Tag Archive: twin-stick


Worse than crossing the streams

I love Ghostbusters. I’ve spent probably an unhealthy amount of my life memorizing lines from the movies, collecting action figures, and watching the cartoons. And yes, before you even ask, I am a god. I even enjoyed the brand new reboot with Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig—it’s not perfect, but it was surprisingly a lot of fun. So, it was nothing short of painful to have to apply our review process to Activision’s latest licensed dumpster fire based off the aforementioned reboot.

In the Ghostbusters game, the four ladies from the movie have taken their show on the road and are busting ghosts for the president in Washington D.C. However, they couldn’t just up and leave New York City defenseless incase there were any more paranormal problems. So, before they left, they recruited four brash afterlife aficionados like themselves onto the team to man the firehouse in their absence. And, wouldn’t you know it, as soon as the ladies leave, a handful of hauntings pop up.

Ghostbusters is an arcade action-shooter, done in an abstract art style reminiscent of cartoons like Extreme Ghostbusters. It works well enough, at least in terms of character design. The ghosts, ghouls, and even the ‘busters exaggerated looks and hard lines work to pop off the screen, even considering the high camera angle.

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Unfortunately, the rest of the game’s design is a disaster. The levels themselves are boring and bloated, lasting anywhere between 30 and 60 minutes, completely jettisoning the speed you’d expect from the genre—not to mention you have to traipse through the same generic graveyards, subways, and interiors the entire time. To make matters even worse, the gameplay itself is as repetitive as the level design. Each character carries three weapons: the classic proton pack, specialty guns, and grenades. This helps offer a little diversity between each character, as the shotgunner with the electric grenades has to play differently from the proton mini-gunner with the slime grenades. There are also dual proton pistols and a proton assault rifle, but once you get past the weapons, it all boils down to blasting away the same handful of enemy types after you turn every corner.

Sometimes you’ll come across a more powerful ghost who you’ll have to throw in a trap. From there, a ridiculous minigame starts, which requires you to pull in the reverse direction of the ghost and button mash for score multipliers—an idea that quickly becomes as dreary as everything else the game tasks you with. At the merciful conclusion to each stage, you tally scores and get awarded experience points that help boost the strength of your characters, but only human controlled characters can keep their points.

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When playing four-player couch co-op, this isn’t much of a problem—beyond the fact that you have four people bored out of their minds instead of one. (Misery loves company, but I’ll have to make it up to my fellow EGM crew members at some point for subjecting them to this torture.) Playing by yourself, the game is easy enough to get through, but the AI does absolutely nothing to help you out. In fact, they tend to get stuck on invisible walls more often than they do anything useful in regards to busting ghosts. From my solo and co-op play sessions, it feels like the game was balanced for one-player, since more human players speed up the push through each level (still not enough to make the experience tolerable). So, Ghostbusters doesn’t even scale difficulty for multiple players.

If all this wasn’t bad enough, it only gets worse with the story, which basically copies the movie’s plot nearly point for point. You have to catch all the ghosts the ladies let get away in the film, with only two original bosses added to flesh the game out. The boss battles are a nice change of pace, but considering it is literally hours between them, they can’t salvage what appears to have been a forcibly lengthened experience to try to quantify a ridiculous price tag.

Ghostbusters tries to channel the spirit of old-school, arcade action shooters of years past, but it fails to capture any of the fun those games are known for. Even the addition of four-player couch co-op can’t save this from being a boring mess of an experience. Ghostbusters comes off as nothing short of a lazy, hastily thrown together movie cash-in attempt that can’t satisfy even the most hardcore fans of this iconic franchise, and all copies should be locked safely away in a containment unit somewhere. Light is green, trap is clean.

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Developer: FireForge Games • Publisher: Activision • ESRB: E10+ – Everyone 10 and older • Release Date: 07.12.16
2.0
Ghostbusters is a bloated, boring piece of trash that forcibly lengthened an already miserable experience to try to justify a ridiculous price tag. We can only hope to return it forthwith to its place of origin—or the nearest parallel dimension.
The Good I don’t have to play it anymore.
The Bad It is the worst kind of licensed video game. It is a cheaply thrown together, boring, repetitive mess that isn’t worth anyone’s time.
The Ugly I think I’m starting to develop PTSD from all the awful Activision licensed games I’ve had to review over the years.
Ghostbusters is available on Xbox One, PS4, and PC. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox One. Review code was provided by Activision for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.

An assault on the senses

When I first got my hands on a Windows Surface demo featuring Halo: Spartan Assault at E3 last year, I knew I’d never review the game unless it had a controller. Playing a twin-stick shooter without, ya know, twin sticks made the entire experience utterly frustrating, and I just couldn’t get past the idea of the inferior controls.

So, when I heard the game was coming to consoles and PC, I figured I could just wait for that version, since Spartan Assault’s largest, most obvious problem would be solved. Oh, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Even though the input issues have been addressed with a traditional controller, there’s so much more disappointment lurking beneath the Surface.

Spartan Assault’s single-player campaign passes itself off as a training simulation where up-and-coming Spartans can relive and learn from historic battles—fought by Halo 4’s Sarah Palmer and a new Spartan named Edward Davis—that took place on Draetheus V and its moon. The game also features a separate online co-op campaign in which you and a friend can take on the Flood. In regards to enemies, locations, and general aesthetics, Spartan Assault looks and sounds very much like a Halo game, just from a different camera angle.

Single-player is broken down into 30 missions across six chapters, offering an intriguing slice of Palmer’s backstory in bite-sized chunks that shouldn’t take more than three to five hours (six to eight if you also do the co-op adventure) to get through. Unfortunately, beyond the superficial details and the possible appeal of learning more about Palmer, there’s really little else here to draw longtime Halo fans in. And while the game’s length may sound short, Spartan Assault still finds a way to feel like a drag.

Now, I understand that twin-stick shooters aren’t really known for their depth of gameplay, but in trying to impart a stronger Halo feel, Spartan Assault also removes any and all charm that usually comes with this genre. Typically in such offerings, you eventually come across opposition that you can’t overcome through brute force alone. You need to strategize, even if it just means running behind cover and letting your shields recover. I never had this feeling in any of the game’s 30 missions. I ran in guns a-blazin’ every time and walked away. In a traditional Halo title, this might make you feel like a badass. In Spartan Assault, it made me feel bored.

The game does try to make things a little difficult by giving you limited ammo on all your weapons, something you don’t normally see in twin-stick shooters. In most games of this genre, you always have one weapon, even if it’s a weak little pistol that has infinite ammo for the sake of aiming, since it’s not inherently the easiest thing with the three-quarters top-down view here. By not providing any traditional aim assists with a laser pointer or an infinite-ammo weapon, the developers want you to be careful about wasting ammo, since aiming remains an iffy prospect.

This point becomes moot, however, due to the fact that many of the weapons are overpowered, and there’s so much ammo littered about the battlefield that I couldn’t imagine ever running out. And the fact the game tries to create difficulty through the genre’s natural limitations—and does nothing to hide this—just comes across as lazy design.

But the frustration doesn’t stop there. You earn XP as you play to unlock weapons. But instead of fully unlocking the weapons, you’re only renting them for that particular task, meaning you have to buy the best weapons again and again and again.

Or, if you’re rich, you can spend real-world cash to rent the guns for each of the game’s 30 missions—because it’s not enough that Spartan Assault for consoles ($15) costs twice as much as its Surface and Windows Phone ($6.99) siblings. Even though you really don’t need to buy any of the weapons to beat the game, you can’t help but feel like you’re missing something without trying them all at least once. The game wants to charge you even further to have the best experience possible.

And therein lies the true issue with Halo: Spartan Assault. It’s still just a mobile game using the same tired nickel-and-dime tactics to squeeze a few more dollars out of you. It’s just been cheaply ported over so that you can use a controller—which, at least, does work much better than the touchscreen inputs ever did. Sarah Palmer’s story, as much as I like the character, isn’t enough to make this anywhere near a worthwhile purchase. The developers couldn’t even tack on local co-op, which I would’ve enjoyed when taking on the Flood (in what proved to be a slightly more interesting experience than the single player campaign, if only because I was playing with a friend).

Players won’t be missing anything by mercifically passing on this one–Halo: Spartan Assault is easily the worst experience to ever feature one of the most famous names in gaming.

Developer: 343 Industries/Vanguard Entertainment • Publisher: Microsoft Studios • ESRB: T – Teen • Release Date: 12.23.13
3.5
A cheap port of a mobile game with glaring flaws at its very core that does a disservice to the Halo brand, Spartan Assault should be avoided like the Flood.
The Good Provides a bit more backstory to Spartan Sarah Palmer.
The Bad One of the worst twin-stick shooters I’ve ever played.
The Ugly The item rental/microtransaction system.
Halo: Spartan Assault is available on Xbox One, Xbox 360, and Windows 8-enabled devices (Windows Phone, SmartGlass). Primary version reviewed was for Xbox One.