It’s hard to believe that time has flown so quickly and it was actually 2009 when Atari brought the Ghostbusters back to gaming on the current generation of consoles. With Sanctum of Slime (SoS) they’re back to have another go at the franchise, and putting out a release on PSN and XBLA isn’t the only thing that’s changed.
After introducing the Rookie in the retail release of Ghostbusters, developers beHaviour have taken this new recruit idea much further. Aside from the opening cut scene (which has nice shades of the short lived comic book about it) there’s really very little sign of the regular quartet of smart mouthed Ghostbusters. Instead the game focuses on four new characters that are drafted in due to spectral activity hitting an all time high. And you can bet when that happens something big and evil is brewing beneath the streets of New York (what is it with that place being the site for the end of the world?!). This sets the stage for several levels of top down shooting action, with the player using their proton packs and other gadgets to bust the ghosts.
Offering co-operative online play for up to four players, the game ends up as a sort of mish-mash between an arcade shooter, Smash TV and a Ghostbusters title. Players are funnelled into areas where they find themselves locked in until the dispatch the ghosts that appear. Doing so awards points and power up’s such as cash or damage multipliers, and certain ghosts can only be dispatched using certain weapons which throw out projectiles of a matching colour. Once all are busted, the doors are unlocked to the next area. At the end of the level is a ghostly boss whose health must be drained before they can be trapped via rapid pressing of buttons in a correct sequence.
If that description of the game sounds a little lacklustre then that’s because that’s all there really is to the game and it’s hard to muster much enthusiasm about SoS due to the way it plays. The constant identikit areas of the levels, each one virtually indistinguishable from the one that came before it, does little to keep the player hooked, especially when it starts to loop them back into areas they’ve already been. It’s something of a joke that the characters keep remarking how they’re going round in circles but it’s certainly true. The sensation gets repetitive very quickly and isn’t helped by the fact that there isn’t any real differentiation between the new characters apart from their appearance.
In fact it gets so difficult to even tell them apart due to the zoomed out nature of the camera and the dark settings, that often the proton streams and on screen action makes it easy to lose which character is yours. This is particularly prevalent in multiplayer games, even if co-operative play actually turns out to be the saviour of the title. The competitive element of teaming up with people online and trying to earn the most cash takes the sting out of some of the more annoying moments if attempting to tackle the game in single player mode.
Since the player is always accompanied by the other Ghostbusters, with the AI taking control in the absence of any other humans, it’s frustrating that the AI often takes a serious dip. This results in them repeatedly using the wrong weapon against enemies so as to make their efforts useless, through to them being far too keen to revive you and putting themselves at risk. The latter of these issues makes for some particularly teeth-grinding moments as you entire team manages to get wiped out in the scramble to revive you – it’s behaviour the likes of which hasn’t been since Epic’s first Gears of War title. Thankfully the restart points here are quite generous, but that doesn’t stop it being any less irritating.
What’s left with Sanctum of Slime is a title which falls short of its Ghostbusters pedigree. It should work, after all the idea behind it is certainly sound, but the implementation makes it feel like a title that has been put together with the minimum of effort and lacks any of the charm you’d expect. Ultimately this makes it hard to recommend the title to anyone who isn’t looking to solely play it online with a regular crowd, or someone who is among the most die-hard Ghostbusters fans.