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Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime preview: The new school


Atari is being very careful with Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime. The game features four wannabe 'busters and takes place sometime after the events of the second film. With talk of a third film (thanks in part to positive reception of Ghostbusters: The Video Game), Atari doesn't want to back itself into a corner. Thus we get Sanctum of Slime, a dungeon-crawler with an emphasis on action.

Gallery: Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime (2/15/11) | 5 Photos

The lack of a AAA retail follow-up is part of a new strategy at Atari, where the company is trying to shift its business more towards digital wares than traditional retail offerings, Jonathon Moses, senior producer at Atari, told me. "Digital distribution of product is where we see the future and we're getting into it big time. Sanctum of Slime has been designed with that audience in mind."

Before getting into the game, I had to call Moses out on one thing: crossing the streams. Any Ghostbusters fan will tell you that one should never cross the streams -- unless a licensed doctor tells you it's OK -- but in Sanctum of Slime, it looks like streams are crossing all of the time. After close inspection, I'm pleased to reveal that the streams are actually going over and under eachother. They never collide.

"We wanted this to be action-action, and we tried a couple different models where it'd stun you or open up a hole to another dimension [if you crossed streams], but these didn't really work. So they go in and around eachother and never touch." The emphasis on action is apparent -- though there are environments to explore and though at first glance Sanctum of Slime may seem like a dungeon crawler, at its heart it's a twin-stick shooter.

Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime preview
Each cadet has three different weapons to call upon, each color-coded to a certain button on the Xbox 360 controller (coloring is a strong theme throughout). Red represents the Proton Beam; yellow is for a shotgun-like electricity blast that is good for close range; and blue is a single-shot, projectile-based weapon. Knowing when to use each weapon is as simple as matching its color to the color of the enemy you're fighting (e.g. red enemies are defeated by using the Proton Beam).

I played two different levels of Sanctum and the emphasis on action was evident. The game settled into a rhythm early on: I'd enter a room, fight a few waves of ghosts, then move on to the next room, rinse and repeat. The tension of constantly switching weapons and dodging enemies felt great, but the lack of upgrades and any additional unlockables was a pretty noticeable blemish.

The game only has three different "guns" and ... that's it. Replayability exists only in besting your friends' scores, apparently. Another problem I noticed was the speed of the characters: Everyone moved pretty slowly, even slower when firing while moving.

Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime, despite some pretty obvious omissions, was still fun to play and I imagine even more fun when you've got some friends to bust ghosts with. However, without the star talent and no kind of player progression (see: incentive to come back after the first go-round the haunted block), I'm worried that Sanctum of Slime fails to realize its full potential.

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