreciation for Naughty Dog that continues today.

However, years later I came to the realization that I never actually completed Uncharted 3… so my task for the month of November is to finish Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception for the next entry of Backlogvania! Stay tuned!