When Ghostbusters hit the silver screen 25 years ago, it wowed crowds with its energy and ghoulish humour. The DS game conjures laughs, too, though for all the wrong reasons. A day late and a dollar short, this underwhelming adventure busts more than ghosts. It's also haunted by dysfunctional controls and a number of lame gameplay mechanics.
Two years following the events of Ghostbusters II film, the crew finds business slow until the shape-shifting demon god Gozer makes a return. You take Peter, Ray, Egon, and Winston under your command in the effort to destroy the ghost's plans along with his possessed marshmallow puff body.
Controlling one member of the four-man Ghostbusters team, you tackle a variety of missions across New York City. Missions are accepted in the old firehouse headquarters, whereupon you hop into the Ecto-1 to drive across town to the marked location. Primary missions drive the story forward, though much of your time is spent quelling local hauntings to boost the team's reputation, cash, and unlock new skills.
Getting to missions is a matter of driving the Ecto-1 through a 3D version of New York City while the Ghostbusters theme is piped through the speakers. These short excursions are nothing more than a waste of time. Zipping through the dark streets of the Big Apple in a car that controls like a Hot Wheels unnecessarily interrupts the on-foot action.
Whether it's zapping spectres haunting the city library or rescuing citizens trapped within a slimed building, the missions all carry the same ghostbusting slant. Pressing the stylus to the touchscreen fires a stream from your proton beam that can drain ghosts of energy.
Trapping them is the only way to get rid of them, though, which is done by holding down the L button and tapping where you want to lay a ghost trap. Luring a ghost into the trap is a matter of slowly moving your proton beam over the trap so that it sucks it up.
Moving your team into position is less easy. At any given time you control one character, although you're supposed to be able to switch to another teammate instantly by tapping their portrait on the touchscreen.
That doesn't work as advertised. Since the three characters not under your direct control are managed by the computer, you're able to set their behaviour to stay (red light) or green (follow) by tapping their portrait. Instead of changing control to another character, a tap of their portraits usually toggles between 'stay' or 'follow'.
This has the obvious effect of keeping you in control of the same character through the course of a mission. Certain objectives require you to switch characters in order to utilise their special abilities, such as Ray's mechanical skills for unlocking doors and such. Not being able to rely on the interface to respond goes beyond frustrating and discourages continued play.
Other problems plague combat that are completely out of your control. Enemies frequently attack from off the screen, annoyingly knocking down your ghostbusters. Since you're unable to pinpoint their location because they're out of sight, you can spend minutes standing up, walking a step or two, and getting knocked on your butt again.
Your perseverance is at least rewarded with reputation and skill points, as well as cash. Maintaining a good reputation boosts your allowance from the city, which in turn grants you more money with which to embark on research. Cash can be invested in research that upgrades your equipment and unlocks new goods. Additionally, skill points allow you to improve each ghostbuster's abilities and acquire new ones.
The opportunity to develop your team and strengthen your equipment provides a compelling reason to keep playing, though it isn't strong enough in light of the broken controls and lacklustre design. Ghostbusters fails to possess the same lighthearted, easy-going spirit of the movies, and is damned by annoying gameplay and busted controls.
Want more? Check out our growing collection of Ghostbusters articles!