Review – Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime
Developer: Behavior Santiago
Platform(s):Downloadable on the PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Genre: Twin-stick Shooter
Rating: E – Everyone 10+
ESRB Content Descriptors: Fantasy Violence
Players: 1 to 4 on or offline co-op. (PC version does not have online co-op)
Official site: http://www.atari.com/gbsanctumofslime/#/trailer
The Scoop: I love the Ghostbusters. The original is my all time favourite movie and it is still the best way for me to forget that my wife drinks and I’m thirty pounds overweight for an hour and forty minutes. I looked at all of Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime previews online through rose coloured Ecto-goggles and it seemed like it had a lot going for it. The team that writes the IDW comic book series were creating a special story just for Sanctum, Atari developer Behaviour was aiming for Castle Crashers like pacing and the campaign could be played on the couch or online co-op with up to four players. Sadly, the twin-stick shooter is a huge letdown: it doesn’t deliver any of those things well and, for the first time in a long time, bustin’ didn’t make me feel good.
The Setup: Sanctum takes place following the second movie and the Ghostbusters have just defeated a painting of Vigo the Carpathian. Vigo’s unstable human servant, Janosz, is still driven by his love for co-worker Dana Berett and is sent to an insane asylum. There he meets up with another demon-god who, like Vigo, promises him what he most desires. The game then jumps to present day where Dr. Venkman and crew are a little past their prime to be handling another unusual P.K.Energy spike in the New York City area. They recruit some new cadets to take care of the heavy lifting and these are the characters you’ll be playing. It probably turns out that Jonosz and his new boss are responsible for chaos surrounding NYC, but honestly I did not get far enough into the game to find out for sure.
When it comes time to bust some ghosts they will disappear after you drain their P.K. Energy using the proton stream, and the ghost trap will only be needed for some end level bosses. Eventually different types of attacks will be added to your proton-pack, which uses a colour system to help you bust most effectively. So, if you’re in a room with a bunch of blue ghosts you can still bust them with your red proton stream, but using the blue shotgun like weapon will wear them out quicker.
What’s Hot: Although not sung by Ray Parker Jr., the “Ghostbusters” song is used in the game’s menu.
What’s Not: I played Sanctum alone for the game’s first nine levels and the teammate AI did an okay job of keeping up with me until it lost its mind at the graveyard on level 10. The number of ghosts on screen increased and they became powerful enough to knock you down with one hit. The AI became unfocused and started using the wrong attacks, or made halfhearted attempts to revive me. It took the wrong or longest route to get to me before deciding to stop and take out some yellow ghosts with a blue stream. The ghosts would eventually take out all of my teammates while I lay helpless like a marshmallow man floating in hot chocolate.
After repeated attempts I thought Sanctum was challenging me to get some friends and play some co-op with other humans. There were not a lot of people online, but if they didn’t quit early because of lag, we’d end up stuck in the exact same spot. It didn’t matter how many teammates weren’t AI-controlled, this game only wanted to spank frustration into me.
I did eventually give up on the game because the prior nine levels were not exactly the Castle Crashers paced fun-zone that was promised. The gameplay is a shallow experience where you enter a room, bust all of the ghosts, and move onto the next. There are a couple of rides on the Ecto-4WD and some Stay- Puft dolls to collect but they do little to break up the monotony. Even brief moments of goodness, like a ghost possessed NYC subway train boss, was only a tiny nugget of tasty in a sea of solid waste.
To add to the boredom, environments like the Sedgewick Hotel and the NYC sewers get reused on a couple of levels, and it is tiresome clearing out areas you’ve already done. Even the game’s characters were confused by the steps they were retracing:
Cadet #1: “Why did we come back in here?”
Cadet #2 “I don’t know. It seemed like a good idea at the time.”
That sums up the game’s terrible writing style too. There is an achievement/trophy given for sitting through every e-comic style cut scene, I thought this would be one of the game’s easier ones and instead I lost any desire to get it. I know the IDW writers are not the movie writing team of Aykroyd & Ramis, but you would think they would bring their best to attract an audience to their books. In all fairness, the story itself is okay and does a nice job of tying in some more obscure moments from Ghostbusters 2, but every character, including their versions of the original cast, is dull. Its humour belongs on a bad Saturday morning cartoon and Venkman comes off as a jerk instead of a dead panned master of sarcasm. An argument could be made for the content being targeted towards kids, but with many references to a twenty-two-year-old movie it’s hard one to buy into.
Final Verdict: I cannot recommend you strap on a proton-pack for Sanctum of Slime, if you don’t get bored with its repetitive gameplay and reused environments you will eventually be frustrated with the clunky AI and unbalanced difficulty spikes. At the risk of having every molecule in my body explode at the speed of light, I am now crossing the streams to force this game back into the dimension from which it came. See you on the other side.Review - Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime,