Games based on movies, comic books, television series, etc. are hit and miss. It doesn’t help their ratings much that they suffer more scrutiny from fans quick to denounce anything that may stray from the spirit of the original. Yet despite this uphill battle, the Ghostbusters franchise found itself in the hit category in 2009, with a 3rd person shooter from Atari (Wii version not withstanding). We gave it a 9.
Three years later, XMG Studio has tried to recapture some of that success with a new title for the iOS – Ghostbusters Paranormal Blast. However, it struggles more than Ray trying to wrangle Slimer into a ghost trap.
The concept is not at all horrible. Paranormal Blast is an iOS game that take advantage of all the device’s capabilities — location data via Foursquare, real-time camera and gyroscope for augmented reality, social sharing. It has you playing as a new recruit on call for anything strange in the neighborhood.
Hear the phone ring, choose a nearby location on a map, and start blasting at ghosts with the trusty neutron wand. The game will have you repeating these steps as the ghosts get more resilient, the stakes get higher, and the achievements keep coming. In the end, leveling up is the main goal.
Such a simple premise is just right for a platform that is meant to be mobile. One can easily open up the app, snare a ghost or two while on lunch break, and then carry on with the rest of the day. The problems come when one realizes that there isn’t much else the game has to offer. There are only 15 ghosts to capture and catalog, and only 16 equipment upgrades to buy with the cash earned from each call. Give it a week of casual play and you can max out. After that, the money earned and the extra levels quickly lose meaning. The fast achievements might tide you over a bit more, but it inevitably all becomes a chore.
Ghostbusters Paranormal Blast can’t rest on its presentation either. Because the game is based on augmented reality, most environments will render the ghosts puny just by spacial relation. It is as if XMG designed this game to be played mainly in long stretches of hallway or in a wide open space like a church or a library. However, whip out your device while waiting in line at a fast food joint, or while you are at your desk at work, everything is thrown off (not to mention the fact that you’ve just made yourself look like a robot with a malfunctioning torso and a phone).
One could argue that this is just a pitfall of augmented reality. But couple that with poor sound effects and it makes for a not so pleasurable experience. There is a set amount of howls, cackles, and growls that get recycled no matter what ghost is on the screen. Worse, the neutron wand sounds like someone turned on a microwave somewhere far away, barely audible under the generic yawps. The signature powering up of the proton pack is nowhere to be heard. Everything related to sound in this mobile game seems to be less than an afterthought, pieced together and not at all important to the development.
One more thing about the presentation — they butchered Slimer. This may be a bit of the fan in me bubbling up to the surface, but, Slimer in this game is a thumb. He’s a green, wrinkly thumb not at all resembling the blob that terrorized the Sedgewick Hotel in the movies. Outrageous.
This review is based on a digital copy of Ghostbusters Paranormal Blast for the iPhone.