Ghostbusters in gaming

Still going with my Birthday/Ghostbusters celebration as I now take a look at the many and various Ghostbusters games over the years. From the simpler times of the Atari 2600 and ZX Spectrum to modern day with the PS4 and Xbox One.

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There have been quite a few Ghostbusters games, more than I first realised in fact. Some I have fond memories of and some I wish I could forget.

Let’s get stuck in with the first ever Ghostbusters game and the first one I remember.

GB c64 cover

Ghostbusters: Designed by David Crane and produced by Activision, released in 1984. Originally made for the Commodore 64 and Atari 800 but later ported to various computers and consoles including the ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, MSX, Atari 2600, Sega Master System and NES.

Based on the events of the first movie. This one was somewhat popular at the time and was ported to pretty much every popular computer and console at the time. I still remember the first time I played back in the 80s. It was on a friend’s ZX Spectrum before we got a copy for our Commodore 64 later.

You start by selecting your equipment from ghost traps to a vacuum… yes a vacuum. In some versions of the game, you could even select different cars. But why would you want to play a Ghostbusters game with a car that wasn’t Ecto 1? Once you have your vehicle and equipment, its time to bust some ghosts. You then find yourself on a overhead map like screen that looks kind of like Pac-Man with you controlling the Ghostbusters logo. Unless you know what you are supposed to be doing, this was very confusing at the time.

Basically you have to wait until a place need help from ghosts and move the Ghostbusters logo to the building. This is where the game changes to a more ghost busting action scene. You control two of the team and have to angle your proton streams to force that ghosts toward your trap. Once you are satisfied you think you can trap the ghosts, you would trigger the trap and capture the ghosts. The more ghosts you trap, the more money you make and the more money you have, the better equipment you can buy. It’s pretty simple stuff. Rinse and repeat until you have the best possible equipment. As the game progresses, eventually the main Zuul building will flash and this is your main goal of the game. When at the Zuul building, you have your guide two out of three of your Ghostbusters in between the Stay-Puft marshmallow man’s legs to enter. This is the end of the game in the original versions but it would give you a password in the form of ‘an account number’ which would allow you to start the game again but with the cash you earned from your previous play through. It was an early example of what we would not call a game+ mode.

GB c64 screen

There was also a driving stage mini game as you travelled from place to place. And this is where that vacuum came in handy as it would suck up any ghosts that got near your car and you’d earn some extra cash.

The game was pretty good for the time… again, depending on which version you played. The original Commodore 64 version is often regarded as the best of the lot. The later console ports like the NES and Master System added some new and interesting elements to the game play. Though the NES version is infamous for being terrible with one of the worst end game screens ever…

NES end

By today’s standard the game is very limited. But back then it was quite revolutionary and a good use of the license. It has many fans and has even been remade with updated graphics for you to play on your PC. Well wroth checking out.

Next we have the first game based on the popular cartoon.

TRGB cover

The Real Ghostbusters: Released by Data East in 1987 for the Arcades. Then ported to the Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, Commodore 64, and ZX Spectrum later. Based on the popular animated TV show of the same name.

With this one, up to three people could play with each player controlling one of the main Ghostbusters characters from the cartoon. Opting for a top down view, you had to explore fully scrolling levels and shoot and then try to trap and suck up ghosts. Various power-ups could be found including; shot and beam boosters a protective Aura. Even that little green bastard, Slimer makes an appearance who would work as a shield that would orbit around your character.

TRGB screen

A total of 10 levels in the game full of a variety of numerous ghosts to bust. Clear the level of ghosts and move onto the next level. This one was pretty simple arcade fare, I suppose it was a little similar to the classic Gauntlet. No real depth to the game and it was basically a ‘shoot anything that moves’ kind of game, but it was fun… especially with a friend or two.

Its the turn of the film’s sequel and this game had different versions for the computer and console market.

GB II dos cover

Ghostbusters II: The first computer version was released by Activision in 1989 for the PC for DOS. After a lengthy text scroll that recaps the story of the first film and gets you up to speed with the opening events of the sequel up to the court room, the game finally begins.

The gameplay starts in the courtroom with you tasked to getting rid of the Scoleri Brothers ghosts where you just blast them until their energy is low enough to trap them. Once the ghosts have been trapped you move onto Ghostbusters HQ and you have to gather red slime to test, so you next find yourself under the city in the sewers gathering red slime wile avoiding ghostly hands trying to grab you. You’ll also receive phone calls while at Ghostbusters HQ that allow you to take on ghostbusting jobs to earn some spare cash, these jobs are similar to the opening courtroom scene but with different graphics based on various locales around New York like Central Park and the Dock where the Titanic has arrived. The more damage you do to the scenery, the less money you earn from the job.

You keep gathering and testing red slime, receiving calls for jobs to earn cash until have enough cash to build a slime blower and enough red slime to animate the Statue of Liberty. The game then changes to a scene with you controlling Lady Liberty (complete with a NES controller) with you looking down trying not to crush and kill civilians in their cars via her mighty feet as you make your way to the museum. Once at the museum and when midnight comes around, you then have to blast the painting of Vigo while trying to avoid projectiles. Once Vigo has been defeated, its game over and you are rewarded with a pretty entertaining end game sequence.

GB II dos screen

The game also featured a fun mini game where, if you failed any slime gathering or busting ghosts scene. You would have one of the Ghostbusters committed to an asylum and the remaining crew would have to try and break their friend out. It also featured some nice (for the time) digitised images and soundbites from the movie. A pretty decent game for the time though short and quite limiting.

But there was a different Ghostbusters II game relased for other computers.

GB II amiga cover

Ghostbusters II: This other version was also from Activision but relased the following year in 1990 for the Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64 Amstrad CPC and ZX Spectrum. This version differed from the PC/DOS version in several ways. The game begins with a pretty damn good remixed rendition of the famous Ghostbusters theme (on the Amiga) and is accompanied with various digitised stills from the movie and some quick text to get you up to speed on the story.

GB II amiga screen

You eventually take control as to have to abseil into the sewers trying to avoid and blast various ghosts on the way down. Once at the bottom of the sewer, you gather the slime and its onto the next scene. This scene cuts straight to the Statue of Liberty section and things take on a side scrolling shooter style as you fight your way to the museum blasting ghosts along the way in this overtly lengthy section. When you finally get to the museum, the game switches to an isometric view as you have to help all four Ghostbusters abseil into the museum from the roof. This then take on an almost strategy slant as you have to position the Ghostbusters the right place to defeat Vigo. At which point, Ray gets possessed and you have to then defeat him before you get the end game sequence which is very short and not as much fun as the PC/DOS version. This game was notoriously hard and only had three levels. It was just not as much fun as the other version.

Finally, the NES had a Ghostbusters II game too.

GB II NES US cover

Ghostbusters II: Again from Activision and released in 1990. This version is massively different from its computer counterparts. After a quick intro featuring Vigo you are thrown directly into the action.

This one is more of a side scrolling shooting all the way through. The first level is set in the sewers where you blast and avoid ghosts as you make your way to the end of the level. Next up you take control of Ecto-1 again blasting ghosts and avoiding obstacles. The next level is set in the courtroom and is the same as the first, next up is another Ecto-1 level… and that is how the game continues, same basic gameplay with the level graphics just changing between scenes.

GB II NES US screen

Eventually you do get to the Statue of Liberty and its more of the same blasting ghosts in some side scrolling action in a stupidly long section that seems to never end. Yet, eventually you make it to the museum and its more of the same as the first level but with different background graphics, only this time you have to repeat the same level four times to get all of the Ghostbusters to the Vigo painting and then you are greeted with a VERY short end game scene. Some call this game tough, personally I just found it dull. Same bland gameplay level after level and it all becomes tiresome.

That’s it for Ghostbusters II… or is it?

NGB II cover

New Ghostbusters II: This was yet another Ghostbusters II game relased for the NES, only this one was from HAL Laboratory and only released in Europe and Japan in 1990. Very different from the other NES game and far superior too.

This game allowed you to play one or two player and chose from five Ghostbusters… yes five. The original four of Peter, Ray, Egon and Winston. But you could also choose to play as Louis Tully. The gameplay was simple, but fun. Presented with a top down view, you explore the levels inspired by scenes from the film (the first level is set in the courtroom). All you have to do is blast and trap every ghost in a level before you can move onto the next one. Once a screen is clear, a big arrow points you toward the next screen. When every screen is clear of ghosts, you move onto the end of level boss, defeat the boss and you move onto the next level.

NGB II screen

If you chose a one player game then the second Ghostbuster would be controlled by the AI. Two player allowed one person to blast ghosts with the proton pack while the other was in control of the trap. While the basic gameplay remained the same from start to finish, each level was graphically and geographically varied and well designed offering plenty of variety. The final boss is Vigo and once he was defeated, you are rewarded with a fun end credits sequence shown in a cinema where various characters from the game take part in amusing scenes. Much better Ghostbusters II game for the NES than that other one and well worth checking out.

Next up is Ghostbusters… again?

GB MD cover

Ghostbusters: This one was a Mega Drive only release joint developed by Compile and SEGA. Published by SEGA in 1990. Inspired by the original film but with some ‘creative licence’ that brings with it a new story. This one allows you to play as one of the three Ghostbusters, choose from Peter, Ray or Egon (no Winston… racist?). Each of the three characters have slightly different speed and stamina stats. The game opens with a nice cut scene setting up the story.

You are then greeted by a simple map screen that has various locales you can select including the Ghostbusters HQ, an item shop, a weapon shop and the main levels the action takes place in like a haunted house, an apartment and a castle, plus others. Each level is quite large and offers some exploration as you jump from platform to platform busting ghosts to earn cash. You can also play any level in any order you wish, though later levels are tough without the right equipment. The cash you earn can be spent on upgrading your weapons and buying new items to help you in later levels. Each level is guarded by and end of level boss and once you bust them, the level is complete.

GB MD screen

The graphics are cartoon-like and the Ghostbusters themselves have an amusing big-head aesthetic. The weapon/item shops add some level of strategy as you have pick and choose the right tools for each level. When you complete each of the main levels on the map an all new and final level opens up and of you manage to defeat the boss at the end of this one you are rewarded a simple credits scroll and cheering crowd. This game is good fun and well worth finding a copy of if you enjoy Ghostbusters and platforming/shooting action.

The Real Ghostbusters return for another attempt in gaming next.

TRG GB cover

The Real Ghostbusters: Developed by Kemco and released in 1993. This puzzle/platforming game is actually a graphical/license swap of a pre-existing game. In Europe this game was Garfield Labyrinth and in Japan it was known as Mickey Mouse IV: Mahō no Labyrinth, part of Kemco’s Crazy Castle franchise.

You play as Peter Venkman who falls into an underground labyrinth and you have to find your way back out (Ghostbusters?). To clear each level you must find stars on each stage and once all the stars have been found then the door to the next level opens up. Peter is equipped with a proton pack which can be used to destroy certain blocks that can be removed to get to hidden stars or even alternate ways through the level.

TRG GB screen

Each level contains various enemy ghosts which cant be harmed by your proton pack but with bombs (Ghostbusters?). You have a health bar and time limit and if either of these deplete to zero before you can finish a level, you lose a life.

There really is not much to say about this one. Its not a terrible game but it is just very average, its just not Ghostbusters and quite clear the licence was attached just to try and appeal to Ghostbusters fans. Play the original Micky Mouse or Garfield versions instead, same game and you are not missing anything.

The sequel series to The Real Ghostbusters show got a few games too.

EGB GBC cover

Extreme Ghostbusters: Released in 2001 for the Gameboy Color only in Europe. This game was from Light and Shadow Productions. You can play as the various members of the Extreme Ghostbusters including; Eduardo Rivera, Roland Jackson, Garrett Miller, and Kylie Griffin. Each character has their own stats and abilities.

EGB GBC screen

Set over more than 20 levels, you make your way through these side scrolling/platform levels busting any ghosts you come across. You will find various items to help you in your Ghostbusting task such as; Proton Canisters, a P.K.E. Meter, Ghost Traps and even Slimer. Clear each level of ghosts and move onto the next.

This game is notorious for being bad. Stiff controls, bland gameplay and terrible level design. Definitely one to avoid. Lets move on…

The second in the trilogy of Extreme Ghostbusters games next.

EGB Ecto cover

Extreme Ghostbusters: Code Ecto-1: Again from Light and Shadow Productions, this time for the Game Boy Advance in 2002. This game is a mix of shooter, platforming and even a little driving action too. The driving sections are a top down viewpoint, but the main action is a side scrolling/platforming style.

You only get to play as either Eduardo or Kylie in this game as the big bad of this one, a half-human/half-demon Count Mercharior has kidnapped Roland and Garrett and that is the basic story. You have to blast your way though the various levels in an attempt to rescue your kidnapped teammates. You can switch between either Eduardo or Kylie on the fly and the two characters have different abilities and weapons so switching between the two is essential to progress through each level.

EGB Ecto screen

Make your way though each level, take down ghosts and defeat the end of level boss, move onto the next level. Pretty basic stuff, but this one is a huge improvement over the previous game with better controls and even improved gameplay. Things tend to get a bit repetitive and redundant as there is very little variety here, but its a decent action/platformer.

The final game in the ‘Extreme’ trilogy.

EGB PS

Extreme Ghostbusters: The Ultimate Invasion: Yet again from Light and Shadow Productions only this game was for the PlayStation and released in 2004 only in Europe. Remember those light gun games that were popular in the 90s like Time Crisis, Virtua Cop, etc? Well this game used the same concept, in particular Time Crisis with its cover system.

EGB PS screen

You can play as any of the four main Extreme Ghostbusters team who are selectable at the beginning, though each of the four characters play the same anyway. As you make your way though each level in an on the rails style that these light gun games were known for. Shoot ghosts and hide behind cover, shoot ghosts and hide behind cover… it goes on and on. As the game was on the PlayStation, it utilised the CD technology and came with animated cut scenes taken right from the TV series.

Not a terrible game, not a great game. Just okay but by the time it was released, the light gun game was all but dead so people really didn’t care about this much back then.

Well that was the Extreme Ghostbusters trilogy of games. But we finally get to what is considered the best Ghostbusters game ever.

GB VG cover

Ghostbusters: The Video Game: Developed by Terminal Reality for the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360. Other ports were developed by other studios. Published by Atari and relased in 2009. This game has the added bonus of the story being written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis as well as getting pretty much the entire original cast back. The game is a third person shooter.

GB VG screen

Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Bill Murray, and Ernie Hudson all allowed their likeness and even voiced their respective characters. Also returning from the movies are William Atherton and Annie Potts. Hell, they even got Max von Sydow to reprise his role as Vigo from Ghostbusters II in a cameo. The game even used the film’s locations and props as models for the 3D modelling in the game.

Set in 1991 about 2 years after the events of Ghostbusters II. You play as an unnamed new recruit to the Ghostbusters team. New York is hit by a large PKE shock-wave and ghosts are running riot all over the city, including the return of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. You are only known as “Rookie” as the team don’t want to get to attached to you in case something should happen, are expected to test out any new equipment and upgrades the team make. The Ghostbusters go around New York busting ghosts and slowly learn that certain buildings around the city are being used as nodes to connect the real world to the ghost world in an attempt to bring forth another great destructor similar to Gozer from the first film.

GB VG screen 2

The team have to destroy the nodes and capture the guardians from around the city from various familiar locales like; The Sedgewick Hotel, the New York Public Library and the Museum of Natural History… which just so happens to be hosting a Gozer exhibit. If you haven’t played the game yet, I’ll leave the plot summary there as to not get into spoilers.

Some interesting behind the scenes titbits of the game…

The game originally started out being developed by ZootFly, who began work on a Ghostbusters game despite not having the license from Sony Pictures. ZootFly showed early footage of the game via You Tube sometime in 2006. They were ultimately not able to secure the Ghostbusters licence and so they altered the game and changed it title to TimeO.

Then in 2007, Sierra Entertainment and developer Terminal Reality met with Sony Pictures to discuss the possibility of developing their own Ghostbusters video game. Terminal Reality even used the early videos of ZootFly’s You Tube videos to show how a Ghostbusters came could look. The pitch worked and Sony Pictures allowed the use of the Ghostbusters licence. Terminal Reality began work on their official Ghostbusters game.

The game was put into limbo when Vivendi merged with Activision to form Activision Blizzard and then Activision Blizzard (the publisher of Vivendi’s and Sierra’s titles) stated that several games they were working on would not be released. The Ghostbusters game was one of the titles said to be cancelled. This announcement sparked outrage from fans and by the end of 2008, it was revealed that Atari would publish the game to be released in 2009.

GB VG screen 3

It was also announced that the game would be a PS3 timed exclusive in Europe meaning the Xbox 360 version would not be relased until several months later… however, the Xbox 360 version was not region locked and meant people could import the American version and play that ahead of the European release.

Sigourney Weaver was asked to return as Dana Barrett, but it was reported that she never felt comfortable working on a video game. It was only when Weaver learned the other cast members were attached to the game that she decided to return, but the game was already too far into development by then and too late to include her character. Weaver seemingly learned from this and did return as Ripley in the Alien: Isolation game.

The game’s plot uses some ideas left out of the original movies as well as a few concepts from Dan Aykroyd’s early draft for his Ghostbusters II: Hellbent script. Dan has even said that the game is basically Ghostbusters III.

The game was very well received and often cited as the best Ghostbusters game ever and I have to agree… but I think the game is flawed in many ways. I found the game a bit repetitive, the levels are too linear and lack any real depth. The story mode is very short and can be completed in around 5 hours. Yet it is very authentic and you really do feel like a Ghostbuster. The voice cast and likenesses of the actors definitely helps and the story being written by Dan and Harold is a massive plus too. Yeah, it really is a great Ghostbusters game, but I can’t call it a great game in itself. Still, it is well worth checking out for any Ghostbusters fan. Its a shame we never got a sequel…

Well we did kind of get a sequel… kind of.

GB SoS cover

Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime: Released in 2001 and developed by Behaviour Santiago, published by Atari. This did start out as a full sequel to Ghostbusters: The Video Game, but financial problems at the time at Atari meant a sequel was put into limbo and they decided to release this stripped down/arcade game instead. Environmental assets, such as the cemetery level and even character assets such as the ghosts were reused from Ghostbusters: The Video Game for this title.

You play as any of the four main new members of the Ghostbusters, as the last game ended with the suggestion of setting up a Ghostbusters franchise with all new members. The original team do appear in the game, but as non playable characters in the story sections of the game. The game allows you to play up to four players simultaneously, if you don’t have three friends to play with then the AI plays as the other characters. The game is a simple shooter with semi explore-able levels and secret collectable to find.

GB SoS screen

Its an okay game at best, but a big disappointment after Ghostbusters: The Video Game and a shame this is what we got instead of a full sequel.

That is pretty much it for the Ghostbusters games. I didn’t cover EVERY game, there are a few mobile games like; Ghostbusters: Paranormal Blast, Ghostbusters: Beeline and a Ghostbusters mobile game from 2006. There were a couple of pinball machines and a few others too.

But there are more Ghostbusters I want to quickly mention.

GB 2016 cover

Ghostbusters: Inspired by the new remake. Developed by FireForge Games and published by Activision. Said to be set after the events of the new film where you play up to four players and none of the characters from the film are included.

GB 2016 screens

Its basically an updated version of Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime just inspired by the 2016 film.

Ghostbusters: Slime City: Another mobile game to be released this year. Which sounds like a typical ‘free to play’ cash grab, pay to win mobile game that are everywhere now.

I think that is every (main) Ghostbusters game covered and as I said before, there were more than I originally remembered. The Ghostbusters have had quite a mix bag of a life in gaming. There have been some good games, some decent games and some just plain terrible games. Highlights for me are the original Commodore 64 one, the Mega Drive Ghostbusters and of course the Ghostbusters: The Video Game.

Oh I almost forgot about Ghostbusters making their LEGO debut in LEGO Dimensions…

GB LEGO

There is still more to my Birthday/Ghostbusters celebration. If you haven’t already, please check out my behind the scenes look at the making the Ghostbusters movie, a look at the failed attempts to make a Ghostbusters III as well as my overviews of the Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II movies.

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