Wot I Think: Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime

By Alec Meer on March 24th, 2011 at 5:14 pm.

It's your favourite Ghostbusters characters that you've never heard of!

This top-down arcade shooter came out earlier this week, and is available to buy for a relatively budget price on assorted download services now. Should you cross its stream, or aim for its flat-top? I don’t even know what that means, but look at me, I’m saying lines from a film you’ve seen! That means you will love me. Guh.

Here’s my verdict on Sanctum of Slime. I played it so you didn’t have to.

The mistakes hit so fast and so frequent that I was actually too bewildered to catch on to just how terrible a game this is. Mistakes such as these:

The intro cutscene lasts almost 15 minutes.

You don’t play as the Ghostbusters, but as some charisma-vacuum rookies who pop out of nowhere without a proper introduction.

There is no voicework whatsoever in the game, thus rendering it doubly mysterious that the familiar Ghostbusters are not the playable characters.

It’s a game built around co-op play, but does not include online co-op.

The vast majority of ghosts are defeated simply by zapping them – no traps required.

Locked Door Syndrome defines every single moment of progression.

It’s mindless, aggravating and packed with absurd difficulty spikes.

I hate it, in short. It took me some time to realise that I hated it, however – that theme tune still does funny things to me, the loose and perpetual fantasy of zapping ghosts with proton packs holds a rich charm, as does the old Robotron-derived control system – move one way, shoot the other. Busting? Busting made me feel good.

Then I found myself about to tweet something along the lines of “this Ghostbusters game is dogshit” and realised something had gone horribly awry. It isn’t dogshit (it’s more like ‘significantly below average’, as if that actually means anything), but one more pointless death at the hands of a bossfight surely designed only as punishment brought a temporary rage upon me and I finally and conclusively exited from my gentle fug of slackjawed ghostbusting.

There’s something depressingly constructed about Sanctum of Slime. It doesn’t feel overjoyed to exist; it doesn’t even feel like it wants to be anything in particular. It’s just there. License + top-down arcadesome shooting + gratingly peppy but not unpleasant comic-based cutscenes, and you’re done.

It is intended to be a small and simple game, with the likes of Xbox Live Arcade determinedly targeted. The PC version clearly falls into the afterthought bracket, partly in the aggravating menus (‘press escape to go back’ actually means ‘click on the picture of the escape key with your mouse to go back) but most especially in the blind, crazy lack of online or even LAN multiplayer. The game is all about four people doing the Gauntlet thing, and being able to do that with a few remote mates would go some way to redeeming this vapid wretch. No, instead the gaming platform least suited to having four people gathered in front of it only supports shared-screen play. If only they’d have had a LAN mode at the very least we could at least have fudged it with Hamachi and GameRanger and whatnot.

Instead, this is by necessity a singleplayer verdict of an inherently multiplayer game. Have I failed in my critical duty? I don’t believe so. I’m commenting on the experience most purchasers of this game will have. There will be a rarefied few who can persuade (and have the will to) drag three mates over to their PC, but while I have no doubt that would promise a far better time it’s going to be a rarity. It’s going to be why this game is very likely to vanish and die on PC. It would never have truly thrived because it’s cheap and nasty, but it could have had a few days in the sun as a party game.

No Ghostbusters, no proper co-op. So what’s left, in this hollow shell of a Ghostbusting game? Jump into the overalls of one of the four rookies, who look a bit different and offer unbidden wisecracks at scripted moments but are otherwise identical. Zap ghosts with your left mouse button. Switch between weapons with the wheel. Actually, that’s where it threatens to become interesting tactical – different ghosts are different colours, with you required to switch between similarly-coloured weapons to reach maximum anti-spook efficiency. I can see how this would shine in co-op – yelling “Derek, go red! Clive, you’re on yellow! I’m sticking with blue!” as a horde of contrastingly-hued spooks surge into the series of locked, repeating arenas the game essentially comprises.

In practice, it’s helplessly yelling “why the cocking hell are you all on yellow when the enemies are red?” at the blundering AI companions. They’re not totally inept, and particularly are pretty sharp at reviving downed players (achieved yourself by repeatedly tapping Space), but when it’s a matter of mixed enemies it’s all down to your quick thinking and quick-scrolling as they wander around in confused circles with ineffective weapons.

It all goes to hell for some of the boss fights, though. This is a game in which it is very easy to die, in part because it’s very easy to revive/be revived. Two successive hits is all it takes to have a tumble, and in the cases of the bosses it’s usually one. As your AI mates surge over to pick you up, they’ll all inevitably be insta-killed by the looped attack pattern, the game will end and upon opting to try again you’ll be thrown not that far back, but just enough to make it infuriating. Were they real players, you could all communicate and pick the right moment to attempt a revive or two. I can imagine enjoying that, and the frantic screaming that led to it. Because this PC version is essentially singleplayer, that’s not possible and it means surviving the big fights is just a miserable grind, relying on sheer chance and bloodymindedness to get through. It’s not inherently a hard game – far from it, as for the most part it’s a pleasantly dull matter of proton-spewing until the room’s empty, but occasionally difficulty spikes designed purely for genuine co-operative introduce sudden brick walls to playing solo.

As a drunken party game with chums, I’d be ok with this. There is great pride to be had from overcoming such adversity together, even when it is banal and repetitious adversity. Alone, it’s like trying to hammer tent pegs into stony ground during a camping trip. You know that if you persevere the right, accommodatingly soft bit of turf is here somewhere, but it’s getting dark and that pub nearby might let you sleep on one of the tables if you ask nicely. Or you could just give it up as a bad idea and go home. Yeah, do that.

Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime is available on Steam, Direct2Drive and more now, for around $10/£7.

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35 Comments »

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  1. ZenArcade says:

    Ouch, Alec, ouch.

    • wakeupandsmelltheashes says:

      Demo sucked hard, I’d say the developers saw a beat-down coming.

    • Baines says:

      My friend and I tried the Xbox 360 demo of the game, as we look for anything with local four player support.

      We exited out of the game I think the second room and immediately deleted the demo. It just wasn’t fun. It was actually kind of sad how unentertaining it was.

  2. Unaco says:

    And people wonder why Bill Murray is so reticent to make another movie.

    • karry says:

      Because he’s old, cant act, and is unfunny in exactly the same way in every single one of his movies ?

    • Premium User Badge

      Rinox says:

      Ouch. I’ll bet he’ll cry himself to sleep in his mansion tonight!

    • Bob Loblaw says:

      Because he’s old, cant act, and is unfunny in exactly the same way in every single one of his movies ?

      You, sir, have terrible taste.

    • godkingemperor says:

      Karry you are fired from life

    • Barnaby says:

      I’d love to hear what your conception of a good actor is if you think Bill Murray is such shit.

      I hate your opinion and your pets Karry.

    • Bret says:

      Sounds like somebody didn’t see Zombieland.

  3. Eclipse says:

    Get Ghostbusters: The Videogame that’s on sale at 50% instead of this one, at least that one is good!

    • qrter says:

      It isn’t really, though.

    • MrWolf says:

      No, but it’s “good-er” than this travesty.

    • QualityJeverage says:

      It’s a decent enough game, with lots problems.

      Sanctum of slime is hardly a game. It’s just…lots of problems.

    • DrGonzo says:

      I must have played a different game then. Thought it was absolutely dreadful, I couldn’t recommend it at any price. I picked it up for around 3 quid and still felt ripped off, and regretted buying it.

    • fuggles says:

      I on the other hand really enjoyed the ghostbusters game – fun writing, actual actors, that theme tune, to be inside the fire station, fighting stay puft… definitely good, apart from the angels.

    • J-snukk says:

      I enjoyed the Ghost-busters game, however I never did finish it due to being unable to defeat some form of flying ‘two hits and you’re dead’ gargoyle things. I may have persisted if the loading didn’t take half an ice age and the checkpoint wasn’t annoyingly far back.

  4. Navagon says:

    Even the trailer for this one made it look rougher than Badger’s Arse – the toilet paper Kotick insists Activision staff toilets are stocked with.

    • J-snukk says:

      I’m struggling to work out the mechanics of wiping your arse with another arse, but I’m damn well gonna have fun trying, thankyou good sir.

  5. Memph says:

    Graphics aside, this looked Alien Swarmish enough for me to be mildly interested. I do loves me some top-down, twin-stick, co-op shootery.
    Unbelievable it has no online co-op. Atari are clearly off their collective tits.
    The upside-downly-held proton gun on the box art says it all really.

    • Barnaby says:

      Yeah, looking at the game details on the steam page it says “Co-op” and right below that it says “Local Co-op”. In the description of the game it says the game has “multiplayer Co-op”. I don’t know why the hell they are trying to confuse people so badly. I was almost sure multiplayer co-op would be available. :-/

      I already got the other Ghostbusters game but haven’t gotten around to playing it yet. I was hoping this would be fun as Co-op games are totally my thing. Quite disappointed this is such a heaping pile, but at least I didn’t waste my moneys on it. Thanks for the review.

      *edit* Whoops, just saw post 2 below mine saying same stuff.

  6. Flameberge says:

    “This top-down arcade shooter came out earlier this week, and is available to buy for a relatively budget price on assorted download services now. Should you cross its stream, or aim for its flat-top? I don’t even know what that means, but look at me, I’m saying lines from a film you’ve seen! That means you will love me. Guh.”

    You need to read precisely that musch to understand where this is going.

    Nice work Mr. Meer, entertaining as always.

  7. Premium User Badge

    abhishek says:

    The PC version of the game is royally fucked. No online co-op in a game which is supposed to be about co-op is ridiculous. Also worth pointing out that Steam currently lists the game as having both ‘co-op’ and ‘local co-op’ which would naturally imply that online co-op is what the first one refers to. This is incorrect and borderline false advertising.

    I have the game on the 360* and I can confirm that this version does in fact have local co-op as well as online co-op through Xbox Live. Basically another very shitty PC port.

    *for the record, I did not pay for this piece of shit. Microsoft had a snafu in their marketplace and the game showed up as free instead of the 800 points it should cost. That’s why I added it to my account.

  8. Premium User Badge

    Nero says:

    I tried the demo on one of them consoles, and it’s by far the worst game I’ve tried in a long time. Enter room, stop, kill enemies, proceed. Repeat forever. It’s not like Alien Swarm where you are free to take alternate routes and move in and out of rooms. I had small interests of this game before trying it, but now zero interest.

  9. SuperNashwanPower says:

    “I don’t even know what that means, but look at me, I’m saying lines from a film you’ve seen! That means you will love me. Guh”

    Indeed we do. Here are more you might have said to make us positively brim over with wub:
    Why worry? Each of us is wearing an unlicensed nuclear accelerator on his back.
    Listen … can you smell something?
    I feel so funky
    No one steps on a church in my town!
    Ok, so … she’s a dog
    I collect spores, moulds and fungus.
    And the flowers.. are still standing.
    Ray, if someone asks you if you’re a god, you say YES

  10. Moth Bones says:

    Splendid stuff, made me think of the fun C64 game back in the day.

  11. J-Han says:

    I saw this game and thought, “Hmm, looks kind of like Magicka with an even lower budget. Maybe it will be almost as good?”

    Too bad. Thank you Alec for saving me $10.

    • Icarus says:

      I would give someone’s left arm for a Ghostbuster-themed Magicka DLC.

  12. Yage says:

    So to some up, what you are saying that its like Ghostbuster 2 then? :)

  13. Grey_Ghost says:

    I knew this was going to be no good. I really liked that last PC Ghostbusters game quite a lot, but I had zero hope for this thing. Especially with the entire style change to the gameplay.

  14. anonymousity says:

    The ideal ghost busters would be a mix between alien swarm, swat 4 and xcom.

  15. brulleks says:

    Jesus. That is one dreadful cut-scene still. The artist seems to think that the Ghostbusters were a team of zombified Muppets.

  16. adonf says:

    “significantly below average”

    This is an interesting point. Should reviewers recommend games that are merely average (compared to the other games on the market) or games that are good ?

    I don’t think that “average” is a good point of comparison. If we consider that the average game is rubbish then “below average” means it’s crap too so we know that means “don’t buy it”. On the other hand, if the average game is a great game then “below average” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad game.

    I think I’ll have another beer.

  17. Ian says:

    What we need is FPS ghostbusters with L4D-style multiplayerage and probably a change from not having big swarms of ghosts , but I think the idea’s got potential.
    Everybody’d get to yawp “DON’T CROSS THE STREAMS!” at griefers.

  18. -Spooky- says:

    That is the point, why i like this kind of games on console ;)