The Game: Supernarural, paranormal investigations and eliminations are the order of the day, as you open your own ghost busting franchise. You start with a finite budget and have to make some savvy choices about vehicles and gear; then it’s time to strap on a proton pack, get behind the wheel of the Ectomobile, and cruise around the Big Apple watching for flashing red buildings (telltale signs of a poltergeist party in progress). When you arrive on the scene, a little bit of driving is required, which gives you the chance to mop up a few free-roaming full-torso vaporous apparitions off the streets, before you arrive at your destination and try to trap a ghost without crossing the streams. All the while, supernatural forces are converging on a site formerly known as the temple of Zuul, and when the paranormal powers there reach a critical mass, it’s time for roasted marshmallow – or the end of the world. (Activision, 1985)
Memories: A nice balance of arcade action segments and some resource-management strategy, Ghostbusters manages to capture the inherent humor of the movie (failure to capture a ghost results in one or both of your men getting “slimed”) and yet succeeds as a game too.
Surprisingly, the Apple II version kicks off with speech synthesis and a full-length rendition of Ray Parker, Jr.’s theme song (assuming you let it run that long without jumping straight into the game; if you click on this review’s video feature, you can see and hear the whole thing for yourself). The graphics after that are pure default-option Apple II hi-res, with all of the pluses and minuses that entails, including the stairstep color bleed patterns when red or blue are called on to appear next to green or purple. The game play moves along at a nice clip, though, and the controls are fairly simple. Mastery of the game is even less common than an actual ghost sighting, though.
If you’re looking for pointers, look no further than the source material; the classic hearse is the ideal set of ghost-hunting wheels. A compact car may cost much less, but you can only pile so much gear on it; the larger vehicle may be able to hold more gear, but that’s gear you won’t be able to afford after you shell out for the vehicle. Buy traps aplenty but don’t ignore your other equipment. Always plant your two ghostbusters at opposite ends of the screen, have them face each other, and then edge them in closer to catch their prey. (And remember, crossing the streams is bad.)
These days, conventional wisdom says movie tie-in games aren’t worth the trouble. Ghostbusters is a ghostly relic from an era when that wasn’t necessarily true, because the name of the game was still making it fun.