Movie comedies rarely lead to funny sequels. Take “Ghostbusters,” whose blockbuster success in 1984 led to “Ghostbusters II” five years later. Critics, fans and, reportedly, some of the cast felt let down by the result.
That hasn’t stopped admirers of the original – including a new generation of fans who weren’t born when it came out – from hoping for another sequel. And after all these years, original Ghostbuster Dan Aykroyd is saying a third feature film could begin shooting this year.
To whet your appetite, there’s “Ghostbusters: The Video Game” (Atari, for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, $59.99; Wii, $39.99). Its developer, Terminal Reality, has accomplished something Hollywood hasn’t been able to do in 20 years by reuniting the four core members of the cast: Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson.
OK, we’re talking about computer-animated versions of the main characters, but the actors did return to provide their voices. Aykroyd and Ramis also helped with the script, and Ray Parker Jr.’s infectious theme song is heard throughout. The game is set two years after the events of “Ghostbusters II,” so the guys all look they way they would have in 1991. Once again, New York City is under siege by a wave of supernatural spirits – some familiar (the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man), some new (a vicious sea captain who could have been lifted from “Pirates of the Caribbean”).
“Ghostbusters” is meant to feel like a movie, and it’s very linear. If you’re hoping to spend time exploring the Big Apple, you’re out of luck. The animation, during both gameplay and storytelling sequences, is largely solid, although there are occasional lip-synching glitches.
The story is surprisingly clever, and there’s nice banter among the ‘Busters as they vacuum up Manhattan’s wraiths. Murray’s delivery is somewhat blase, but the rest of the cast, including newcomer Alyssa Milano, dives enthusiastically into this nonsense.
Your character, simply called “Rookie,” is a new recruit to the team, but Dr. Egon Spengler (Ramis) has outfitted you with all the latest ghost-hunting gear. Your main weapon is your proton pack, and it takes awhile to get the hang of reeling in spirits with streams of light. You can also upgrade with tools like the “slime blower,” and you get a nifty PKE (psychokinetic energy) meter that helps you hunt down haunted objects.
The proton pack certainly isn’t your typical video-game weapon, but after a few battles it begins to feel natural. Still, the initial challenge of controlling it may scare off less adventurous gamers. More troubling are several extremely frustrating spikes in difficulty that will challenge even the most hardcore shooter fan. If you’re mostly interested in the story, play “Ghostbusters” at its easiest setting.
“Ghostbusters: The Video Game” doesn’t capture the magic of the original film. Still, unlike most movie tie-ins, it feels like an affectionate tribute rather than a cynical attempt to cash in. Two stars out of four.
On the Net: