The long awaited Ghostbusters game finally hit the PlayStation 3 and PS2 in PAL territories earlier this year, and due to a timed-exclusivity deal Sony had with Atari, it did not appear on any of the other consoles it was released for in the USA, namely the Wii, DS and Xbox 360. Nonetheless, we thought it was a very fun and authentic ghostbustin' experience. Now, we've finally got another console to play it on, another Sony console that is, the PSP. Does the zapping and trapping translate to the venerable handheld, or would you be better off going for a dip in a river of slime?
This PSP version is a port, but not of the PlayStation 3/Xbox 360 Ghostbusters game. Rather, it's a port of the Wii/PS2 version, which had the same basic story and locations, but offered some different dialogue, simplified gameplay, level designs, and charicatured graphics. The graphical style in particular works really well in the game's cut-scenes, as the Ghostbusters themselves become very expressive and their physical comedy actually works really well. Ghosts are cartoonish but varied and colourful, and overall it's a very cool way to see Ghostbusters. Unfortunately, even with the stylistic changes, the PSP struggles with the game. While the game's pre-rendered cut-scenes are fine, those in-game have objects flickering in and out of existence, extremely low-resolution textures and pretty blurry faces on the already-charicatured Ghostbusters. Ray in particular just looks like two eyeballs in a mound of dough.
The Ghostbusters' particle streams look alright, but there are occasional framerate issues. Unfortunately, this isn't the end of the game's presentation woes. While there is a pretty great script and some great voicework by the original actors Bill Murray, Dan Akroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson, the audio quality is pretty terrible and very compressed, even using headphones. There is also an abundance of very long loading screens that take place between levels, even if those levels are in the same location and are only a room apart, and whenever you wake the PSP from sleep mode. We actually had time to go to the bathroom and check our e-mail (and not at the same time, smarty pants) during one of the in-between level loads, which is great if you have a lot to accomplish in your day, but not so great if you're playing this game on the move. You know, on your move-able console.
As we mentioned, the game is essentially the same as the Wii and PlayStation 2 versions. You take control of a rookie recruited into the Ghostbusters to test experimental equipment, and you can choose your character's gender. From there on, you're tasked with re-visiting several Ghostbusters favourites such as Slimer in the Sedgewick Hotel and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in Times Square. The story's the same as the other games, so we won't recount it here, but suffice to say that the crazy architect responsible for the Gozer Building in the first movie had some more tricks up his sleeve, and its up to the Ghostbusters to protect the city. The way you catch ghosts is similar to the game's home console counterparts. You have to zap them with your nuclear-accelerated particle stream until their health runs down, then wrangle them with your capture beam and slam them into the surroundings, before laying down your capture trap and sucking them into it.
You control your character using the analogue nub to strafe and the face buttons to look around, which works well enough. There's a bit of an auto lock-on thing happening so that you never have to aim very precisely, which just makes things too easy most of the time. Wrangling ghosts and slamming them consists of just following on-screen prompts, which start off a bit confusing as they show arrows, when instead you have to press the corresponding face button. After you get used to that, it's a breeze. Your wand will overcharge at times and will have to cool down, but that's about the only thing you have to keep in mind as most ghosts will never present too much of a problem to your health. Since the presentation of the game is a letdown, so too is the capturing of ghosts, as in the PS3 version the joy came from feeling as if you were a part of the movie, whereas the PSP version simply feels like pointing and shooting.
Your wand has different modes to sort through as well, including a slime blower and a shotgun-like mode, which add some variety but not enough to prevent the gameplay from feeling like a bore. The d-pad switches between these modes as well as allowing you to whip out your PKE meter to scan ghosts and paranormal phenomena and add them to your database. You can also collect art pages scattered around the levels, but none of these are very compelling reasons to replay the game, or to explore it to its maximum. The firehouse from the films is here, but it's not recreated as accurately as in the PS3/360 games, so fans of the series most likely won't want to stick around and check it out.
Ghostbusters for PSP should not be your first option when deciding what console you want to play it on. In fact, it's probably at the opposite end of the list. The strong script and voicework are about the only good points, as everything else is either mediocre or woefully executed. If you literally have no other options then we guess it might be worth picking this up, if only to enjoy the Ghostbusters getting together again for a story that is, in fairness, a third film. Just be aware that you'll be hearing them as if they were speaking through a long tunnel, they'll look like variations of Mr. Potato Head, you'll have to wait for long periods of time to actually get around to doing anything with them, and once you do you'll probably get bored and just chuck on the DVDs of the films. Or even the UMD of the films. Yes, it's that bad.