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Wednesday, October 1, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 63.0° F  Overcast
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Ghostbusters: The Video Game resurrects a slimy public service
DS, PlayStation 2 & 3, Wii, Xbox 360 (Rated Teen)

In the greatest TV show of all time, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, there was an episode in 2003 in which Buffy told Spike (the soulful vampire) that she needed to phone someone.

"Who ya gonna call?" Spike asked Buffy.

Buffy looked at Spike askance. She couldn't believe he accidentally uttered the old Ghostbusters catchphrase from 1984.

"God," Spike mumbled, "that phrase is never gonna be usable again, is it?"

"Doubt it," Buffy said.

Sadly - or happily, if you're a Ghostbusters fan - that phrase has been resurrected big time for a brand-new Ghostbusters game.

The game has been, among our gaming classes, one of the most anticipated events of 2009. Why? Because gamers grew up on Ghostbusters. Because Bill Murray, our best living comedic actor, is in it. Because we had seen preview clips showing how true-to-the-films the game is.

And because two writer-stars from Ghostbusters, Harold Ramis and Dan Akroyd, co-wrote the game's hefty script as a sort of third entry in the film series - even though they are also making a third film, Ghostbusters III, set for release in 2012. Yes, 2012.

The game does feel like a playable movie. You can't say that of many movie-based games. You watch long, cinematic cut scenes, where the original characters (voiced by the original actors) crack jokes. And unlike most games, the jokes don't all serve the plot; they also wonderfully define the characters.

In an early scene, Murray deadpans, "I'm not taking the stairs. Today's not my cardio day."

At many moments like that, Ghostbusters shines as a unique example of how to integrate film and gaming: Hire the best writers to write dialogue and plot before, during and after the action. And hire rare talents like Murray to deliver the lines. Expensive? Probably. But effective.

Unfortunately, the game play is not as good as the cinema. It's just good enough to play to get to the film parts.

You portray a new recruit on the Ghostbusters team, using your plasma gun to shoot, subdue and trap slimy ghosts (creative ghosts, like the ones shaped like chandeliers, because they've inhabited chandeliers).

This action can be fun at times, since your plasma gun rips up walls, chairs, cars, tablecloths and almost anything else that gets in your gun's way.

But busting ghosts can feel repetitive after a while. And ghosts often escape. Then you must wear dumb goggles to find them, and I just want to kill some ghosts, already.

So, I revere the incredible craftsmanship, and Murray, and the very funny script. But the gaming is not nearly addictive.

Honestly, Ghostbusters most reminds me of the first Buffy the Vampire game, because I loved that game with the heat of a thousand stars, being a Buffy fanatic, yet that game, as well, valued the experience of wit and character of a familiar narrative over tight game play.

So although it's refreshing to experience a playable movie, a game still must be, above all else, super-fun to interact with. If you want a second opinion, I don't know who ya gonna call.

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