Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime Xbox Live, PSN, PC Review
There aren’t many games that, upon firing up for the first time, I will sit on the title screen and listen to the title music in its entirety. Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime has made it onto that short list. I love Ghostbusters. Ask me what my favourite film of all time is and, depending on the day, you’ll get one of three answers. The one it is most likely to be, is Ghostbusters. When I was younger, if you asked me what I wanted to be when I got older, I would say “A Ghostbuster”; a dream later thrown out of the window, instead settling on tedious retail positions and “games journalism”.
The age-old question is, of course, “Who you gonna call”? Well, not who you’d expect. The legendary foursome of Winston Zeddemore, Ray Stantz, Egon Spengler and Peter Venkman are overworked by the sudden rise in paranormal activity, and have had to take on board some new staff members. Enter Alan, Bridget, Gabriel and Samuel.
The Ghostbusters game released a few years ago was a decent, if short-lived, shooter, which relied on strong franchise nostalgia to smooth over the rough edges. This game doesn’t have that luxury. Sure, the familiar high-pitched hum of a proton pack firing up is enough to excite the fan in all of us, but without the huge coup of the original cast providing voiceovers and this new – if not unlikeable – cast of characters, it has to rely on its own merit. Still, at least this avoids any possible “baggsies Venkman” multiplayer arguments.
The plot follows on straight after the events of Ghostbusters 2. Vigo the Carpathian has been bested and Janosz, the museum curator obsessed with erstwhile series love interest Dana Barrett, has been temporarily committed. Inside the asylum he is tricked by the antagonist, Ishmael Mcenthol, to retrieve an artifact from his own museum and by doing so starts the chain of events to bring back Dumazu the Destroyer. With a name like that, he is clearly not a very nice man and therefore must be stopped in true Ghostbuster fashion – wrecking everything in sight with proton beams.
Sanctum of Slime is a twin stick shooter, with similarities to The Chaos Engine and Smash TV. You wander around the levels, entering little rooms that act as arenas, aiming and firing at the vast amount of enemies that attack you. Killing them all will allow you to progress. Rinse, repeat until the credits roll. To spice things up a bit, you’ve got three different kinds of attack. There’s the classic Ghostbusters red proton laser, thankfully free of any kind of stream-crossing nastiness, a slow but wide yellow vapourising shot and a bouncing blue projectile that deals more damage if it hits something after ricocheting of a wall. Enemies also feature in these three colours, and zapping them with the same will do loads more damage, so switching to the correct one during a fight is the key to success.
It is fairly simplistic, but a lot of these games are, and it doesn’t stop them being a bit of mindless fun with friends. And it is best enjoyed with friends, as the friendly A.I. is mindless. During the levels themselves, it isn’t too bad. They attack appropriately and provide help when overwhelmed. When you get to boss fights, they start to struggle. When you run out of health, you are incapacitated until someone walks up to you, hammers the A button until a bar is filled, and you’re back on your feet. When this happens to you, the A.I. tends to go into “panic mode” and will drop everything to save you. Instead of waiting for a break in a boss’ telegraphed attack patterns, they’ll simply stop right in the line of fire and usually get themselves killed in the process. Another issue is during combat. Eventually, the game will start throwing mixed waves of coloured enemies at you. In multiplayer mode, you can co-ordinate which type you are going to go after, whereas in single player mode you just have to quickly look at what the computer has decided to do, and adjust your tactics accordingly.
The repetitive SHOOT EVERYTHING gameplay can be forgiven if there is a bit of variety to the levels you get to SHOOT EVERYTHING in. So, it is a real shame when you crack through the first few levels of the game – The Sedgewick Hotel, an Asylum, Sewers and a graveyard, as well as a on-rails section on the back of an ECTO four wheel drive, then suddenly find yourself back in the Sedgewick Hotel level, only it is ON FIRE. Then the sewers again, only there are SPIDER WEBS everywhere. THEN, the graveyard again, only itszzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
The whole thing smacks of laziness. There’s no drop in/drop out to the co-op. You can’t kick anyone from a game (which is fun when you’ve got someone who has gone away for some reason and the rest of your team can’t progress without them moving, something which has happened a few times during the multiplayer sessions I have had). The highlight is the story, told through drawn comic pages that give of a vibe of the Real Ghostbusters cartoon series, but completely absent in multiplayer mode, which is where the fun is to be had.
A single playthrough is all you really need to see everything on offer and even unlock all the achievements in the process, and then, there is no reason to play it any more, save for some worthless high score chasing. This sort of game can be fun with a few friends – and it is – but 800MSP for literally a couple of evening’s play is very steep. It is hard to recommend, even to the most hardcore Ghostbusters fan. It isn’t an awful game, by any measure – just a terminally dull one.
Bustin’ makes me feel bored.