Ghostbusters: The Video Game

Content review for this game:
Pertaining to the ESRB rating.

Content sum up: While the incredibly destructible environments give a chaotic and intense quality to combat, many of the ghosts and overall atmosphere can be mildly disturbing, and there's light overtones of a somewhat morbid, "occult" nature; language is far and few between, there is no blood, and because of the Ghostbusters light-hearted take on even the most creepy situation, and ghosts' most often goofy, cartoony behavior, it ends up being more "Scooby-Doo" than "Poltergeist." So, I recommend this game for ages 13+.

Comic mischief: Ghosts (like gluttonous, green blob "Slimer," who's seen eating cake as it passes right through, etc.) behave in an over-the-top, cartoony manner; morbid issues like death, murder, possession and the occult are observed and commented on in a matter-of-fact, tongue-in-cheek manner by the Ghostbusters as they haphazardly destroy everything in site without a care; a few Cursed Artifact and Ghost descriptions tell of morbid deaths and murders in a light, comical fashion (a haunted chair kills its owner in a wood chipper accident; man dies choking on a fish stick and is eaten by a shark; a haunted toilet drowns its users, etc); and there is brief crude humor: ghosts will often vomit slime at you; an artifact's description tells of the Seat of Vapors Foul, a haunted chair created by a prankster wizard—those who sit in it will make flatulent noises; and in a brief scene, a civilian in an elevator, reluctant to let the Ghostbusters on, states, "He uh, just passed gas (referring his friend)." Ray, a Ghostbuster, replies, "Relax sir, we handle foul vapors all the time."

Fantasy violence: Taking place a couple years after Ghostbusters II, the story begins as you find the Ghostbusters training a new recruit, whom Venkman insists on simply calling "Rookie." During Rookie's training, Slimer is accidentally released, and as they revisit the Hotel Sedgwick to recapture the gluttonous ghost—because of a recent PKE shock wave that hit the city—they get more than they bargained for, like the return of Gozer in his Stay Puft Marshmallow Man form, and a slew of ghostly activity. As they deal with a new paranormal mess, they're burdened by meddling of the major's newly formed P-COC (or, Paranormal Contract Oversights Committee) headed by Venkman's mortal enemy and all around obnoxious guy, Walter Peck. To top it all off, the teams' new acquaintance, Dr. Ilyssa Selwyn, helps them discover that Ivo Shandor—the man who built the complex that summoned Gozer the first time—retrofitted more buildings in order to harness the power to break the barrier between our world and theirs', and unleash more like Gozer—time for some Ghostbustin'...

After you get trained in basic control and gameplay mechanics at headquarters, you'll make your way to the Hotel Sedgwick for your first mission. And the base gameplay consists of using the PKE meter in conjunction with Para-goggles to track ghosts' trails (red signal=ghosts, green=environmental, blue=Cursed Artifacts), flush ghosts out of hiding, and then use the Proton Pack's Blast Stream to first wear enemies down, your Capture Stream to "Wrangle" them in reverse of their struggles, and "Slam" to direct them into your floor commissioned traps. As you navigate the levels and fight through waves of ghosts (reviving downed teammates, reloading your pack, pressing buttons to activate objects/lifts, opening doors, etc.), you'll use later equipment (which can be upgraded with money earned) to solve mild puzzles, like Slime Blower to clear Black Slime from blocked paths, reveal hidden doors and close ghost portals; Slime Tether to attach at two points and pull open/in objects (platforms, bridges, gates, etc.); and Capture Stream to drag away objects blocking openings, all the while trying to reach the source of paranormal activity and destroy it: bosses.

You'll be combating a plethora of ghosts, all unique to their levels, starting with Hotel Sedgwick (most look as they sound): Bellhop Ghosts, Candelabrum Crawlers (crawling candlesticks) and Dead Fish Fliers (swarming fish heads). Times Square: Marshmallow Minis (Stay Puft's spawned minions made of it), Construction Worker, Opera Diva and Hobo Ghosts. Public Library: (flying) Book Bats, Book Centurions (with shields/swords) and Paper Constructs (humanoid forms shaped in paper). History Museum: Possessed Humans, Possessor Ghosts, Possessed Statues (with spears/shields), Confederate and Union Ghosts (with guns and swords). Hotel Sedgwick (revisit): Cook Ghosts, Kitchen Fliers (possessed utensils), (spiderish) Spider Crawlers, Venom Crawlers and Webbed Fiend (skeletal humanoids). Lost Island: Black Slime Fiends, Ghosts and Monsters (all made of slime). And Central Park Cemetery: Cemetery Crawlers (living gravestones), Grave Fiends (zombies) and Cultist/Summoners (that summon the above), along with ghosts that appear in several levels; (flaming) Stone Gargoyles and mini-boss golems made out of random objects (appliances, books, coal, etc).

The combat system is moderately chaotic and destructive, but little beyond that, with a very cartoony, over-the-top tone, and other than the fantastical particle effects that expel from ghosts as you dispatch of them in the form of green, blue and pink, gooey ectoplasmic slime, there is no blood. And combat consists of using your Proton Pack's continuous Blast Stream to wear enemies down; Boson Darts' missile-like burst to do more damage; Shock Blast to eject a short-range burst of shotgun-like energy; Slime Blower to damage Black Slime Ghosts or exorcise Possessed Humans; Meson Collider to shoot a long-range, sniper-like burst of energy; and Overload Burst to home-in on ghosts with machine-gun-like energy bursts. Most of the ghosts must be trapped, and will react in panic as they howl, flail and struggle from capture. But, other types can be destroyed, like the flaming Stone Gargoyles that can be smashed into objects, and the remaining enemy types will dissipate and/or explode into their original materials; marshmallow, Black Slime, books, paper, stone, webs, etc.

Your Proton Pack will also have a major impact on the surrounding environment, as it tears through wood, severs metal, shatters glass, crumbles brick and concrete pillars, breaks up furniture, disintegrates cloth, burns up foliage, implodes nearby electronics and scatters dozens of random objects left and right (from stacks of books to kitchen utensils)—almost anything is destructible, and after a scuffle, that area is completely ruined; all damage and debris (which can be kicked around) lingers, with deep, black scorch marks filling the floors and walls in trails—lit embers at their core. The ghosts themselves are very aggressive, and will attack from every direction, ambushing you in great numbers; flying ghosts (along with Swarmers; legions of ghostly skulls, fish heads and Book Bats) rush in a flurry, as they knock you down with force, fire energy and try to bash and/or throw random objects your way; grounded ghosts (along with Crawlers; possessed objects—gravestones, candlestick, etc.) take a form from nearby objects and rush in droves as they tear away up-close, or possess objects and attack with what's equipped (throwing spears, swords, etc.)

It just steps up further in, as ghosts later spawn in endless amounts from Black Slime portals; Possessor ghosts inhabit humans (and your team), as they levitate above the floor like ragdolls, bashing close-up; hulking Golems and Black Slime Monsters pound away and project damaging ectoplasm; bosses, like Stay Puft—who flings cars at you from ruins of the city, as he tries to stomp you out with his mammoth feet or peek in buildings and reach in—can be tense; and several of the ghosts have mildly grotesque appearances, like the Librarian's enraged, shriveled face, or the Slor's twisted flesh, akin to rotting meat. The atmosphere can reach a light, creepy level, as furniture and objects levitate, fly off shelves and abruptly slide to block your way. Lights flicker as you traverse dark corridors lined with gooey Black Slime—which let out the whispers of the dead, including the Library level's children's section, with faint sounds of crying children—and places like the Spider Witch's lair (a dank cave laced with webs—bodies hung upside down in the substance) and the ruined, dilapidating graveyard (filled with mist, graves abruptly rising to block your path) are mildly eerie.

If you take too much damage, the screen begins to redden/blur around the edges and allies can be downed; you'll lose their support until you can weave through the chaos and revive them. But ultimately, while it can get stressful, the tone present is always campy and light-hearted—you only ever feel as if you just have to tolerate the ghosts' overblown hissy fits. Cutscenes contain plenty of chaos, tongue-in-cheek reference to occult rituals, signs and demon worship; paranormal activity (levitation, possession); and its briefly heard on how the Spider Witch would lure men to her room, drain their blood and hang them from the ceiling. As for age, although the incredibly destructible environments give a chaotic and intense quality to the combat, several of the ghostly enemies and overall atmosphere can be mildly disturbing, and there's light overtones of a somewhat morbid, "occult" nature; language is far and few between, there is no blood, and because of the Ghostbusters light-hearted take on even the most creepy of situations, and the ghosts' most often goofy, cartoony behavior, it ends up being more "Scooby-Doo" than "Poltergeist"—it's well-suited to younger teens.

Mild language: There are four uses of d*mn, three uses of hell and God, two uses of p*ss, and one use of pr*ck (a play on an obnoxious character's name; "Peck"). Peter Venkman, a Ghostbuster, makes fun of Peck's name whenever he is within earshot, at one point coughing "Preck" under his breath, once calls him "Pecker," and simply uses his name in a derogatory context throughout. There's also a single use of shmuck; one use of hell and d*mned in context; one use of d*mn in a Cursed Artifact's description; and—although it is difficult to hear over the constant chaos—the Ghostbusters use the occasional (infrequent) "D*mn" when knocked down by ghosts.

Mild suggestive themes: (The ESRB didn't mention this in their rating; it is mild)

  • Venkman (a Ghostbuster) flirts with the main female character, Ilyssa (much to her annoyance), shamelessly throughout (example: "You know, I never forget a face attached to all the rest of that," etc.)—and they briefly kiss at the end.
  • It's mentioned that, in order for the evil "Collector" to procure a rare book from her library, he "seduced" Eleanor Twitty (now Library Ghost) and then killed her.
  • A collectable Cursed Artifact, "Pin-up Calendar of DOOM!", shows an illustration of a model wearing a bra made of broccoli; she holds undone ends of the back strap in each hand—as if she is gesturing to take it off; no details are visible.
  • Possessors are in mildly scant 20's-style dresses, and were escorts in life. But since they're grotesque, decomposed and try to possess you, it detracts appeal.
  • A later area shows a 20's ghost called the Spider Witch (who's dressed in a tight bustier/dress, revealing moderate cleavage); you see a flashback at a hotel as she escorts a man to one of the hotel's elevator; they walk arm in arm (a knife hidden behind her back) and then briefly kiss before boarding; in life, she was a professional "black widow," and would lure men up to her room to kill them.
  • After spotting a portrait of what seems to be Ilyssa in Shandor's castle, Winston states, "Ilyssa, I see her!" Venkman replies in a solemn tone, "You and me both. She's wearing just a simple terry cloth robe, and she's brought me coffee."
  • A Ghostbuster states, "I miss the bars, adult shops, and bookstores." (the ESRB listed this in their scant content synopsis for the game on their site; I've been through the game twice and have yet to come across this line).

Content review posted: 08/22/09

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