Ghostbusters is back, which is extremely evident by the recently released videogame barrage across all major consoles. For the most part the games have been fantastic representations of the series for fans new and old. Red Fly deserves credit for what they have delivered on the DS. Unfortunately the game doesn’t hold up as well as the console versions, but there is so much packed into this tiny DS cart that it is hard not to appreciate the amount of care that went into making it. Ghostbusters on the DS is a collaboration of fantastic ideas mixed with some frustrating gameplay elements that make it nerve-racking at times and absolutely brilliant at others. Regardless, fans of the series will not be disappointed with the sheer amount of content to be found on this tiny cartridge.
At the outset of the game you are introduced to one of the game’s largest problems; driving mechanics. You begin by putting around the city in the Ecto-1, while it sounds cool in theory; the execution leaves much to be desired. You steer with the d-pad and fire your mounted proton cannon by tapping on the screen with the stylus. This wouldn’t be so bad if the driving controls were not so stiff. Turning around corners is a pain, and collision detection causes you to stop dead in your tracks when you run into an object. This wouldn’t be such an issue if the car didn’t take damage upon every impact, thus slowing you down even more. Chasing ghosts throughout the city streets ends up being more of a pain than a pleasure.
Unlike its console brethren the DS version gives you control over the original four members instead of the nameless rookie. The on-foot action does shine though, borrowing heavily from other top-down games such as Smash TV. You control all four members in a squad like fashion; you can switch between each one instantly by tapping on their icon, or give them orders by tapping another icon. This works surprisingly well, and it is nice to finally get to control the original Ghostbusters as opposed to some nameless recruit. Controls are identical to the driving ones, you steer your character with the d-pad while zapping ghosts with the stylus, but in this mode they work a lot more responsively. Everything about this mode feels good and if you can deal with some minor quirks you will find yourself enjoying this portion far more than the driving segments.
The core game is based around the story mode, but there are side jobs that pop up throughout the game. Taking these is optional to a point, but all the earn you is reputation points. The problem is that if you ignore these too much, your reputation falls and it is game over. This forces you to perform several meaningless tasks during the course of the game just to continue playing. I am all about side missions, but please do not make them somewhat mandatory to progress the story arc. Completing missions earns you money and slime, both of which can be used to upgrade your character much like an RPG. You can do this in between missions back at HQ, and each character has certain unique abilities that you can upgrade. The problem here is that most of the time none of this feels required. In fact you can muster through much of the game without worrying about upgrades and make it through just fine.
Upgrading characters is fine and all, but implementing them into the game could have been handled better. General combat works fine, but when you throw special abilities into the mix things can become hectic. You have to manually select a Ghostbuster with the stylus and then tap the B button to activate their special ability. While this doesn’t sound too complicated on paper, the end result led to frequent deaths as you fumble with the stylus while in turn getting your butt handed to you in combat. Like I mentioned before the game is chock full of defining gameplay moments hampered by poor design choices.
Visually the game looks good considering, but the nagging camera really hurts the top-down gameplay. The stylized look from the Wii version makes a return, and I have to agree with the decision, the DS handles things very nicely. The indoor environments are nicely lit and there are even destructible elements scattered around the levels. Red Fly deserves some credit for this engine, as it handles all the onscreen action and still manages to look slick while doing so. Sound effects are equally impressive with the trademarked sounds oozing from every direction. The sounds of the proton blasts are spot on and the music, while limited to only a few tracks, does sound good. Presentation wise the game has nothing to be ashamed of, but the gameplay quirks really drag down the overall appeal.
Ghostbusters The Video Game for Nintendo DS is a solid effort that suffers due to some poor design choices. Streamlining a few of the issues would work wonders, and if you are a fan of the movies and own a DS then there will be plenty here to enjoy. The Ecto-1 segments are painful and the camera doesn’t always behave the way you want, but blasting ghosts on the DS has never been this fun. I recommend checking it out if you are a die-hard fan of the series, but everyone else would be wise to rent first before taking the plunge.