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Hope for Ghostbusters? Probably Not.

Ghostbusters is one of the longest-running sci-fi franchises in both Hollywood and video gaming yet it seems to consistently struggle with its identity. Bookmarked by the very popular Ghostbusters (1984) on the Commodore 64 and the decidedly more average Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed (2022), the franchise has touched plenty of different genres and technologies in its nearly 40-year run, to end up almost nowhere.

Ghostbusters: Rise of the Ghost Lord

The good news is that Ghostbusters is one of those movies that the public is never going to fall out of love with. For better or worse, this has allowed creators to experiment with Egon, Ray, Winston, and Peter without much concern about dumping the franchise into one of its own ghost traps. Thus far, we’ve seen AR games, mobile games, console games (of both the single-player and multiplayer varieties), and, now, an upcoming VR title.

In the latter case, Ghostbusters: Rise of the Ghost Lord is due for release towards the end of 2023. Unfortunately, even before release, it’s plain that this is another experiment targeting a niche audience, i.e. owners of VR headsets, a market that Apple recently made much more exclusive with its $3499 Vision Pro device. Still, the numbers are trending upwards so Rise of the Ghost Lord isn’t necessarily the bit of madness it might seem to be.

Ghostbusters developers do have a bit of an obsession with what be called throwaway titles though, embracing fads over more proven technologies like consoles. Two good examples are the AR games hinted at earlier. These are Ghostbusters: Afterlife ScARe (2021) and Ghostbusters World (2018). As a Pokemon Go clone, World lasted just two years before – predictably – being shut down.

A Multi-Character Approach

Ghostbusters’ venture hasn’t been without its success stories. The Ghostbusters-themed DLC for Planet Coaster is considered one of the better experiments in the franchise, despite not being a ‘game’ in the strictest sense. There’s also the Ghostbusters Triple Slime slot game that haunts online casinos’ real money sections. This 3-reel game features the beloved monsters Slimer and Stay Puft.

As for more conventional video games, Ghostbusters: The Video Game is widely considered the best game of recent decades but it had very little competition between 1993 and its 2009 release date, other than a puzzle game, a pachinko game, a light-gun shooter, and a poorly thought-out collection of minigames. Evidently, twenty years ago, Ghostbusters’ unusual approach to video gaming was visible already.

The worry is that developers don’t quite know what to do with Ghostbusters, given that it requires a multi-character approach to gameplay and could actually suit any genre at a push. Sadly, all this experimentation seems to have reduced the series to an also-ran in the world of video gaming, especially now that the franchise has moved away from the now-legendary original cast.

As for Ghostbusters: Rise of the Ghost Lord, the upcoming game couldn’t be better placed to defy expectations. Whether it will sink back into a cold grave remains to be seen.


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