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April Fools’ Week: Ghostbusters 2 – The NES Game

Written by: Big Ross, CC2K Staff Writer

When faced with the challenge of inflicting something torturous on someone else for CC2K's April Fools’ Week, CC2K Staff Writer Lance Carmichael chose an archaic video game adaptation of a mediocre film sequel, and CC2K Video Game Editor Big Ross was forced to play the NES Ghostbusters 2 game for two hours. Here's what Ross has to say about it.

ImageA word from the nominator, Lance Carmichael:

What could be worse than having to watch a movie sequel that no one wanted? How about an quick cash-in 8-bit video game based on the sequel that no one wanted? That's right! Get ready to fight them ghosts with Egon, Ray, Spengler, uh…Bill Murray, and the other one in full 20-color 8 bit glory. The only thing more frustrating than playing a bad NES video game is playing a bad NES video game on an emulator, using your keyboard as a controller. Just how frustrating is this experience?

Ghostbusters 2: Too Hot to Handle, Too Old to Hold

by Big Ross 

Probably the best Christmas present I ever got as a kid was the year my brothers and sister and I got a Nintendo Entertainment System from our parents.  I was 7 or 8 years old, and the NES had been out for a couple of years.  My siblings and I had been clamoring for one, and my parents had done a good enough job of keeping us in the dark that it wasn’t until we collectively ripped off the wrapping paper that I knew we had a NES for our very own.  It was a feeling that was unmatched by any of the other presents I received in my youth, except maybe the year we got a Super Nintendo Entertainment System (hee hee!). 

Years have passed and technology has advanced; new and better console gaming systems have been developed (and I’ve played pretty much all of them).  But it was the NES (or simply the Nintendo) that carved out the first neural pathways in my brain that made me into the enthusiastic gamer I am today. 

But I think I can say that we all had a love/hate relationship with the Nintendo, didn’t we?  I know you want to say the Nintendo was great; it offered now classic games with hours of fun, and it was flawless, man.  You can’t knock the Nintendo.  You just can’t.  But let’s take off those rose-colored glasses and shrug off the nostalgia for a minute.  Yes, at the time it was a good system that offered some great innovations and some pretty fun games.  But for every Super Mario Bros. or Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out there was a game that was maddening & infuriating.  A game that made you want to spew every dirty word you learned from R-rated movies you weren’t supposed to watch and hurl that game controller through your parents’ big, color television set. 

I was recently introduced to such a game, one I never played as a kid.  But it fits the bill perfectly.  It’s Ghostbusters II, and man does this game suck.  What about it raises my ire so?  Well, I’ll tell what it isn’t.  It’s not the graphics or the sound.  Given where the state of game technology was when the Nintendo (and this game) came out, they’re not half-bad.  There’s certainly a broader color palette than Super Mario Bros. had available, and the digitized Ghostbusters theme is sort of catchy, and though I quickly tired of it the music wasn’t rage-inducing.  No, there are several aspects of the game that have me wanting to take a sledge hammer to the cartridge (assuming I had one – I played an emulator version of this game on my computer).  Here they are, in order of least infuriating to most:


The Mechanics, or What the F*ck is that Thing Chasing Me?!?

Like most other games released for the Nintendo, Ghostbusters II features side-scrolling level advancement.  But since the developers evidently were feeling especially cruel when designing this game, they decided that wasn’t enough.  They built in a timer into each level in the form of a small crab-spider-like-thing that comes crawling in from off-screen immediately next to your character.  Now, maybe this was explained in the original instruction booklet, which I didn’t have, but I had no idea what this thing was (other than a danger), so I proceeded to shoot it.  I shot it with so much damn slime (yes, you shoot slime in this game- I’ll get to this in a minute) it should have drowned in the stuff.  And it just kept on coming like a fucking Terminator and killed me.  I tried a different tactic and attempted to jump over it, and discovered it emits some kind of invisible force field in a vertical line that I hit, causing me to land directly on top of the thing, and getting killed, again.  I must have spent a good 5-10 minutes trying to kill this little fucker before I said to hell with it and ran in the opposite direction, which is what the game wanted me to do in the first place.


The Details, or This Doesn’t Make Any F*cking Sense!!!!

I’m sort of a stickler for detail, and while I usually don’t like nitpicking them in a review, I’m making an exception here because of how much I loath this game.  First of all, this is a Ghostbusters game.  Question: “what weapon do the Ghostbusters use to fight and capture ghosts?”  You answer: “a proton pack, duh!”  And I say: “Exactly.”  If I’m going to be playing as a Ghostbuster, which definitely seems like a cool thing, then I want to be packing some heat in the form of a proton pack, not one of those lame slime cannons they built in the sequel!  And if I am going to be forced to wield one of those inferior pieces of ghost-busting hardware, can we at least get one thing straight?  The slime those things shot was pink, so why do they shoot green slime in the game?  And the stuff that Slimer doused Venkman with was green, so why do these gluttonous apparitions drop reddish-purple slime?  And why does it look like it’s coming out of their asses? 

And then there is the car, the Ecto-1.  The levels requiring your Ghostbuster to navigate on foot are interspersed with levels requiring you to drive the Ecto-1 through New York to get to your next mission.  But I guess because the city is being overrun by ghosts, it was thought a good idea to place crowd-control barricades in an obstacle-course fashion on the roadways.  Now, you might think you could just plow through these, but you’d be wrong.  One glancing blow and you crash and are momentarily at the mercy of the swarming ghosts eager to slime and kill you.  Huh?  In some cases, there’s no way to navigate around the barriers.  I was flummoxed, until I accidentally hit the “Jump” button and discovered the Ecto-1 can impersonate the General Lee.  Yes, you can, and often need to jump over barricades and gaping chasms.  WTF?  Miss-time your jump and fail to make it, and you plummet to your death, forced to restart the level.  Arrgg!!


The Gameplay, or How the F*ck Do I Keep Dying?!?!?!!!!?!

Do you remember in the first movie when Venkman gets slimed?  He’s going to need a long, hot shower to get that stuff off, but he’s alright.  And at the end of the sequel, when Viggo (the evil dude in the painting) zaps them all with his evil, ghostly shockwave?  They’re a little worse for wear, but there’s no real harm done.  So why is it if I get slimed by a ghost in the game, I lose a life?  Or how about when some kind of object like a book or a statue goes flying across the screen and “stuns” me, and I die immediately?  Does that make any kind of freakin’ sense?  When you consider you only start the game with 3 lives, and anything so much as remotely brushes by you and you lose a life, and add to that the fact that you only get the chance to continue where you left off with a fresh slate of 3 lives twice (that’s 9 lives in total), you quickly realize this game is practically impossible to beat. 

I played this game for a couple hours in total, but never more than 20 minutes at a time – it was all I could tolerate – and I only made it to the 4th level.  That’s it.  But since I felt I should know more about this game in order to review it, I have to confess I cheated and went online to do a bit of research on it.  Know what I learned?  You’re going to love this.  On the second to final level, you have to get the Ghostbusters into the museum so you can fight the final battle with Viggo.  Now because the developers of this game enjoy instilling children with rage complexes, they decided that to accomplish this, you have to complete that penultimate level with all 4 Ghostbusters.  In other words, you have to beat it 4 times in a fucking row.  And as impossible as the early levels are, I can only guess that in this level the gates of Hell open and unleash all of your worst nightmares leaving you a gibbering wreck.  I guess I’ll never know because I refuse to find out, and I’m OK with that.