If there’s something strange, in your neighborhood… Who ya gonna call? There, now we have that out of the way. And enjoy it, because from what we’ve seen, the song is not in the game.
We don’t mean to begin the review on a down note, but it is what it is. We love Ghostbusters: the movies, The Real Ghostbusters cartoon, the cereal from way back in the day (though we never could get those marshmallow ghosts to fit into the ‘no’ sign cereal pieces), the recent Atari video games, and many other media in-between.
And then to hear that there is a new Ghostbusters game on the iPhone? That had us holdin’, smokin’, and ready to show these prehistoric #$@% how we do things downtown. Some people would bend over backwards to play a good Ghostbusters game, and unfortunately, that’s exactly what Paranormal Blast expects you to do.
Ray. If someone asks if you are a god, you say yes!
When you begin the game, you get your choice from one of six new recruits (three male, three female) to use as your character. It’s largely moot, since the game takes place in the first person, and you seldom see your character except as an icon on the map or when points are being tallied up. But even so, the character designs are quite enjoyable, each rendered in a sort of cartoon/ comic book style.
Once you pick your avatar, you can check out your hub, which has a spot for you to upgrade your equipment with money earned from jobs, or by purchasing ‘Buster Bucks’ with your own real-world cash. You can also check out your completed ‘calls’ (which are basically Achievements), the Ecto-Containment Unit (where you can view the ghosts you’ve captured), and your locker (where you can view your stats or edit your profile).
Then it’s time to take some calls. A map of New York City (or your local neighborhood, if you’re online) shows numerous locations under attack, such as a hotel or the local Starbucks, and what level of apparition is attacking. You make your choice, and the Ecto-1 drives you to your destination… or at least, that much is implied in the still-shot transition.
When you’re on the job, the cool part is that the game uses your iOS device’s camera to display the game screen, Augmented Reality (AR) style. You can look around at your surroundings to find the ghost you’re after, who will be visible on your screen in the environment around you. Of course, it’s a little weird to get a call from a Starbucks and the backdrop be your living room, but what can you do.
Then it’s time to whip out your neutrona wand and get to work. And this is where everything begins to come apart. That whole ‘bending over backwards’ thing we mentioned is the result of ghosts quite literally going anywhere and everywhere. Finding them is difficult, as you’ll not only be instructed to move the device up, up, and further up, to the point where laying on your back is more efficient, but the ghosts tend to dart around a lot, too. Plus, you can’t really aim the wand; you have to line up a reticule in the center of the screen by moving the phone even more, with the ghost constantly staying just out of range.
It’s like ‘Scratching the Itch You Just Can’t Reach: The Game.’ The ghosts have far more freedom of movement than you do, and they don’t tend to play as nicely. Unless you’re willing to get on your feet and turn all around, you’re going to have a hard time busting ghosts. If you’re the kind of person who feels skittish about playing the Wii, Kinect, or PS Move with your friends because you’re afraid you’ll look foolish, then this is definitely not a game you would want to play in public.
The local haunt.
Once you’ve worn down the specter you’re pursuing, you pull out a ghost trap with a vertical swipe of the touchscreen. The weird part is sometimes the ghost will be on the ceiling (as they’re wont to do), and you’ll see the trap just sort of sitting in midair. Regardless, this is make or break time, and you have to move the phone in just such a way to seal the deal. Fail, and the ghost gets away.
It isn’t impossible to catch first-level ghosts, but depending on where and how you’re trying to do it, even they can be elusive. Higher level ghosts deal more damage (there doesn’t seem to be a way to dodge their attacks), and are tougher to catch as a result. That’s where the upgrades help even the score.
The developers have hit upon a fun little concept here that just works well for Ghostbusters, but the execution is off the mark. With a bit of tweaking, Ghostbusters Paranormal Blast could be awesome for fans of supernatural elimination. We’re ready to believe you, but we need just a little more to believe in first.