Ghostbusters Wii Preview
I generally don’t give the Wii version of a multi-platform title a second look (usually, not even a first.) They’re so often watered down versions of the superior 360 or PS3 versions, sporting weaker visuals, less content, wonky Wii-mote controls, no achievements or trophies, and no online functionality, that I don’t waste my time. Give me a new Mario, Metroid, or Zelda entry, and I’ll fire up the Wii faster than you can say Reggie Fils-Aime, but given a choice between, say, Tomb Raider: Underworld or Call of Duty: World at War on my Wii or 360, and you can bet your balance board that that layer of dust on Nintendo’s cute little console will remain untouched.
Thankfully, developers are beginning to get wise to this familiar faux pas, as witnessed by the recently released Shaun White Snowboarding: Road Trip, a totally different take on the carrot-topped boarder’s gaming debut from the next-gen versions. With an entirely different visual style, balance board support, and a more reigned-in approach from the other versions’ wide-open world, Road Trip actually managed to beat its ambitious, but ultimately under whelming console brethren.
After being pleasantly surprised by White’s powder carving Wii effort, I was eager to check out Ghostbusters, a title I’d heard was taking a similar non-port approach on the family friendly console. Given the opportunity to check out the game, and speak with Atari producer Todd Slepian, I immediately asked about the special attention the Wii version was receiving. “The Wii version follows the same story as the next-gens, however, the Wii is not a port of the next-gen versions…it’s not a port-down of the PS3 and 360 versions. It has its own animation and art style. And although the story is the same, some of the level layout is different, some of the enemies are different…they’re not the same game. Where the next-gen versions have gone for a more realistic and lifelike style, this version leans towards a more cartoony style.”
Sure enough, firing up the Wii treated me to a Ghostbusters that looked drastically different from the other versions’ near photo-realistic visual presentation. The characters and environments display a more cartoonish look, one that had me recalling the Ghostbusters’ cartoons rather than the feature films. The stars’ likenesses are still represented, only on the Wii they take on a more charming caricature look. The comedic voiceover banter between Harold Ramis’s Spengler and Dan Aykroyd’s Stantz is also still in full effect, and it actually lends itself nicely to this stylized presentation.
The Wii version, because of its less horsepower hogging but equally engaging visual style, doesn’t need to skimp on the effects, either. A few months back, when I got to check out the game on a 360, I was impressed by its rendering of destructible environments—an oh so important aspect of any ghoul-versus-ghostbuster battle—but i found the Wii version displayed a nearly identical variety of explosive goodies; with proton pack firing on all cylinders, I was blasting paintings off walls, popping light bulbs like balloons, sending furniture soaring every which way, and turning neatly stacked piles of books into clouds of papery debris.
Of course, if you’re going to have this kind of power strapped to your back, why waste it on static items? Once the spooks came out of the woodwork, the fun with my Wii-mote-enabled proton pack really began to ramp up. Firing the main beam via the Wii-mote’s trigger/B button felt as natural as if I’d had the actual spectral-sucking apparatus in my hand. And throwing out a trap with an underhand toss motion of the nunchuck only enhanced the ghost-wrangling experience. These moves were followed by an almost fishing-like mini-game that saw me guiding the ghost—against its stubborn torque—towards directions on the screen marked by directional arrows. Once I had the slime-spitting menace over the trap, a quick downward flick of the Wii-mote ended the fight.
The three step process of stunning, wrangling, and trapping a ghost is the kind of fun my 13-year old self never would have dreamed possible back when I was watching the original film. The Wii controls make for a fun, addictive, and rewarding ghost-trapping experience. That said, the process does take some time and quite a bit of practice; it’s a hoot once you get it down, but the learning curve may not be one the Mii-making masses are willing to climb. When asked about the battles being a bit too hardcore, Slepian responded “They throw a stream, then lay out a trap, and then they fight them until they wear them down and drag them to the trap, but based on what we’ve seen through focus testing, we’re are trying to make this more user friendly.”
The Wii-mote controls--some of the best I've seen since Metroid Prime 3--also receive a few other nice tweaks that put you right in the thick of things; the A button can fire off a more powerful secondary weapon, like the effective boson dart, the Wii-mote needs to be shaken when you’re slimed, and a nice vibration buzzes through the controller when your equipment overheats. Your ghost tracking PKE meter also feels like a natural fit mapped to the motion controls. When the Wii’s unique mechanics were first announced, most agreed the set-up offered tremendous potential for a dedicated lightsaber swinging game. Who knew that it would be the Ghostbusters’ famed proton pack, then, that’d really show what the waggle-happy controller was capable of?
Aside from practically putting you in the beige jumpsuit with its immersion-pushing mechanics, the Wii version also packs a few additional surprises. For one, it’ll allow armchair ghost-hunting pals to tackle the entire campaign via co-operative split-screen (a feature absent in the next-gen versions.) It’ll also give she-Ghostbusters a chance to save NYC from the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, as the Wii version offers the option to play through as a male or female recruit. These significant additions, supported by the totally original artistic approach and fun controls, make Ghostbusters on the Wii worth checking out. It’s a bit early to tell if it’ll pull the rare feat of trumping the 360 and PS3 versions, but at the very least, it shows promise that developers are beginning to hear the desperate pleas of all those burned by Wii shovelware.