Bustin' doesn't make you feel good in this DS game.
After a delay and a publisher change, Ghostbusters: The Video Game is finally out. There was much buzz about the other versions of the game, especially the Wii version developed by Red Fly Studios, but the Zen Studios-developed DS game was largely unmentioned before its release. There may have been a good reason for that.
Ghostbusters for DS is drastically different from its console counterpart. Instead of being a third-person action game, it is a top-down game similar to Baldur's Gate and Diablo. All the action starts at Ghostbusters HQ, where players can walk around, upgrade characters, research and build better weapons, read up on the ghosts they've encountered, and jump into missions.
After starting a mission, you drive the Ecto-1 to an area (library, cemetery, etc.) while Ray Parker Jr.'s Ghostbusters Theme blares over the DS speakers on an endless loop. Unlike the rest of the game, you control the Ecto-1 from a behind-the-car third-person view. You can bust ghosts while driving using a roof-mounted proton gun, but because of the controls, this is almost impossible. You control the sluggish car with the D-pad and then use the touch screen to control the proton gun. It's definitely a pat-your-head-while-rubbing-your-tummy kind of feeling. Also, the entire city is poorly designed. For example, you have to drive across the map to get to a nearby place because of the impassable barriers the game presents. This travel is also marred by extreme amounts of fog.
When you finally get into a building, the game improves slightly. You control the four Ghostbusters, taking them through different areas, such as the familiar library, so they can wander around and bust ghosts, gather slime that is used to research and build new weapons, and collect artifacts. You switch between each Ghostbuster at will while the others are controlled by A.I. The game has a focus on keeping the Ghostbusters' reputation up, which is accomplished by successfully completing missions. There are both story and side missions. The story missions are generally fun and engaging, as they are a little bit longer and involve amusing boss fights, such as an early bout with the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. On the flip side, the side missions are extremely bland and unvaried, drawn from a pool of about five different missions that all involve busting a ghost or two and/or collecting a few artifacts.
The awkward controls hold back both mission types, though. You use the D-pad to move, the other buttons to open menus and toggle weapon types, and the touch screen to shoot out streams and throw traps. (Lefties can swap the D-pad and face button controls.) You control one character at a time and can switch between them by touching the character's portrait, which is on the side of the touch screen. This can get very bothersome because it is hard to tell which Ghostbuster is which in the heat of battle, and switching between them proves to be difficult. In all honesty, there isn't much point in switching between Ghostbusters besides their special abilities, and even those don't do too much.
Unsurprisingly, every mission involves busting ghosts, which gets really obnoxious due to the top-down camera view. Ghosts have projectile attacks with surprisingly good accuracy, and you have no radar to tell you where the attacks are coming from. Also, ghosts have a habit of running past all four Ghostbusters at once, sliming them all, and knocking them on their asses. If there are two or more ghosts in the area, the four Ghostbusters can get repeatedly knocked down until they're all dead. This can get extremely frustrating.
Thankfully, as you progress through the game, these massacres become less frequent because your characters get stronger. This is thanks to the game's robust upgrade system. There are multiple upgrades that play to each character’s personality, such as Winston's "Supporting Role" upgrade that plays on the fact that he is usually put into the background in the series. Each character has a special ability that can be triggered mid-battle at the press of a button. However, because it's hard to distinguish between each character, these moves are surprisingly difficult to use effectively and are only worth using during boss battles. You can also use slime and money to research and produce different weaponry, such as an upgraded proton gun, upgraded traps, and more. All the upgrades you get are great, but there is little pressure from the game to actually bother with them.
This version of Ghostbusters is lacking a lot of the charming nostalgia found in the console versions, which feature brand new voice acting from many of the movie's stars. Instead, Ghostbusters for DS offers only the Ghostbusters theme itself. In addition to it playing every time you drive the Ecto-1 - which thankfully can be turned off at the touch of a button - it plays whenever you do anything decidedly Ghostbusters-like, which happens very often in the story missions. I once entered a building and for no good reason, the Ghostbusters theme kicked in. This game has officially ruined the Ghostbusters theme for me because of moments like these.
Ghostbusters: The Video Game on DS simply misses the mark. The gameplay shows a few signs of quality in the story missions, but it falls apart in the horrendous driving sections and bland side missions. Ghostbusters die-hards who only have a DS should look into this game, but everyone else should steer clear.