I’ll say one thing for Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime – on paper, it sounds like it has potential. A four-player top-down shooter with a Ghostbusters theme is the sort of design idea that gives me tingles.
Sanctum of Slime, by virtue of getting exactly none of the above description right, doesn’t even come close to reaching that potential.
As one of four rookie Ghostbusters you’re tasked with blasting your way through a series of linear levels. Upon walking into a new room the doors lock behind you and waves of ghosts appear. When they’re all dead you progress onto the next room.
It’s fairly basic twin-stick stuff, enlivened by a choice of three colour-coded weapons: yellow ghosts take extra damage from the slow-firing yellow ‘shotgun’ while red ghosts vanish quickly when zapped with a red proton stream, for instance.
Unfortunately, as Sanctum of Slime is designed around four-player co-op, most ghosts take an agonising length of time to kill in solo play. Rather than enjoying lots of hectic run-and-gun battles, combat generally consists of trudging slowly around a room in circles in a bid to avoid enemies, while keeping up a constant stream of fire. Enemies never properly react to your attacks and so, when combined with their generous quota of health, weapons feel pathetically weak.
Not a good start.
Naturally, the reverse isn’t true: two hits is normally enough to kill you, and once downed you need to rely on your allies making their way over to you and hammering the button to revive you. If all four rookies fall, then you’ll restart from the beginning of the room you were dispatched in. At least the checkpointing is consistent.
The end of every level is guarded by a boss, most of which are defeated by – you guessed it – trudging slowly around the room in circles, keeping up a constant stream of fire. Despite the regular enemies impressive punishment-absorning talents, they have nothing on the bosses. If all four players are firing continuously, their health bar drops about a tenth every five seconds. If your team is down and you find space to revive them, you’re going to be there for awhile.
There’s a degree of entertainment when playing with others. If you’ve got a full party of four then you’re likely to see a bit of genuine competition as each player attempts to destroy as much furniture as possible for the bonus points. Generally, you can rely on your team to have a bit of sense when it comes to picking targets and avoiding ghosts. Sanctum of Slime isn’t a good twin-stick shooter in these circumstances – it’s still incredibly repetitive and painfully slow – but a modicum of entertainment can be drawn from it. That’s assuming you’re playing locally, of course, because Xbox LIVE multiplayer is hampered by a series of irritating problems.
My first Xbox LIVE game ended unceremoniously when one player was apparently revived but remained on the floor as an immobile, rotating corpse leaving us unable to trigger the enemies in the next room. A later game had two players drop out halfway through the level meaning (because it’s not possible to join a game in progress) my remaining teammate and I were left with AI companions.
This problem is amplified due to the fact that the AI is thicker than a sack of doorknobs and represents the single biggest reason for the game’s utter failure to provide any sort of worthwhile single-player experience. The AI will use the wrong weapons against the wrong ghosts. The AI will stand next to enemies that specialise in melee attacks. The AI will rush to revive you if you’re downed – even if you’re surrounded by ghosts that will instantly kill it. The AI will walk into fire, stand on traps and generally do everything in its power to turn the game into a frustrating chore.
If it made good use of the Ghostbusters license then I might be able to forgive the AI issues and squeeze out a little joy, but… no, it doesn’t. You only ever see the original Ghostbusters during game’s badly-written and tragically unfunny comic-book cutscenes; the rookies themselves merely poorly characterised stereotypes. There is a little bit of fanservice in that you get to blast through a few familiar locations (like the Sedgwick Hotel) but we did that back in 2009’s big-budget Ghostbusters game. Plus, that game had the original writers and voice talent, while Sanctum of Slime has no voice acting, sparse music and repetitive sound effects.
Perhaps its biggest sin, however, is that crossing the streams does nothing.
I’m not finished complaining yet; I haven’t even touched on the fact that the game runs out of ideas frighteningly fast. After the halfway point you go back through all the previous levels again, only with the difficulty significantly raised, and usually for the flimsiest narrative excuses imaginable. The semi-final level is a boss rush, serving only to remind you of how samey and boring the bosses were first time around.
As for the level design? Well, what says Ghostbusters more than shooting giant spiders in a sewer?
Sanctum of Slime is a bad top-down shooter with problematic co-op elements that makes terrible use of a beloved license. The game design is banal, the online co-op has issues and the single-player is an exercise is pained frustration. You could conceivably enjoy an evening with Sanctum of Slime if you were very, very bored, but there are much better examples of the genre available.
Version tested: Xbox 360