Are you troubled by strange noises in the middle of the night? Do you experience feelings of dread in your basement or attic? Have you or any of your family ever seen a spook, spectre or ghost? If the answer is yes then don’t wait another minute. Pick up your phone and call the professionals: Ghostbusters! We’re ready to believe you!
And by Ghostbusters, I mean the digital incarnation of the paranormal exterminators who’ll be taken one more spin in the Ecto-1 across New York City next week. Ghostbusters The Video Game: Remastered is out next week, and while 2020 will see a proper Ghostbusters 3 film finally made, for a long time this game was the closest thing we had to that sought-after sequel.
Somehow managing to rope in the original quartet, Ghostbusters: The Video Game was a proton blast to play back in the day, as players stepped into the boots of a rookie who had just signed up with the gang. That’s a design decision which Atari had to fight tooth and nail for, according to executive producer John Melchior on the PS Blog:
The rookie (new recruit) was a massive fight internally at Vivendi and then even with Atari. They really wanted to “play as the cast.” This was something I really fought for and eventually won. The reason why was simple. I felt people wanted the characters to have the same chemistry as they did in the films. A pillar of this was timing. So, by playing a character that had no lines, we were able to craft that timing.
Dan, Harold, Bill, and Ivan created an incredible universe with the films. Most importantly, they create rules to the world and things that could and could not be done. This gave Drew and the design team a playground to build the levels out of.
One of the most important things that they made a mandate was that one of Ghostbusters main characters is the city of New York. The city — its attitude, energy, and tone — needed to be front and center in creating this world. These are also things that helped the writers as they started to put details to the levels and dialogue.
Unlike most movie games which pull from the source material, Ghostbusters was unique at the time for being not crap. The story clicked, the visuals looked authentic and the gameplay was solid. You can thank Dan Akroyd and the late Harold Ramis for helping nail the look and feel of the game, especially when it came to characterisation:
The personalities of the cast are so important to every aspect of Ghostbusters, and it was one of the first things we tackled. We really tried to capture all their quirks, traits and humour in the never released 10-minute prototype. It was the element of the pitch that won over Sony, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Bill Murray, and Ivan Reitman to approve it and Vivendi to fund it.
Dan always described it as a family structure. To make it work, we had to follow that approach. Think of it like this: Bill is the father figure, the one who tries to take care of the family and keep the out-of-control kids in order. Dan brings a youthful Christmas morning approach to everything that happens. Like opening the one present you really wanted. Things like “This is great,” “I can’t believe it,” approach, even if the events are scary. For the most part, he sees the positive side to everything.
Harold is the pragmatic child and the geek. Introverted and studies more than parties. However, when you put them together, they get into all sorts of trouble that requires them to be put back in line. Ernie’s character is really the perfect representation of the audience, seeing things the same way we do and calling out the obvious. Finally, William Atherton is the spoiled brat kid down the street who always gets what he wants.
The end result was magical, and a benchmark for taking the best of cinema and spinning it off in a new interactive direction. Ghostbusters The Video Game: Remastered is out next week, with Saber Interactive on remaster duties. Just remember, don’t cross the streams.
Last Updated: October 3, 2019