Total time played: 1 Hour today (dozens of hours since I was a kid)
Short review: A poorly executed licensed game with a near impossible final stage that almost ruined one of my favorite 80’s franchises.
Interesting links related to Ghostbusters
- Video Playthrough (17 minutes 23 seconds)
- Video Review (AVGN)
- Stairwell Glitch (James and Mike Mondays)
For this game I have to go way back in time. My grandfather lived out of town when I was young and I didn’t get to see him as often as I would have liked. But, when I did visit we always had a lot of fun and he would introduce me to movies that I had never seen. The most memorable of those movies being Ghostbusters. I was definitely too young the first time I saw it but that didn’t stop it from becoming one of my favorite movies of all time.
As well as owning the movie (which he undoubtably recorded off of HBO) he had an Apple computer and the Ghostbusters game. This is my earliest gaming memory, playing the Apple version of the Ghostbusters game that was later ported to the NES.
I never did beat the computer game and never did own the NES game as a kid because it wasn’t that good and I played it more than enough times on the computer. But, in high school, my friend Jimmy (who I have known since I was 7 and still work with today) gave me his copy of the NES game. I played it a bit but after determining the stairwell scene at the end of the game was impossible put it back on the shelf for almost 20 years, until today, when I finally beat it.
Let’s talk about how to play the game:
The point of the game is to earn money by defeating ghosts to buy equipment that will be used to kill Zuul. Here are the screens you will see in the game:
This is the main screen of the game. You control the Ghostbusters logo and drive up and down the streets searching for buildings that flash red and then enter those buildings to capture ghosts.
If you drive your logo over the yellow ghosts they freeze in place which accomplishes 2 things:
- It keeps the ghosts from entering the Zuul building which slows the PK Energy meter at the bottom of the screen. This meter determines when you can enter the Zuul building to fight the final boss. You don’t want the meter to fill up too quickly or you won’t have the items you need to fight the boss and you don’t want it to fill too slowly or you will slowly go mad from the monotonous gameplay and annoying music.
- The ghosts will appear on the driving screen when you enter a building. If you have the ghost vacuum you can suck them up on the highway and earn quick money.
The “specialty” buildings are as follows:
GS – Gas Station – you will most likely spend a lot of time driving to and from the gas station as the Ecto-1 guzzles gas more ferociously than a Hummer.
GBHQ – Ghostbusters Headquarters – If you have the regular trap you will need to visit GBHQ after capturing every ghost to empty the trap. If you have the super trap you never need to visit GBHQ.
Shop – Where you spend your hard earned money to upgrade your equipment.
Zuul – Once the PK Energy is high enough you will be asked to enter this building via a scrolling text on the screen. You can ignore it if you aren’t ready for the final fight but if you ignore it too long the game ends.
The shop will need to me your first visit of the game. You start off with $10,000 to spend however you wish. There is a second page of items you can purchase if you keep scrolling down. I typically buy the following items to start the game:
Ghost Vacuum – used to suck up ghosts in the driving stage that you drove over on the map screen. This is the quickest way for me to make money in the game.
Capture Beam – a short beam used to capture ghosts on the ghost busting screen. This is a short beam that I upgrade to the much longer hyper beam as soon as I can.
Single trap – I use this until I have enough to buy the super trap which doesn’t need to be emptied and is a huge time saver.
The ghost food, ghost suit and sound generator are needed during the stair climbing portion of the game. But, thanks to this video I learned about a small glitch in the level that keeps you from needing those items and greatly increases the speed at which the game can be played.
Once you have loaded up on items and driven over all the yellow ghosts on the map screen and selected to enter a building that is flashing red you are greeted with the driving stage.
If you have the ghost vacuum you can drive over a ghost in the road and hit the A button to suck it up. If you hold down your car slows down making it easier to avoid obstacles and uses less gas but drags on the stage for far too long. If you hold up you fly through the stage, use a lot of gas and risk getting hit by other drivers.
If you are hit by another driver it will cost you between $200-$400 which adds up fast. Notice in the image above there is a distance meter on the left and gas gauge on the right. The distance meter changes based on how long you drove around on the map screen before entering a building. If the gas gauge hits E while driving the Ghostbusters get out of the car and push it to the nearest gas station which means you don’t get to go to the building you selected on the map screen and fight ghosts. In the driving stages you can pickup red gas barrels as you drive but I found myself missing almost every single one of them.
The driving stage is great for making quick money if you have the ghost vacuum but everything else about it is pretty annoying.
If you happen to make it to your destination without running out of gas you will be greeted by 4 ghosts. The controls here are a little wonky. To start both ghostbusters move together and are holding the trap between them. Move where you want to drop the trap and hit A. Now you control the left ghostbuster, if you tap B you can control the right ghostbuster. Up and down change the direction of your proton beam. I found that never adjusting the proton beam path was very effective. If you move the proton beam of a ghostbuster and it touches the other ghostbusters beam the stage is over.
If the ghosts enter your beam they are frozen, you can walk them over to the trap and hit A to deploy the trap and capture the ghosts. You want to get as many ghosts in your beam as possible because the dollar amount collected for each subsequent ghost doubles. 1 ghost nets $200 and if you get all 4 ghosts you get $3,000. Be careful as you only get to deploy your trap once so make sure as many ghosts are in its path as possible.
After the ghost stage you are returned to the map stage. If you have the regular trap you will need to go to GBHQ to unload the trap. If you have the super trap you can just enter another flashing red building.
This sequence of events is the entire game until you enter the Zuul building.
After you bust ghosts for a bit and upgrade your gear you are asked to enter the Zuul building. Once you do you are greeted with this lovely stairwell and 4 ghosts. This is where my game always ended when I was a kid. If you get hit 3 times by the ghosts it is game over.
If you are lucky enough to have the anti-ghost suit you can get hit either 5 or 6 times. If you have the sound generator the ghosts move much slower and if you have the ghost food it attracts the ghosts but as soon as the food is off the screen the ghosts come right back for you.
There are a few things that make this stage impossible without the glitch mentioned above…
you don’t move by holding left and right. You move by holding left or right while tapping the A button. One tap equals 1 step. It takes about 100 steps to walk across the floor and up the stairs and you have to climb up 23 flights of stairs. If you don’t have a turbo controller you will hit the A button a minimum of 2,300 times. I actually didn’t use a turbo controller and my thumb was cramping by the top of the staircase.
The key to the glitch that makes this stage beatable is discussed in this video but for those too lazy to watch the video I will explain:
Walk up to the 4th floor and stand in front of the door, let the ghosts hit you twice and then open the door to reveal a ghosts who will hit you a 3rd time. Typically this means game over but for some reason if the ghost behind the door hits you on your last life it makes it to where you can get hit unlimited times by the ghosts. By doing this I was able to get to the top of the stairs with no trouble, I probably got knocked down around 25 times by the ghosts which is almost 10 times as often as the game allows under normal conditions. What this means is that I would never have been able to do this without the glitch.
Here is the final screen of the game. Zuul stands motionless in the middle of the screen and shoots projectiles at you while the two demon dogs do the same. Zuul also releases cute little white ghosts with their tongues out. This screen of the game plays like a bullet hell shooter and took me several times to actually beat. If you need some reprieve from the bullets you can walk towards the bottom of the screen and are greeted by StayPuft climbing the building. The more times you visit this screen the closer to the top he gets, and if he reaches the top of the building it is game over.
There are two reasons to walk into the StayPuft screen:
- to clear the Zuul screen of bullets and ghosts. When you walk back into the Zuul screen after seeing StayPuft the screen is clear giving you the change to get in a few hits before all the bullets are back.
- On accident. If you get anywhere near the bottom of the Zuul screen it will scroll to StayPuft, I did this on accident more than I did on purpose.
After you defeat Zuul you are greeted with one of the worst ending screens of all time. So. Many. Typos.
Without the glitch in the stairwell stage Ghostbusters would be impossible. Since this game is one of my earliest video game memories and reminds me of my grandfather I have a soft spot for it but even so, I cannot justify giving it a very good review score because it is not a good game.