Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime
Ghostbusters is one of the few franchises which somehow manages to transcend time – the two films will forever be entertaining, the characters and locations forever memorable. Approach anybody and mention the word Ghostbusters and it’s a cast-iron guarantee that they will know what you are talking about, each having their own memory of what it is that makes it all so endearing. That car. Bill Murray. Slimer. The theme song. The twinkie.
It’s all superb videogame fodder, with Terminal Velocity’s attempt back in 2009 being a particular highlight, a title so positively dripping in ectoplasmic fan service that it was quite literally impossible to dislike the game, despite the gameplay mechanics not being of a triple-A standard. The licence has strength in that – for fans in particular – it can elevate average games into becoming entertaining ones. With this in mind, Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime surely could not fail…or could it?
Things begin to go wrong almost immediately, having to sit through an overly long introductory sequence which purely consists of comic book style presentation of the story, with too-slow pacing, unfunny script, and the horrible realisation that you will not actually play as any of the original Ghostbusters. Instead, the game drops you into the boots of one of four ‘rookies’ whose first assignment is the Sedgewick Hotel. Once a franchise staple, it quickly becomes apparent that having to do laps of it in what can only be described as lazy design somewhat dilutes the experience. Looking to the new characters for some sort of charisma injection, instead you discover that all four are stereotypical no-marks whose ‘personality’ could be eloquently described on the back of a matchbox.
The main mechanic in Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime is choosing the right tool for the job – all weapons are conveniently colour coded, as are the ghosts from which said weapon will glean maximum effectiveness from. Unfortunately, nobody thought to let the AI know this crucial skill, as they often decide to use short range weapons against ranged monsters, and actively enjoy standing next to ghosts who are devastating at close range.
With our new friends having extremely low endurance – indeed, it is possible to be KO’d in just two hits – it often becomes a case of having to save them at regular intervals. The other side of this coin, when you inevitably become incapacitated yourself, is that the AI line up to rescue you, blissfully ignoring all incoming threats. Whilst valiant, none of them consider the giant spook who knocked you down in the first place, so to watch your brave compatriots literally line up to be KO’d themselves is somewhat funny, in a tragic way. But then you are reminded of the awful checkpoint system, and all of the dull identikit rooms you have to trawl through again, and the funny side becomes less apparent.
If you are fortunate to be friends with real people, then any sort of engaging co-op experience is quickly extinguished when one realises how mercilessly dull the game is. For a game where YOU ARE A GHOSTBUSTER, it’s truly astonishing as to how quickly it becomes a joyless grind, trudging through environments that you have to walk through repeatedly, slaying wave after wave of ghosts in their hundreds. There are vehicle sections which ultimately are a poor attempt to inject variety into proceedings, and the game sways towards a more score-attack driven experience, with score multipliers and other power-ups dropped in a desperate attempt to make the game more interesting.
Ghostbusters is one of those franchises that evokes so many good memories in thousands of people, growing up with the films, the toys, the cartoon series. Ghostbusting is all about the thrill of adventure, the wisecracks, the improvisation and skills employed by ordinary geeky scientists against impossible otherworldly odds. Behaviour Interactive’s unimaginative and frankly poor attempt at recreating such a thing is the equivalent of getting slimed at the Sedgewick. There are many twin-stick shooters more worthy of our time, and many co-op experiences more enjoyable than this turgid effort. Sanctum of Slime is ultimately a missed opportunity that deserves to be missed.
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