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Video Game / Ghostbusters (1984)

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Ghostbusters is a 1984 video game based on the 1984 film of the same name, that was designed by David Crane and published by Activision. It was ported to various home computers and video game systems, including the Atari 2600, the NES, and the Sega Master System.
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In the game, you operate the Ghostbusters ecto-extermination business, and your job is to amass $10,000 or more before the city's PK Energy Meter reading reaches critical mass. To do that, you must buy your equipment, then you take on jobs to exterminate buildings of ghosts using your proton packs and ghost traps, being careful not to cross the streams or to miss capturing the ghost, because otherwise you'll be slimed and the ghost will get away. Occasionally the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man will appear and try to stomp down one of the buildings on the city map. To prevent this, you must use ghost bait to lure the Marshmallow Man away or else you could risk losing money having to pay for damages. Once you reach your goal, you must get two of your Ghostbusters past the Marshmallow Man and up to the top of the building (marked ZUUL, one of the demonic minions from the movie) to defeat Gozer the Gozerian. If you succeed, you'll get a cash bonus and a code which you can use to transfer your winnings to the next round of play.

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Not to be confused with Ghostbusters: The Video Game or the Sega Genesis game based on the movie franchise.


This game provides examples of

  • Ammunition Backpack: The proton packs, which come in handy for the final boss battle with Gozer in the NES and Master System versions.
  • An Entrepreneur Is You: By busting ghosts, you get money for better equipment and cars.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, who appears occasionally on the city map to stomp down buildings, and also blocks your way into the building near the end of the game. In the NES version, he is seen slowly climbing up to the top of the building during your battle with Gozer if you get pushed off the bottom of the screen.
  • Big Applesauce: As with the movie, the game takes place in New York City.
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: The ending screen for the NES version reads like this:
    • The Famicom version manages to have one more error on top of this (misspelling "great" as "grate"), though a bug in the programming keeps it from loading and you need a Game Genie code to fix the error. One has to wonder how they managed to catch that error, but absolutely none of the others.
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    • The Sega Master System version's ending screens are marginally better, though they misspell Gozer's name as Gorza, and describe New York City as a "metoropolis".
    • The home computer versions have the best use of grammar for the ending screens, as they give you a code to use to transfer your winnings to another round of play.
  • Bottomless Fuel Tanks: Averted in the NES version: there's a mechanic in the driving sections whereby the Ghostbusters have to refuel their car by running over barrels of gas laying on the road. Miss too many of them, and the guys will have to get out and push the car back to home base.
  • Driving Game: The game has a driving game sequence where you steer the Ectomobile through the busy streets, using your ghost vacuum to pick up stray roaming ghosts. The NES version complicates things further by having you collect gas cans to keep yourself from running out of fuel, and avoiding getting hit by other cars which costs you money.
  • Endless Game: In the Atari 2600 version, you play until you can no longer reach your current round of play's cash goal.
  • Fan Remake: A freeware version of this game for Windows exists.
  • Final Boss: The NES and Master System versions end with a boss fight against Gozer.
  • Follow the Bouncing Ball: The title screen features the on-screen lyrics to the Ghostbusters theme song.
  • Guide Dang It!: You would be tempted to purchase the cheaper regular capture trap instead of the more expensive super trap. This is a beginner's trap (no pun intended). You have to keep emptying the regular one at the Ghostbuster's HQ, whereas the super trap you never need to empty.
  • Inventory Management Puzzle: This is literally the game. You can only hold four items at a time. But you need every piece of kit to help you up the awful stairway section to confront Gozer. Good luck ever trying to afford them all while grinding catching ghosts. When the prompt does appears to enter the "Zuul building", you're never ready, as you need the right equipment for that one section of the game. However, many players don't realize the prompt is only active when you're have $15,000 or more, so they end up spending too much and losing the offer in the process when trading items out.
  • Misaimed "Realism": The decision by the development team to implement how much fuel your car has, and avoid running out of it, is horribly botched, and it all adds to the overall Padding experience.
  • Nintendo Hard: The NES version is notorious for being frustratingly difficult, even to the point of being a Porting Disaster.
  • Non-Standard Game Over: In home computer versions, if the Keymaster and Gatekeeper meet and you don't have enough money to enter the building or you fail to get past Stay Puft. In the NES version, if you die on the stairway or in the final battle or Stay Puft makes it to the top of the building.
  • Pixel Hunt: After the PK Energy Meter hits 9,999, you have to get past the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in order to confront Gozer. In most versions, Stay Puft jumps vertically, so you just have to time it to know when to run, but in the Atari 2600 version he jumps laterally, which means that you have to cross half of the screen, wait for Stay Puft to jump over you, then cross the rest of the distance. The spot where Stay Puft's arc is high enough to jump over the player instead of into him is one pixel wide.
  • Shoot 'em Up: The confrontation with Gozer in both the NES and Master System versions is basically this. The Master System version also has the ascension to the top of the tower become this as you use your proton pack to fire at the ghosts blocking your way.
  • Timed Mission: The PK Energy Meter acts as your timer, slowly increasing in the early part of the level and getting faster the higher its reading gets.
  • Title Theme Drop: Ray Parker Jr.'s "Ghostbusters" theme song plays throughout the game. The title screen in most versions has a Follow the Bouncing Ball sequence displaying the lyrics of the song while it plays.
  • Weapons That Suck: The proton packs and ghost traps, as well as the ghost vacuum that you must equip the Ectomobile with for the driving sequence.
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