Everyone is familiar with the 1980s films and the famous Ray Parker Jr. theme song, self-titled “Ghostbusters.” Over the past three decades, there have been a number of attempts to replicate the ghost-busting team into a video game, with the latest attempt coming from Terminal Reality, Threewave Software and Atari in the form of Ghostbusters: The Video Game in November 2009. Making the most of the license, Atari have worked with developer Behaviour Interactive to bring Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime, a top-down shooter to the Xbox Live Arcade.
The downloadable game works similarly to Geometry Wars and Assault Heroes, where players take control of a rookie team of Ghostbusters. Able to select from a choice of four, players move with the left thumbstick and shoot their streams at approaching enemies, who come in the form of ghosts, using the right thumbstick.
Each of the ghosts is red, yellow or blue, with players able to switch between the three weapon upgrades that represent that colour, allowing them to eliminate that particular enemy. The concept does come with a slight learning curve, having to cycle through the colours, but, once players are capable of doing so, it comes naturally, which is essential for some of the tougher levels at the game’s conclusion.
Progression in the game is made by eliminating all the ghosts in a locked room before progressing to the next. This can get repetitive very quickly, with the only real variety in the game coming in the form of boss battles (in which players must reduce the enemy to a certain amount of health before deploying a trap – activated by replicating the button combination on screen) and a number of levels take place on the back of the Ecto-4WD – the well-known vehicle the Ghostbusters get around in. Even then, the same core gameplay elements are evident.
The game’s narrative is told through the use of a comic strip, which suits the game’s style and has that Ghostbusters feel to it. However, the text can prove to be slightly on the small side at times which may be a problem for some gamers; it can easily be overcome as the story isn’t particularly hard to get to grips with, as it’s mostly a case of the rookie Ghostbusters being called out to certain places across New York City.
Environments evident in the game consist of your typical ghost-infested settings including graveyards, haunted houses and sewers. Regrettably, the level design is also quite poor as players will find themselves coming across similar looking surroundings the entire way throughout the level, with very little signs of variety being evident.
As for multiplayer, there is four player support for both offline and over Xbox Live co-operatively which, when you get the players, can prove to be quite enjoyable. Unfortunately, its downfall comes due to the lack of drop-in/drop-out play, which means players have to restart certain levels if someone drops out.
Even in single player, working with the AI is quite stressful. While they can prove useful in their attempts to revive players once their health has been drained, their lack of intelligence means they’re often getting themselves killed in daft ways, which is particularly frustrating at later points in the game.
Graphically, the game is to a good standard, especially the Ecto-4WD levels that contain some great attention to detail. However, there are some weak spots which aren’t to the same level, especially during the sewer stage. As for the audio, the theme song playing at the menu is a fantastic touch which will be appreciated by Ghostbusters fans, and the sound of the streams attacking the enemies will also go down well.
Overall, Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime has some great ideas that would have made for an excellent game if the execution had been done well. The repetitive nature of the game, the unintelligent AI and the lack of drop-in/drop-out play are key problems within the title that let it down massively. This is one Xbox Live Arcade title that should be avoided.