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Ghostbusters Day#6 – The Return of Bad Feedback

What’s that story about the scorpion and the frog? Well, if the frog was clear, competent feedback and the scorpion was Ghostbusters, you pretty much have this session down. There’s quite good stuff in today’s play, including some good fights and one beautiful level, but the designers simply cannot make the gameplay easy-to-follow. Grrr. Spoilers and ranting to follow.

So you’ll remember that I ended the last session in the HQ, not having started the mission, right? Well, I started tonight at the cut scene for the next mission in the hotel. As I honestly didn’t even remember that the next mission was at the hotel, this was a bit jarring. I missed the first half minute of dialogue just trying to figure out what was going on.

Plot is that we need to get to the 12th floor where Ilyssa said she felt drawn to. The power’s been turned off in the hotel, so we need to get it back up before we can do anything else. We follow the hotel manager (one of the better secondary voice actors, by the way) to the back up generator, which is in a roomful of water with a little platform where the switch is. You turn the switch on, but it turns out there’s a loose power cable in the water that electrifies it. I have to use my slime tether to pull it to the ceiling. Not a bad puzzle, except I can’t see the cord. It’s a black cord in dark water, and it doesn’t register on the PKE view. Feedback — again you hurt me in this game.

There’s a fight while I’m heading back to the now-operational elevators in the hotel kitchen. It’s fun — the core busting ghost mechanic is grooving along quite well. The fight does take longer than it should, as my AI allies get obsessed with shooting down the flying pots while ignoring the final ghost causing them. But it’s AI — you can’t expect too much.

Egon and I go up to the twelveth floor to find the disturbance. It’s become this weird spider lair with webbing and all. It’s a little obvious, but the bodies in webbing and seductive evil whispers work. Points again go to the designers for the creepy.

The fight with the spider boss is fine. The concept is solid — you fight for a little while and then the spider runs away to heal. When it disappears, you have to use the PKE meter to find it again. If you blast it while it’s eating, you advance in the fight; if not, she heals and you lose all the progress from the last stage. The problem is that even when you narrow in on the spider, you can’t see her in the crazy background. It’s only because Egon shouts that you’ve found her that I knew to blast away. Same problem, over and over and over…

And this is the part where we remember this is a game narrative. Story remains solid in terms of content. We get a nice ending to the hotel scene, and then all of a sudden we’re on a boat heading to the last quest location. No warning, no transition. It’s a misstep, and a kind of surprising one given that the narrative pacing has been pretty good. Plot generally stays fresh, though. Peck and Ilyssa get revisited in the dialogue just as I was wondering if they were forgotten about. The plot’s coming together. Ilyssa is a member of the evil architect’s family, which is why she was the one to accidentally reactivate anything, and Peck insisted that she curate the Gozer exhibit where everything started, so maybe he’s a more villanous figure than we thought? That would be a weird twist, but the story’s good so far, so I’ll see where it’s going.

The slime tether is finally back in force with a couple of puzzles in a row. The first one is pretty nice. I actually figured it out on my own, but the game used some nice dynamic difficulty adjustment with the dialogue. The team first mentions that you need to get to the staircase, there’s a delay, then they mention that you need to cover a large hole to get to it, and later they notice the crane. I was already working on the crane when they noticed it, but for once, there was some good feedback in this game.

This level is gorgeous, by the way. When you come upon the castle and the hedge maze, it’s by far the prettiest thing in he game to date. One of those pretty just to look at locations. There’s nice bit where you have to dodge a mine cart that just appears in the environment. It’s a nice space.

Now it’s a run through a bunch of different hallways with sudden enemies from levels past. Nicely paced fights. There’s a sealed door that requires a tether puzzle (turn a crank) to solve. Kind of straightforward, but it’s fine. I also take a second to earn the Hedgebuster achievement by burning all the hedges in the maze. It is as thrilling as it sounds.

I can tell I’m getting near the end of the game when I’m separated from the rest of the team and have to go it alone. The whole scene is oddly remiscient of Half-Life 2, with a long run through a linear tunnel path. Enemies pop up, and you slime them up. It’s cool, although it’s not as much fun without your companions, and the checkpoints are miles away from each other, so don’t die in the tunnel. I did once, and it was several minutes of replay to get back to where I was.

There’s a puzzle in the middle where you have to drain a room of slime. The trick is there’s a gate that needs to be dropped. You find this out by scanning the gate. So how do you lower the gate? Well, that would require feedback, and Ghostbusters ran out of that hours ago. Turns out you have to slime tether two weights on either side of the door to the ground. The weights don’t scan, so good luck figuring that out. I got it because I was just tethering everything around the door out of desperation. And even when I discovered the weights moved, it still took me another several minutes because I didn’t tether one of the weights all the way to the ground and didn’t notice. Puzzles you only discover by accident — not fun.

There’s a good fight right after that as you defeat the remaining slime monsters, and then it’s back into the tunnels. I decided to call it a night. Hopefully, I’ll be back with the rest of the busters soon.

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