Tuesday, May 21, 2013

VGR Ghostbusters II (Nes)

I'm either gonna need to play some really good games or just plain have a break from gaming for a while to get the stinky stench from this game out of my hands... And my eyes... And my mind... 
Just... ugh...

Spook-tacular related reviews at the following links:

VGR: Ghostbusters II 
From Kemco/Activision
Played on NES
Also available on /

Type Sidescroller arcade/action 
Year 1990

After my review of the first Ghostbusters game, now we can dig deeper into the franchise's gaming attempts!

This Ghostbusters II game was developed and published by Activision who released it a full year after the theatrical release.

Meaning this wasn't a rush job, they could have just polished it or scrapped it. 

This game is loosely based on the film, and by that I mean it's not a high concept title compared to that first game. It does sort of follow the story of the film and tries to turn the various action scenes into sidescrolling levels. 

So what happened?

The boys are back!

New York is infested by ghouls of all sorts and all kinds.

The goal in this game is to arrive on time at the museum to prevent the resurrection and return of Virgo the Carpathian! Vigo the Cruel! Vigo the Torturer! The Unholy!... Well, you get the idea?

The game is about "eight" levels long (more or less). To better represent the coming of Vigo the game has features a timer or sometimes just a plain random hand-ghost chasing you to force you to move on. But it's not something really important to keep an eye on since there's many more things trying to kill you to take care of first!

As if it had been developed to follow the same template of the first game, the game is composed of several distinct gameplay styles. Instead of changing from one to another yourself through a map they simply alternate throughout the game this time.

You starts with your proton pack "good" slime-pack

Your Ghostbuster can shoot slime with one button, jump or throw a ghost trap with Start.

Where's the pause menu then, you ask? Select? Nope. There's simply no pause in this game for some reason. 

You can also aim by pressing up and down on the D-pad.

Sounds like a fairly generic if decent action game then.

Then you notice the funny things.

Like how the stages are played from right to left (except on the car). Or how the game seems to through you many, many enemies like you're playing a SHMUP.

You have a certain amount of lives. When you die the game will sometimes let you continue where you stand, but sometimes getting hit by a different thing will restart you back at the beginning of the stage! It's so arbitrary.. And random.

You can grab some "No Ghosts" icons, every 20 of those logos will give you an extra additional life.

After the underground river of slime you get a driving stage. Driving with the Ecto-1a!

It looks like a much simpler version of those driving stages from the previously mentioned Ghostbusters 1 game, but horizontally instead of last time's vertical segments. Then you notice you can jump(?). Tons of generic white ghosts and slimers and pink bubbles and sewer slime-tentacles will attack the car.

And then a giant hole in the middle of NYC's streets!


You missed the speed boost? Even if you managed to make it, you'll fall in the hole...

The game will alternate from an action stage on foot (the river of slime, the courtroom..) to a driving one (the street, Central Park - hey? wasn't that one on foot in the film?). Until you reach the final act.

All in all both those kind of gameplays are relatively playable if really difficult and annoying.

But that is nothing compared to what the programmers have next waiting for you.

The guys take control of the Statue of Liberty to reach Viggo in the museum...

The statue segments start rather simple and fun enough. It's like a combination of both the on foot action and the onslaught on car. But worse.

The screen moves slower, you can't aim where you want to shoot (huh.. fake-statue-flammes?) except sometimes when you can.(?!?) Why not make it fully controllable??

Tons and tons of ghosts will attack you, in a fashion not unlike Space Invaders'.  The idea is to hit a speedy Casper-like ghost that shoots red lightnings, he can grant you a temporary invulnerability.

But these two levels with the statue (first on water, then in the city) just drag on, and on and on and...

They're really, really difficult and long. 

If, and I said only IF you're able to somehow keep all your lives for these last couple of stages and thanks to some patience and hardship manage to pass it. Then you will get to the museum.

When you reach that stage, probably with zero lives (like me) you get yet another on foot level. Once the generic white-skinned Ghostbuster reach that room with Viggo you'll be prompted to the same stage all over again with Winston?! Yes, it's clearly Winston! Playable for the very first time here! But that means...? That's right! You'll have to do over and over the same stage four times, each time more and more difficult. Until all four busters reach Viggo where they'll face him in a little animated cutscene. And that's it. No congratulations, conglaturations or thank you for playing. Back to the main menu it is!

So really this game has eleven stages rather than eight - even if that last one's you playing the same thing several times.

It's just a mess of a game, like they found it way too short so they tried to make some durability by increasing the difficulty ten fold.

On another hand at least Ghostbusters 2 has some more varied music than last time's main theme over and over again. Right? Right? Well, yes and no. You get the main theme over and over again PLUS some 2-3 other tunes from the films in 8-bit format, such as a nice little rendition of "Higher and Higher". And for absolutely no reason, "Auld Lang Syne". I kid you not!

Overall, one of the worst games I've ever played!

The first one was terrible... but at least it was trying something original!

This is just a big mess of a game.

And worst is... it could have easily been much better, specially by 1990 standards. An health bar instead of 3 hits/lives would have made it much more pleasant. And they could have made it easier/more fun to play by simply turning captured ghosts into additional lives! That last level with the four Ghostbusters could have been much better handled (why not make all four selectable by groups of two, first one reaching an impossible ending meaning the end of the game like in the first game!)

And no pause!! What were they thinking?! That is so random!

But the problem lies in the gameplay itself. Managing the character's movements along the aiming is just a terrible idea. Sometimes the game is very unresponsive. Sometimes you can do stuff, some other moments you can't... My fingers still hurt a day later...

And it looks like a rush job. I mean, generic ghosts and different sized slimers? That's it? 

Thankfully there was another Ghostbusters 2 game to help us forget (only in Europe and Asia though). And don't mistake both those games with the different DOS release, it has nothing to do with either titles.  
I give it:
1 / 3 Invaders!

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