Overall Rating: 0.5/5 Stars
It made (and still makes) perfect business sense to take popular media licenses and use them to create video games that would appeal to a wide market of fans, such as for a particular television show, movie, cartoon, or other target. One example of this phenomenon on the Nintendo Entertainment System occurred in 1988 when Activision published the video game Ghostbusters, based on the hit movie.
The gameplay seems as though the developers intentionally tried to make this a pain to play, rather than a joy, as if they thought, “How can we take a promising concept and make it laughably bad?” The game starts the player off as controlling the iconic Ghostbusters, which represents the Ecto-1 car, on a very rough rendition of a cityscape road map. Traveling between building around the one-screen overhead crude representation of New York, you can visit either the shop, where you have to purchase your ghost-busting supplies; the headquarters, where you must deposit ghosts caught in traps; the gas station, where you must purchase gas; or the building labeled “ZUUL,” where the final confrontation takes place.
After at least purchasing a gun and trap at the shop, you can drive around until a building flashes, indicating that ghosts are present. But whenever you stop at a location, be it the shop or your next job, you have to go through a second overhead driving portion (?!) on a vertically auto-scrolling street, maneuvering the Ghostbusters’ car to avoid other vehicles (collisions take away your money; yeah, this game includes inventory management and economic simulation), while trying to hit oil cans to gain gas so you do not run out.
Once at the actual ghosts, you endure a confusing control scheme (that will not even be attempted at describing here) to try and set the trap, switch between two different ghostbuster characters, aim their beams, hit the ghosts, guide them near the trap, and activate the trap, hopefully catching some of the ghosts and collecting a modest amount of money, which is thus used to buy more traps (until you buy the reusable Super Trap, which is recommended that you do at the very beginning of the game), equipment upgrades, or equipment that will make the final portion a little easier.
After all that ghost-busting, money-spending, and item-upgrading, you must wait until a message appears at the bottom of the screen that essentially says you may finally enter the ZUUL building. This happens
once a certain amount of PK energy builds up; on the map screen, you can actually watch the process as nondescript ghost sprites float into that center ZUUL building. You had better enter the ZUUL segment quickly, or the window of opportunity closes and you must wait another near-half-hour.
Once entering the building, your ghostbusting crew of three guys must climb the 20+ staircases to reach the rooftop. However, the stair-climbing is not done by ordinary means of gameplay standards. Rather than use the directional pad, you must press the A and B buttons to ascend and descend respectively. That is correct: You must hit buttons in order to move, rather than hold down a direction on the control pad. When you consider that this was an actual design decision that was made at some point, only two possibilities exist: Either the developers truly were genuinely stupid people without the capacity for rational thought, or they were intending to make a really terrible game. There is no reasonable argument that can be construed to support button-pressing up a couple dozen flights of stairs being fun, especially when you must dodge ghosts the entire time, without even being able to use the proton pack zappers. Even with the items like Ghost Food and Sound Generator, items designed just to make this portion a smidgen easier, it is still a nightmare.
In summary: The human beings who created this video game took a very promising, high-potential, action-oriented, absolutely fun idea and turned it into a boring, tedious, money-managing, dull, redundant, not-fun cartridge. It is like a special two-for-one deal where you receive both a tragedy and a travesty.
Oh, and reaching the rooftop results in an anticlimactic showdown with the final boss where you shoot it until you get a lame, stupid, one-screen, text-only ending message that has multiple incorrect spellings and generally fails at its own purpose to provide a rewarding conclusion. This “video game” has no replay value.
The graphics are so plain that they are plainly putrid. The title screen just has the title and the classic Ghostbusters logo, which is actually very nice compared to the rest of the game, a dismal setting constantly set in a dreary gray pallor. From the graying top-down skyline, the gray-laden driving roads, the gray buildings at each ghostbusting site, and the grayness of the stairclimbing portion, this is a video game that demanded rich colors yet got a depressing fog instead.
Where is the sound? Most portions of the game are mysteriously and disturbing devoid of all noise altogether. The overworld part? No sound effects whatsoever. The scrolling driving part? Just quiet bumps when you hit other cars and a quirky effect if you manage to suck up a ghost with the Ghost Vacuum, and finally the satisfying beep of picking up a gas can. The ghostbusting bits? Even the proton-blasting, which always had its own legendary, instantly recognizable sound effect in the films and television shows, is silent. How can one of the all-time best sound effects ever created not be represented in the video game one bit? The only sound is a dull buzz when the streams cross and cause a job to be over. The music is the Ghostbusters theme, which is a great song, but it plays throughout the game. As in, it loops and never ends. This is not a good thing.
This game was very different from others, but that is not a positive attribute in this case. Ghostbusters on the Nintendo Entertainment System is a low-quality, bottom-of-the-barrel 8-bit video game that is not even fun to play. What a novel idea.
For being insanely difficult, for putting irrationally absurd ideas into practice, for emphasizing tedium over excitement, for taking a precious treasured license and raking it through coals of excrement, for utilizing grotesquely atrocious controls, for repeating the same self-indulgent music for eternity, for not bothering to use more colors, for putting money management and gasoline management in a game that should have had any management other than managing the busting of ghosts, and for generally being an all-around Really Bad Nintendo Game, Ghostbusters cannot even capture a whole star on the rating system. It must go back to headquarters with a half star out of five, a truly shameful score.