Name: Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime
Genre: Twin-stick shooter
Platform: Xbox 360 XBLA (reviewed), PS3 PSN, PC
Price: 800 MS Points on Xbox 360 XBLA
£6.99 on PS3 PSN
£6.99 on PC (Steam)
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While we may never see another Ghostbusters movie, Atari have finally started making regular use of the film’s license on gaming consoles and computers. 2009’s Ghostbusters: The Video Game was a witty trip down memory lane, a 3rd person shooter featuring the voice-over work of original ‘Busters including the legendary Bill Murray. This sequel, Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime, takes a different tact, being a top-down twin-stick shooting downloadable title, rather than a full retail release. Spooky sensation or slimy slop? Read on to find out
Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime is not just a trip down memory lane in terms of the 1980s franchise it pays homage to, but also in the gameplay style it adopts. A twin-stick shooter in the same vein as arcade titles like Smash TV, Sanctum of Slime has you clearing out room after room of ghostly nasties by moving with one control stick while aiming and shooting with the other. It’s a tried, tested and intuitive system that works well in the context of the proton pack weaponry of the Ghostbusters world.
That world is under attack from an evil supernatural deity called Dumazu, who has set loose an army of undead beasties once again onto the hapless citizens of New York. With the original Ghostbusting team now starting to show their age, four rookies are given the task of cleaning up the city. It’s a fun-if-predictable plot line that, while lacking in voice-over work, is nicely presented with comic-book cut scenes and catchy-if-repetitive music.
However, while a predictable plot line can be forgiven, predictable gameplay cannot. Each of the 12 levels quickly becomes an exercise in repetition, as you move from room to room, be it in a hotel or sewer, only to find yourself locked in as a spectral onslaught begins. Though the idea of having 3 colour-coded weapons to correspond with weaknesses in colour-coded baddies is an effective one, the recycled enemies and lazy level design (often forcing you back into rooms you’ve previously cleared, rather than presenting you with fresh locations and challenges) is a disappointment. It soon becomes apparent that this cycle continues even during the vehicle sections, seeing you riding on the back of the tank-like Ecto-4WD truck before clambering out to clear another road full of enemies. A few simple puzzles, multiple level routes or inventive enemy design would have sufficed to mix gamplay up sufficiently, but no such luck.
Visually, Sanctum of Slime captures the feel of the Ghostbusters universe well. The proton-pack’s multi-coloured stream looks a treat, nicely illuminating the many dank environments you traipse through. The four main character models look solid too, though some of the grunt-ghost models are a little uninspired. Levels themselves lack any real invention graphically however, while the destructible elements of the environments could easily be from an early last-gen game.
For the most part Sanctum of Slime is relatively easy, with the twelve levels on offer lasting the average gamer somewhere around the 7 or 8 hour mark, depending on how well they deal with a difficulty spike around the ninth or tenth level. Your AI teamates too, for the most part, are up to the task, reviving fallen allies and taking out the most hardy foes first. However, when things really start heating up they frustratingly go a bit haywire, unable to judge the correct moment to aid an ally or take on a baddie, using incorrect weaponry or just generally flailing around before keeling over. When you need them most, your AI buddies let you down.
Thankfully then the game features four-way local and online co-operative multiplayer, but this too is fraught with problems. Rather than offering de rigueur drop-in-drop-out multiplayer, all participants must stick with a level until the end, lest the rest of the team have to restart from the beginning. It’s frustrating to say the least, particularly when a fellow gamer is less forgiving of the game’s flaws than this hardcore Ghostbusters fan is. Online leaderboards give an incentive to keep playing, but apart from that, there’s little reason to come back once the final credits roll.
DLC titles like Shadow Complex, Limbo and Tomb Raider: Guardian of Light lead us into quite rightly having demanding expectations from non-retail games. The quality of those aforementioned downloads shows that an inexpensive title need not necessarily lead to a cut-price experience. But you can’t help but feeling short changed with Sanctum of Slime. Repetitive gameplay, recycled assets and flakey AI all let what could have been a very promising title down. You’ll initially still get a kick out of donning proton-packs with friends, but by the end of the game you’ll be so unimpressed you’ll feel like you’ve gone twelve rounds with Slimer himself. Sorry Ray Parker Jr, but this time busting doesn’t make us feel good.