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Ghostbusters Day#3 – Wait, was that actually creepy?

In Day#3, the game actually gets pretty creepy. Savepoints improve, but I keep hitting five-death-in-a-row snags. And someone obviously played Psychonauts here. Have to admit that the game is improving, even if it stubbornly keeps doing stupid, stupid things. Spoilers within.

Back into the book golem breach. After another five deaths, I finally got the pattern down and got through the scene. From there, it’s a trip down and down in the library. The game improves significantly in this section, although there are still some drags.

Drags first. The story is still half-wed to the first movie. The whole plot here is a relevation of the library ghost, who was apparently killed by some ancient-book-thief/serial killer named the Collector. You chase the Librarian around for the majority of the level until it finally manifests as a sub-boss in a visually confusing fight. The movie references are officially starting to get old. All the collector stuff would be much cooler if it weren’t struggling to be slavishly referential.

Oh, and more annoying pseudo-interactivity. Cut scene when we finally get to the place where the librarian was killed. It’s a long cut-scene, showing her reading a book, and a hand reaching from the book to attack her. Lots of dialogue between Ray and Egon. The scene ends with them concluding that we should take the book from the Librarian and Ray turning to me to say, “Go get her, killer!” So I get control again in order to walk over to the ghost and hit A to take the book. I get it. That’s all. Then we stand around listening to Ray and Egon talk for a minute before the boss battle starts. Really? Did I really need to have the five seconds of control to get the book? That’s not agency. It doesn’t make me feel connected or responsible — it makes me annoyed that the cut scene didn’t just do it in a more entertaining way.

However, we are actually seeing some great atmosphere. The tunnels in the library basement are nicely dark and with your PKE meter active moody. There’s a great part where you’re walking through shelves of books and when you go in a wrong direction, a shelf slides at you to block you. And there’s an awesome little scene when you wander into a children’s reading room and hear the laughing and whispers of children. Later there’s a part when you’re in a hallway full of mirrors and a Cultist (I don’t know what that means yet) ghost is popping in and out of the walls to spook you. There are some really nice horror touches all through the middle part of the library, and while it isn’t actually scary, you have to give the level designers credit for putting some time into the atmosphere.

In terms of gameplay, I am definitely enjoying the game more. There are a lot of different enemies in the library: two different golems, flying books, paper demons, two bosses. They each have different strategies,so the game feels fresh. You get three new weapons, including a ghost slower and a slime shooter that you can also use to tether elements of the scenery and pull them around for puzzle gaming fun. Perhaps most importantly, after the book golem, I went up to the end of the session without another set of consecutive Mission Fails. And to my great pleasure, when I did fail, the savepoint was positioned close to the scene in which I died. Here’s hoping they learned that lesson for the duration.

About halfway through this session, you fight the Librarian boss. She has these book lecturn things floating around her as a shield. You have to destroy them before you can bust her. The problem is with all of the flying books, streams, etc. you literally cannot see the lecturns. It makes the battle three times longer than it should be.

After that, you enter a portal to the spirit version of the library, and run through a largely linear set of slightly surreal rooms with different enemies waiting. The portal transitions are cool, and the set-ups of enemies exploit the space nicely. Still, the whole thing feels like a Psychonauts level. There’s a part at the end of this phase where a staircase breaks apart and you have to slime tether it together which felt as though it was literally taken from the cutting room floor of the mailman world (that’s a Psychonauts reference). The level is fun, but it feels a bit derivative. Maybe that’s unfair; Schafer’s game is both huge and kind of all-consumingly imaginative.

Library scene ends with the Collecter boss in which you have to first use your green slime gun to destroy the boss’s evil black slime (remember the second movie everyone? Yeah, I don’t either), then capture beam its mask off, and then zap it as it dervishes around the room. We’re back in the ball-breaking part of the game, and I decided to stop after I died several times at the last stage. Let’s see if I just need a night to absorb this one.

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