Released: March 2011
Developer: Behaviour Santiago
Also Available For: PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox One
Ever since the release of Ghostbusters (Reitman, 1984), the concept of four somewhat-bumbling New York parapsychologists running around zapping and trapping troublesome spirits has seen some significant success as a franchise. We’ve had the under-rated sequel, a reboot that was met with middling to less-than-favourable reviews, a couple of cartoons, a whole slew of action figures and comic books, and, of course, videogames. A few years after the release of Ghostbusters: The Video Game (Terminal Reality/Red Fly Studio, 2009) was released, Atari made the…interesting decision to follow-up with a straight-to-digital twin-stick shooter rather than continue the adventures of the titular Ghostbusters after the decent reception of that aforementioned, semi-official continuation of the film franchise.
Some time after the events of Ghostbusters II (Reitman, 1989), the Ghostbusters have been run ragged by an influx of supernatural occurrences through the city. Hiring in four new team members, the Ghostbusters send their rookies out to investigate a disturbance and, soon, the greenhorns stumble upon a plot to summon an ancient evil once more.
Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime is a one to four player, top down twin stick shooter reminiscent of the awesome old arcade game Smash TV (Williams, 1990); no matter which of the new Ghostbusters you choose to play as, or whether you’re playing alone or with friends, you’ll bust various ghosts and other supernatural entities in a constant team of four. The controls of Sanctum of Slime couldn’t be simpler; you control your Ghostbuster with the left analogue stick, fire your Proton Pack with the right, and switch to your different Proton Streams with the Left and/or Right Trigger. When a team mate is downed by an attack, you can revive them by rapidly tapping A and they will do the same to you, with surprising speed and efficiency. Your computer-controlled allies are extremely capable and helpful, to be honest; they’ll constantly blasts ghosts with Proton Streams, resuscitate you and the others as a priority, and are generally much more comfortable at navigating the game’s limited areas than you will be. Technically, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with the game’s controls or settings, there’s just not a lot to it; your character controls quite well, being just slippery enough to move at a decent speed but a dash function would have been appreciated.
You and each of your team mates come equipped with a life bar, unlimited lives, and unlimited continues; should you fall in battle and your fellow ‘Busters also be defeated before they can revive you, you can simply continue from the last autosave checkpoint. Unfortunately, these are often placed before gauntlets and boss battles, which can end up with you having to slog through some of the game’s more difficult and frustrating battles again and again as it seems your health can get drained in anywhere from three to one hits with little consistency. There are four playable characters in Sanctum of Slime but there is absolutely no difference between each of the new Ghostbusters other than cosmetic; why the developers felt the need to bring in four completely new characters is beyond me as their word balloon dialogue could easily have been taken up by the original foursome and it doesn’t really add that much to the plot or the lore to bring in four new faces. Even more disappointing is the fact that you can’t even unlock the original Ghostbusters as skins (or anything else for that matter) to play as.
As you explore the game’s familiar surroundings (we’re back at the Sedgewick Hotel again, a haunted graveyard, and other locations that were rendered far more impressively in Ghostbusters: The Video Game), you can destroy various aspects of the environment with your Proton Stream. Doing so adds to your score and you can gain additional points by reviving your team mates, destroying ghosts, capturing the bosses, and grabbing various power-ups. The score is merely for bragging rights, however, as the team’s performance is ranked (well…not exactly “ranked”…more tallied, I guess) at the end of each mission but you don’t get anything special for getting the highest score. There are no difficulty settings for Sanctum of Slime; the game gets progressively challenging as you venture along, throwing more and bigger ghosts at you and filling the screen with red, blue, and yellow spirits that force you to quickly switch between your three different Proton Streams extremely quickly. This isn’t so bad and things progress quite well until you reach the fittingly-named “Gates of Hell” mission, which sees you having to endure seemingly-endless waves of the game’s most difficult enemies, desperately trying to avoid damage and revive your team mates before you get wrecked and have to restart all over again. As if this wasn’t frustrating and annoying enough, my game crashed on me a few times during one of the more difficult of these gauntlets, which only added to the aggravation in this mission.
Graphics and Sound:
Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime is pretty basic in terms of its presentation; each area is rendered quite well but there’s not much definition in the character models. This is to be expected considering the perspective the game employs and, clearly, the developers put more effort into rendering the game’s numerous colourful and unique spooks and spirits. Honestly, you’re not going to get the same level of graphical quality as in Ghostbusters: The Video Game or most double-to-triple-A titles and nowhere is this more evident in the fact that there are only a handful of environments to explore. You’ll revisit the same locations in the game’s later missions and maybe they’ve been altered a bit and you battle more difficult ghosts but while the game lacks much in the way of level or graphical variety, for a budget digital-only game, Sanctum of Slime does a decent enough job; you simply move from location to location, busting ghosts and trying to stay on your feet and the game’s pacing is fast and frantic enough where you won’t be stopping to examine the intricacies of the little details.
The game’s plot is told using comic book-like cutscenes that use word balloons and the very basics of animation to tell its story; this isn’t necessarily a problem, and you can skip through them (which is always welcome, though you need to watch them all to earn an Achievement), but their visual style clashes somewhat with the more semi-realistic aesthetic of the in-game graphics. Similarly, you’ll hear a bunch of familiar Ghostbusters tunes and sounds in Sanctum of Slime, all of which are ripped or heavily inspired from the first movie to, which adds to the game’s authenticity.
Enemies and Bosses:
As you blast your way through the game’s twelve missions, you’ll come up against all kinds of ghosts, spirits, and supernatural entities. You’ve got the bog-standard flaming skulls, bellhops and chefs who throw luggage and knives at you, respectively, and a whole slew of different slime-born creatures ranging from spiders, to giant hands, to huge, mud-like monstrosities.
These basically act as mini bosses, of a sort, as they can decimate you and your team mates in no time at all; as if that wasn’t bad enough, they’re often accompanied by flying gargoyles that spit fireballs at you and a slew of other smaller, more generic spooks. When locked into an area, you’ll generally be tasked with clearing the immediate vicinity out of any ghosts present or enduring a frustrating gauntlet that can wipe you and your team mates out in seconds if you’re not careful.
You’ll also come up against some bigger bosses; like most of the other enemies, these have a health bar that must be whittled down with your Proton Streams but, unlike the other enemies, bosses have a far bigger bar and have numerous phases and methods of attack. Whether by coincidence or design, a few of the bosses are extremely reminiscent of those seen in Ghostbusters: The Video Game; you’ll once again find yourself in the kitchen of the Sedgewick battling a demonic chef and tackling demonic spider in a nest of webs, for example (though, to be fair, this latter boss at least looks significantly different).
There are some more original bosses to contend with, though, such as a monstrous, dragon-like possessed subway train and a massive stone gargoyle. However, Sanctum of Slime commits one of the cardinal sins of videogames but having you battle through all the bosses you previously bested before reaching the game’s final boss (which, as in Ghostbusters: The Video Game, involves battling a possessed avatar and the game’s principal antagonist, Dumazu the Destroyer). Ultimately, none of the bosses pose that much of a problem; you simply keep your distance, keep pouring on the heat, chipping away at their health until they are weak enough for you to toss a trap, and then all that’s left is for you to win a quick-time event and the boss is trapped forever. The final boss itself is large and intimidating and can swipe, incinerate, and crush you and your team mates with ease but, for the most part, its pretty simply to stay out of danger and cycle through your Proton Streams to whittle its health down to nothing.
Power-Ups and Bonuses:
Every time you destroy an enemy, you’ll earn points; after clearing some areas of ghosts, you can pick various power-ups to increase your score (such as a cash bonus or cash multiplier) but what you really want are the full health and invincibility power-ups, which are few and far between and often dropped by blasting Slimer when he floats into the area. When you start the game, you’re equipped only with the basic Proton Pack and a trap, which you can only use in boss battles. Once you reach the second mission, you’ll receive your first Proton Pack upgrade (the Fermion Shock) and, upon reaching the sewers (because Ghostbusters videogames love a good sewer level), you’ll get the third and final upgrade, the Plasma Inductor.
Essentially, these are just different coloured beams or bolts for you to shoot out; the Proton Stream fires in an inexhaustible beam and is most effective against red-coloured ghosts, the Fermion Shock fires out in waves and damages yellows ghosts, and the Plasma Inductor fires blue bolts that rebound off walls and are best used against blue-coloured ghosts. You can’t upgrade any of these or spend your points/cash on anything to increase your performance, meaning you’ve pretty much seen everything the game has on offer by the fourth mission. To break up the monotony of the constant ghostbusting, a fifth rookie comes and picks your team up in the ECTO-4WD, a jeep-like vehicle that you have absolutely no control over; you simply sit in the back and blast at ghosts as the vehicle races at break-neck speed through a questionably-rendered New York City.
Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime comes with a handful of Achievements for you to earn; honestly, the amount of offer is quite disappointing and the developers simply opted for having you earn them by doing mundane tasks such as beating the first level, the entire game, reviving team mates twenty times, or making it through online with three other players. Yes, the game supports both couch and online co-op and is probably a lot more fun with a few more friends to play alongside. Considering one of my gripes with Ghostbusters: The Video Game was that it foolishly didn’t include a co-op mode for the main campaign so it’s good to see that corrected here but, unfortunately, the game isn’t anywhere near as much fun. Scattered throughout each mission (with the exception of the racing missions and certain boss battles) are a number of collectables; unlike in Ghostbusters: The Video Game, these are all little Stay Puft Marshmallow Men and all you get for collecting them all is an Achievement. They don’t unlock any concept art or skins and the only way to expand upon the main game is to purchase the downloadable content, which consists of a bunch of items for your Xbox avatar and a Challenge Pack that offers you the chance to play completely alone or with a limited number of lives through the game’s more challenging missions.
Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime is simple, frantic fun; it’s a cheap, digital-only title so you can’t really expect too much from it but, having said that, I have played similar games that have a lot more going for them. Dead Nation (Housemarque/Climax Studios, 2010), for example, is strikingly similar in its execution and presentation but has far more depth to it; in comparison, Sanctum of Slime seems like it was rushed out by Atari simply to maintain the Ghostbusters licence. While there is a lot of arcade style fun to have with Sanctum of Slime, there are a lot of missed opportunities; just adding skins for the original characters or their animated counterparts would have been nice (or, you know, using those familiar characters in the first place) but there also could have been an actual upgrade system or some reason for you to get all those points and collectables. Instead, you’re left with a short, relatively inoffensive little game that is good for a few hours of mindless action but you’re unlikely to come back to it again unless you can find a few other people to play alongside.
What did you think of Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime? Which of the original Ghostbusters and the lame new ones introduced in this game is your favourite? Which Ghostbusters videogame do you have fond, or bad, memories of? Do you think it’s time for a new co-op Ghostbusters videogame? Whatever you think about this game, or Ghostbusters in general, drop a comment below.