It's not just good: it's great. If you were on the fence about the Wii version of Ghostbusters the Video Game, you can make your purchase without worry. This licensed game is a lot of fun, filled with in-jokes for Ghostbusters fans and clever gameplay for just about everyone. It's only about five hours long, but those five hours are riotous, and local cooperative play and a catch-'em-all scanning mechanic offer reasons to return. This third-person adventure maintains a quick pace and will keep you grinning from beginning to end.
No shocker here, but Ghostbusters The Video Game is funny. The script was penned by original film scribes Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd, and while it doesn't quite reach the heights of the 1984 comedy classic, it rides the film's coattails quite comfortably. When you begin the game, you choose either a male or female avatar and join the Ghostbusters team as an unnamed, mute rookie. The other members of your illustrious team are voiced amiably by the stars of the movies: Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson. There are some moments when the performances sound phoned in (Bill Murray sounds a bit too sleepy even for Bill Murray), but there's no doubting that these are the same characters that delighted us in the '80s. Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis don't reprise their roles, but you'll hardly miss them as the plot careens forward, reuniting you with old spectral friends and propelling you through a pleasant variety of earthly and otherworldly locales. Not every joke soars, but you'll find it difficult to stop grinning, and you'll probably let out a few guffaws from time to time. Venkman's laconic womanizing, Egon's deadpan pseudoscientific explanations--there's wit here for fans and newcomers alike.
The best part of Ghostbusters The Video Game is, well, busting ghosts. Using your proton pack, your first order of business is to weaken your ethereal adversary. You can do this in a number of ways, depending on the weakness of the poltergeist in question. Your pack has a number of different firing modes, letting you spray a stream of green goo, slow down enemies with your stasis stream, blast enemies with a boson dart, and more. Once you've whittled down the ghost's health bar enough, you lock on to it with the grappling stream and bash it around a bit. You do so by flinging the Wii Remote in the direction indicated onscreen, and it's a good, sensible use of the system's motion controls, because it feels as though you really are flinging the bugger around. Once the ghost is dazed, you maneuver it over a trap, and it's automatically sucked in. The controls for combat feel just right. You can lock the camera on enemies, but you can't lock the targeting reticle on them, which means you still need to be conscious of where you're aiming. And the blend of standard button presses for firing your weapons and gestures for finishing enemies works extremely well.
Not that there aren't occasional discomforts in spite of the fantastic control scheme. Switching weapon modes using the D pad gets fumbly sometimes, and there are some sections that require you to pick up objects with your capture stream and blast them at specific targets that lack precision and therefore don't work all that well. For the most part, however, the game's controls are rarely a burden, so it's easy to get wrapped up in the fun. The pacing of your exploration and variety of tasks are handled artfully. Ghostbusters moves forward at a quick tempo, throwing in variety in the form of environmental puzzles that make good use of your various proton pack modes and cleverly designed boss fights that aren't all that challenging but sure are amusing. For example, a giant worm spews balls of books at you that you then pick up and volley back at the tentacles that slither from its mouth. Once it's stunned, you grapple one of its tentacles and yank downward to do damage. You aren't apt to lose a fight, but some of these encounters are memorable because your frightful foes loom so large and look so wonderfully grotesque. If you do take a fall, the other Ghostbusters are there to revive you--and you can do the same favor for them. The lock-on mechanism means the frustrating knockdowns of the other console versions are rarely an issue, so you can stay focused on busting without being ripped out of the action.
There are a few other surprises in store for you, and while most are delightful, there are a few issues that slightly hamper the enjoyment. We ran into several glitches, including a batch of dialogue that refused to activate for several minutes. In another case, an object necessary to complete a puzzle got stuck and could no longer be targeted. Experiences may differ, but there's definitely a tendency for weirdness here and there, like passersby who get stuck on objects and keep walking in place. Thankfully, these small issues are more than mitigated by a handful of inventive environments and ghosts, as well as some fun and spooky sequences, like a jaunt through a library in which the shelves keep slamming into new configurations. There's also a cool scanning mechanic that you use to catalog the various specters and relics you encounter. If you've got completist tendencies, you'll find it enjoyable to return to the various levels for the tidbits you missed the first time.
Ghostbusters' production values don't push the limits of the Wii, but they're loaded with character. The sound effects in particular are terrific, from the groans and squeals of specters to the swooshes and bangs of your various weapon streams. Developer Red Fly took a stylized visual approach, presenting the 'busters as exaggerated caricatures that look like funhouse-mirror versions of the real thing, but they aren't necessarily pleasant to gaze at for long. The various levels look great, however, especially after you've laid waste to the destructible environments. The overall audiovisual package almost nails the Ghostbusters vibe, and the game looks--and sounds--pleasantly colorful.
The short playtime is the game's biggest drawback, but if completing your scan collection doesn't give you enough reason to return, the split-screen co-op play just might. It's a little jarring to have two rookies involved in the story, but it hardly matters when you're having such a great time. And a great time you'll have with Ghostbusters The Video Game, which tickles the funny bone and offers good old-fashioned fun at a snazzy tempo. This may not be the next action classic, but it's a whole lot better than Ghostbusters 2.