Ghostbusters Sanctum of Slime Xbox Live Arcade Review
Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime is Atari's second Ghostbusters game, fallowing 2009's original. The game isn't exactly a sequel, although it does reuse some assets such as character models and music from its predecessor , the gameplay itself is quite a departure. Now the game is a top down overhead shooter, similar to Smash TV or the more recently released Wolf of the Battlefield: Commandos 3. The developer, Behavior Studios also made both Assault Heroes games for Xbox Live which are also similar to Sanctum of Slime. As far as top down shooters go, Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime isn't a particularly good one, due to its overall genericness and poor design choices.
The story of the game is a little confusing. In the 1800's a cult resurrects the demon Dumazu, then for some reason Dumazu is immediately imprisoned within a stone. Then Janosz Poha, Vigo's assistant from Ghostbusters 2, escapes from a mental institution in modern times. He then somehow lands a job in a museum again and then promptly steals the stone which Dumazu is trapped in and gives it to a buddy of his that's a leader of the cult. Then of course the ritual to resurrect Dumazu causes a uptick of parallel activity in the city, making the Ghostbusters aware of a disturbance. Meanwhile the Ghostbusters team finds themselves more tired and run out then they usually are, and decide to recruit new members, acting as something of a B Team to take some pressure off of them. Throughout the entirety of the game you only play as the new team, and never as the classic Ghostbusters, although at least the original team does show up occasionally in cut scenes. The new team consists of four members; Gabriel, who is black, but is otherwise exactly the same as Egon. Bridget the token spunky female member, Alan whose sole personality trait is that he always wears a trucker hat, and Samuel who just looks like a blonde guy in a Ghostbusters suit, although my friend says he looks like Dolph Lundgren, I disagree. There is also a floating fifth member, Geoff who drives the Ecto 4WD. his name appears to a mechanic, but he is not playable. The story is told with comic book panels before and after every one of the game's twelve levels. There is no voice acting at all in the game, which seems cheap and lazy. It's a real shame that the dialogue isn't spoken since it seems like some of it is pretty well written, but the text is so small, and is displayed so quickly that most people will likely miss out on most of the story.
Sanctum of Slime is essentially a squad based overhead shooter, as the full team of four is always present throughout all the levels, except in the challenge mode DLC. Gameplay is as follows. Your team enters a room, a ghost appears, text of the snarky comment pops up from one of your teammates, you fight three waves of ghosts before clearing the room. A different team member makes another wisecrack, and it's on to the next room. Levels usually consists of 10 to 15 rooms before facing off against the boss of the level. The combat system is questionable as it is essentially based upon rock paper scissors. You have three weapons in the game, a red proton stream, a yellow ghost net, and they blue ricochet gun. Then there are three different colors of enemies, red yellow and blue, I think you can guess what color weapon each ghost is susceptible to. This makes the combat very boring, as most enemies can be killed in one or two seconds as long as you're using the right weapon color against them. Things only get a little frantic in one of the choice few rooms in the game where there is a diverse mix of different colored ghosts and you must quickly switch weapons. The boss fights are usually pretty easy as long as you keep your distance, so they aren't too memorable. I do like the design of a few of the bosses though. Once the bosses health has been depleted enough, you are prompted to throw the trap and a QTE will start to capture the ghost. There are two vehicle levels where the Ecto 4WD is driven along a preset path in the city and players are tasked with killing oncoming ghosts before they hit the vehicle. The game can be played by one or up to four players online or locally, but you may have trouble finding people to play through the tedious story mode with you online or off. Also for some reason cut scenes are not present when playing online. When playing by yourself the other three team members are controlled by the A.I. The A.I. does an adequate job of killing ghosts, although it does occasionally use the wrong weapon colors. The problem is the A.I.'s sense of self-preservation. The A.I. won't use healing items or power ups and will often walk right into the center of a group of enemies instead of keeping its distance and picking them off one at a time, or even walk right into a pool of one hit kill slime. The A.I. does seem pretty loyal, often dropping everything to revive you if you die. The problem being it takes 5 to 10 seconds to revive you, and since the A.I. didn't bother to kill any of the surrounding enemies before rushing to your aid, it will often get killed as well. Then the next A.I. teammate will rush over and try to revive one you and get itself killed, until everyone's dead and you have to restart the room over again. This is of course infuriating. I really don't know why the game doesn't just have lives like every other overhead shooter, instead of a bugged out revive system. I should note though that three lives were added in the new challenge mode DLC where you have no A.I. partners. But who wants to pay $2 for a patch, that should've already been in the game in the first place. Some of the game's levels are kinda fun like the graveyard, or the boss fight stages, but the majority of them are not. Annoyingly even though there are technically 12 stages, after stage six, the game pulls a Halo, and the rest of the game is slightly altered versions of the earlier stages but with different bosses. This makes the game yet even more repetitious and dull to play through.
The graphics of the game are subpar to say the least. The lighting does look pretty good especially on the graveyard levels, and a few the bosses are impressive looking, but outside of that it seems like the game could easily run on the original Xbox or maybe even the Sega Dreamcast with little compromises made to the graphics. Most characters designs are rather bland looking, such as generic two-handed flying ghosts without legs, big screaming slime monsters, or lumpy exploding zombies. The Ghostbusters themselves are lacking in detail, and with the exception of the slimmer female member, all appear to share the same body. The draw distance of the game is also particularly bad, and is oddly shown off in Ecto 4WD vehicle stages. The graphics aren't really a displeasure to look at, it's more so that they obviously didn't try to improve them and push the hardware.
Most music in the game is either public domain, or recycled from the 2009 Ghostbuster game. So it's not that bad but it's also not memorable or rousing either. I will say though that they do have the full version of the Ghostbusters theme song that plays at the game's title screen and within its menus, which is always great to listen too.
The controls are simple as you would expect for a top-down shooter. The left analog stick moves your character, while the right analog stick simultaneously both aims and fires your weapon. The B button selects the proton stream. The Y button selects the ghost net. The X button selects your ricochet gun. To revive a fallen teammate you must rapidly press the A button while standing over them. To throw a trap, which can only be used on bosses, you must press the R Trigger.
Despite my largely negative review of the game, I did find some fun in it. I did enjoy the story, and most the time when the A.I. wasn't being stupid, the game was mildly fun to play through in the two or three hours it lasts. Being short and not that challenging give it decent replay value as well. But as I've already mentioned the A.I. is terrible, there's no voice acting, and the graphics are very outdated. So although hardcore Ghostbusters fans might still find some value here and give it a 6/10, I think most people, particularly non-fans will think I'm being very generous giving the game a 5/10.