Game Reviews


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| Ghostbusters
| Ghostbusters

This is a freemium game review, in which we give our impressions immediately after booting a game up, again after three days, and finally after seven days. That's what the strange sub-headings are all about.

For a brief period when I was a youngster, during what I like to call my 'goth phase', I was fascinated by the possible existence of ghosts.

I bought the Book of Shadows by Gerald Gardner to explore Wicca, I spent hours on the net poring over reported ghost sightings - I even broke into the 200-year-old local church's crypt at midnight once.

I realised after one too many TV psychics was outed as a fraud that it was probably all utter poppycock. I ditched my long coat, threw away my crystals, and swore I'd never give the matter any serious thought again.

That is until last week, when I was given Ghostbusters to review. Am I still not afraid of no ghosts, or is Beeline's freemium game destined to haunt my iPhone for an eternity? Let's find out.

First Impressions

One of the best elements of the Ghostbusters movies was their aesthetic. The muted browns and greys of the boiler suits, the proton pack, the ghost trap, Egon's warning to never "cross the streams" - these are all iconic ingredients of the universe.

The game includes all of these elements in some form, but it doesn't manage to hit the tone of the films. Where the celluloid offerings mixed the silly with the serious, Ghostbusters just plumps for cartoonish, almost to the point of caricature.

The spectre-fighting team you remember - Venkman, Ray, Egon, Winston - are all here, but they're barely recognisable. You'd be hard-pressed to associate the digital representations with their respective film counterparts if it weren't for their names appearing under their portraits during dialogue.

The animation is stiff, too, though the effects for the proton packs and traps are spot-on.

A city map is the central hub. From here you can take on assignments, earning money to buy new equipment and accruing Slime, which gives you access to the later stages of the large tower that appears to be the epicentre of all the spooky happenings.

It's dense and detailed, but clear, with large signs protruding from the tops of buildings from which the Ghostbusters have received a call.

Day 3: Working for the (dead) man

I'm already pretty tired of Ghostbusters, even by the third day of play. The conceit of you building up a squad of 'busters and taking on ghouls across the city is a strong idea, but actually doing it is dull.

Ghostbusters is a tower defence-style game with moveable units, inasmuch as members of your team can individually wander around a cramped, single-screen area, defending themselves against attacks.

Note the use of the word "defending", because you're certainly not taking the fight to the ghosts. Instead, they approach from either side of the screen and you do your best to retaliate. Beat enough of them and you win.

Though Ghostbusters will begin firing on enemies automatically if provoked, you have to manually set their targets and use their powers. Unfortunately, selecting the right man or woman for the job and aiming at the correct target is a finicky process.

The weapons all have individual firing ranges, with the slime-firing gun being particularly short-range. When the 'busters eventually bunch up close in these confined spaces, which they always do, selecting the right one is tricky - sometimes impossible.

On numerous occasions I could only get one member of my team firing on a ghost because the rest of them were practically falling over themselves. They were inseparable, and so it was impossible to assign orders to individual units.

There are few tactics involved in battles. You want to capture ghosts as quickly as possible so that they don't hurt your team too badly, so you focus on removing the bad guys one-by-one and then tapping to trap them. Occasionally you launch a special move - each Ghostbuster has at least one - which buffs your stats, hampers your enemy, or gives you health.

The shallow gameplay combines with your general hampered ineffectiveness to the point that you don't feel like a team of heroes - you feel like a bunch of clumsy amateurs.

Day 7: More unwieldy than the Statue of Liberty

I'm really glad I write about video games for a living instead of catching ghosts, because this iOS outing leads me to believe that it is one of the most boring and frustrating jobs on the planet.

Seven days in and I can barely muster the energy required to launch the game, let alone spend any time in its world.

I'm somebody who enjoys freemium games: I love the reward loops they offer, the slow-burn strategising, the efficiency eking. But central to all really good freemium games, regardless of the sub-genre they reside in, is a technically competent engine and a marked feeling of progress. Ghostbusters doesn't have this.

The control issues are insurmountable. Even after a week of play I find myself struggling to manoeuvre my team into useful positions and effectively bust ghosts.

As the game's difficulty starts to ramp up, and as the number of enemies in locations increases, this problem significantly vitiates the experience - you'll start to lose team members rapidly through no fault of your own.

Getting through each level of the haunted tower block is an equally crushing endeavour. You break through a wall of slime, take on the monsters within and collect some items that barely affect the gameplay, and then you run up against another wall.

Each entry fee to the next area is massive, and this saps your desire to make progress.

Featuring little of the wit, enthusiasm, style, or wide-eyed fantasy of the series it's based on, Ghostbusters is an exercise in tedium and poorly conceived controls. Ironically, it feels totally soulless.

That's my impression of the game, but how are you getting on? You can tell us and the rest of the PG community about your experiences by leaving a comment in the box below.


Lacking much of the tone that made the movies great, Ghostbusters is about as fun as being forced to slowly trudge through slime, and being overcharged for the pleasure of doing so at a faster rate
Peter Willington
Peter Willington
Die hard Suda 51 fan and professed Cherry Coke addict, freelancer Peter Willington was initially set for a career in showbiz, training for half a decade to walk the boards. Realising that there's no money in acting, he decided instead to make his fortune in writing about video games. Peter never learns from his mistakes.