Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime Review

Back in 1997, when I was still able to watch a few cartoons before school even though I was much too old to be doing so, there was an addition to the “Ghostbusters” franchise called “Extreme Ghostbustsers.” What was extreme about them, I’m still not sure, but the cartoon managed to find and reflect the fun and atmosphere of its predecessor cartoon, “The Real Ghostbusters,” while expanding to new ground with a fresh, younger team of characters.


Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime (XBox360 [Reviewed], PS3, PC)
Developer: Behaviour Santiago
Publisher: Atari
Release Date: March 23, 2011
MSRP: $10

Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime, a downloadable title from Behavior Interactive on Xbox Live, the Playstation Network and PC, mirrors the “Extreme Ghostbusters” idea almost exactly — even some of the character designs are similar. The difference is, while “Extreme Ghostbusters” maintained the “Ghostbusters” spirit while creating its own identity and still being fun, Sanctum of Slime isn’t fun at all, and it’s only peripherally Ghostbusters-related.

Okay, let me step back, as I might be harping on story a little much here. Ghostbusters: SOS is a top-down, four-player two-stick shooter and the principle point of the game is to walk around different creepy environments, shooting at ghosts with the Ghostbusters’ proton packs. When playing alone, the game is driven by a comic book storyline presentation that finds the original Ghostbusters team dealing with a heavy increase in workload and looking to hire new recruits to let them get some rest. Enter four rookies, whom the player and pals get to control, who go out and get into trouble.

SOS finds itself more of an episode in the Ghostbusters universe than a direct sequel to anything, although it does seem to acknowledge Atari’s previous Ghostbusters outing, Ghostbusters: The Video Game. It’s also set after Ghostbusters II and includes characters from that movie.

Despite trying to pull in Ghostbusters lore and familiarity (which is exactly what happened in the last Ghostbusters game but with much better results), the writing found in the comic portions is lackluster at best. Though the comic presentation and character dialogue attempt to be funny, the intended audience can’t be much older than five years old, especially given the ratio of cliches to words in the story. This is especially disappointing because the writing in Ghostbusters: The Video Game was actually pretty great, and that game stood as a quality addition to the Ghostbusters canon.

Sanctum of Slime, on the other hand, feels like the Ghostbusters license slapped on a boring shooter.

And boring is the order of the day. On the shooting front, gameplay is as repetitive as it comes. As the team of new Ghostbusters, players work through 12 levels of blasting various ghosts, divided into three colors. Each ghost color is weak to a different kind of gun, which are unlocked as the enemies show up. On the console versions, switching between the three guns (red, yellow and blue) is done with the shoulder buttons, and as time goes on, you’ll find yourself quickly snapping between different blasters as various-colored enemies swarm into each room.

The mechanic never gets exciting, though. Enemies will gang up in different colors, which allows players on a team to use division of labor in their defense: a couple use one color, a couple use another, and bam, all ghosts are dead (or something). Even when alone, the mechanic basically amounts to just picking targets and dealing with them appropriately while trying not to get murdered from behind. It’s not bad as far as strategy is concerned if you have friends to play with, but it’s similarly not very deep at all. The extent of skill required to play SOS is being able to identify colors and push RB accordingly.

The boring gameplay isn’t helped much by level design. SOS bounces through four or five different levels, but they all amount to the same thing: enter room, get locked into room, kill all ghosts inside room, leave room. Five steps later, the same thing happens.

When I hit the game’s first level, I groaned: it’s the Sedgewick Hotel, home of the famous Ghostbusters “he slimed me” scene, and setting for two (count ‘em) levels in Ghostbusters: The Video Game. It’s a played out location, but you don’t just hit it once in SOS, but twice — in fact, the second half of the game has you revisiting all the same levels from the first half, and the final stage before the endgame is a rehash of all the bosses you fought, just one after the other. It’s not just boring level design, it feels lazy. The levels are nice-looking, but wandering a graveyard or a drab sewer or a dark mental hospital just isn’t that engaging — and certainly not twice.

Add a number of other frustrations: the 10th level suddenly ratchets up the difficulty, catapulting the game from hum-drum shooter to exercise in utter irritation. You spend the level flooded by bad guys who can easily squash you — play it alone, and the wildly fluctuating teammate AI will repeatedly wander into a corner, get trapped there and get killed, or, worse, attempt to rescue you when you’re incapacitated (losing your health means you have to wait for a teammate to revive you) even though a spider ghost is crouching on your chest.

Teammates are good about keeping you revived and that’s fine when there’s no danger, but the AI never deals with threats before trying to revive you, so the other three characters will often just throw themselves into the jaws of death repeatedly. As they keep stupidly killing themselves, the result is a restart of the room — and this happens over and over, ad nauseum.

Levels are filled with invisible walls and objects to get stuck on and subsequently ambushed against, which gets really irritating when you’re running from a horde of enemies as you fight off the “Player 1 curse” of attracting the attention of everything on screen while your AI buddies are ignored. It’s even worse in multiplayer: there’s no drop-in, drop-out cooperative play, meaning that if someone gets annoyed and puts down a controller, you have to restart the level — some of which can drag on for 40 minutes or more. Online, a player dropping kicks you back to the lobby, or worse, to a single-player version of the level.

I really wanted Sanctum of Slime to be good, but there’s absolutely nothing fun about this game. The shooting is either extremely dull or infuriating, the multiplayer mode is passable but none-too-engaging, and the single-player isn’t even worth attempting because the teammate AI is so unreliable.

Then there’s the fact that the Ghostbusters license is completely tacked on to the game and adds nothing to it, driven by a story that isn’t even worth the time spent reading it on-screen.

It’s painful to say, but there’s no reason to spend your $9.99 or 800 Microsoft Points on Sanctum of Slime. You will regret this purchase: steer clear.

Pros:

  • Nice graphics
  • Some sections of chase levels, when you’re in a car being pursued by ghosts, are fun. For a bit.

Cons:

  • Tacked on Ghostbusters license
  • Terrible teammate AI does more harm than good
  • Level design is redundant, and each level is repeated later
  • Gameplay is overly simple and lacks real strategy
  • No drop-in, drop-out multiplayer
  • Story is boring and rife with cliches
  • Difficulty shoots up from mundane to frustrating right at the end
  • Just no fun

Final Score: 40/100

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