|System: PC, PS3, Xbox 360|
|Pub: Atari, Sony|
|Release: March 22, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: N/A|
by Robert VerBruggen
It was only a matter of time before someone tried to replicate the success of Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. From the standpoint of a publisher, the formula is simply too seductive to resist: Take a popular franchise, turn it into a top-down adventure game with two-stick shooting, toss in some decent graphics and level design, release it into the downloadable market, and watch the money come pouring in. Even if the game fails, it was a lot cheaper to make than a full-blown disc release.
Unfortunately, the makers of Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime seem to be completely in the dark about what made Guardian of Light such a fantastic game: the carefully designed puzzles. Instead of a series of clever mind-teasers interspersed with mindless shooting, Sanctum of Slime is mindless shooting interspersed with -- well, more mindless shooting.
Here's the game in one paragraph. You walk into a room. The door locks (spooky!). Some ghosts come out. Depending on what color the ghosts are, you select one of your three Proton Pack weapons and shoot them. The door to the next room unlocks. The camera zooms in on the open door so you know which way to go. The camera zooms back out. You walk into the next room. The door locks (spooky!). Some ghosts come out . . .
You get the idea.
To be fair, there are a few small variations in the gameplay. Sometimes you'll find yourself shooting from the top of a moving vehicle instead of the ground. A few of the boss fights are actually quite challenging and fun. The developers did do some interesting things with the color-coding of the enemies, though not nearly as much as they should have.
But for the most part, when you're working through the levels here, a process that takes only a few hours, you're just clearing one room after another. Often they're the same rooms from previous levels, or environments stolen from 2009's Ghostbusters: The Game (to which this is a sequel, plot- if not gameplay-wise). One could call this "poor level design," but it seems a little generous to call it "level design" at all.
Difficulty is another issue. You play as one of a group of four rookie Ghostbusters, and your life bar depletes rather quickly. However, your teammates can revive you to full health when you die, so the only time you hit a "game over" is when the entire team dies at once. This is a decent system for multiplayer (more about that in a second), but in the single-player mode, it forces you to rely on the AI characters to revive you without dying themselves. It's frustrating to watch computer-controlled characters get killed when they should be saving you, or walk into harm's way to save you when it's obvious they'll get mauled before they succeed.
The death system doesn't really matter in the easy stretches of the game, but it gives the harder fights a sense of complete randomness. You're almost guaranteed to die in some battles, but rather than having a fixed number of lives, you have to hope the AI will come over to wake you up safely. Some late-game fights in particular are infuriatingly difficult.