Ghostbusters for Commodore 64, the first love is never forgottenGiuseppe Di Grande Published the 06/19/2020 07:00
Although I wasn't that into it, I remember with pleasure Ghostbusters, the first Video game on tape that I played in my first Commodore 64. I can no longer forget the name of David Crane, the programmer who created Ghostbusters. By the way, David Crane already had a solid story behind him: first in Atari, then with other colleagues he founded Activision with the aim of creating original Video games, the same author of the famous Pitfall 1 and 2. Wow, the founder of Activision creating the unforgettable Ghostbusters!
Evening of December 14, 1985. I just got back from Syracuse, I have some boxes with me. I'm mounting green phosphor monitors and Commodore 64s on my desk. I'm 12 years old and that's my first Computer. The gift box - and I'm sure it was a gift, after all that money spent - is Ghostbusters, in the usual plastic box marked Armmati. I would have discovered only many years later that they were pirate Video games, even if they remained under the original name.
Press play on tape, look forward to the loading and then comes: GHOSTBUSTERS! with laughter. A digitized voice introduces the introductory screen with music, a conversion of the original one of the movie. Then they were all new to me, I couldn't have appreciated the goodies of that game, because I had no terms of comparison: the digitized voice, an absolute rarity; the lyrics of the song flowing, while a little ball was jumping on the words to sing, that is the game proposed to sing on the music doing a karaoke. Gentlemen, it was 1985 and this was fantastic!
The music composed by Russell Lieblich and branded Sid can be listened to again by the player at the beginning of this article, including the digitized voice at... hold on... 1 bit, on/off, volume up/volume down. I have no idea how many hertz was sampled, but the effect I assure you it was remarkable.
The game was a mixed managerial/strategic/action. Today it has become an icon of those years, I read enthusiastic opinions that exalt its qualities. For me it remains unforgettable especially for an emotional issue of those years and that Computer.
We are in the metropolis of New York. Ghostbusters have to control their new and original work activity. They ask the bank for a loan, they buy the equipment, their new and pixellated car. A full-screen map shows the streets of New York, haunted buildings and wandering ghosts. The ghosts gradually head for the central building, the one where the fearsome god Zuul is standing.
All we have to do is reach the haunted buildings in our car in order to catch the slimers and earn money. Using a pointer, we decide where to go, and an action sequence in the car begins with a bird's eye view. The machine is pixellated, made with more enlarged sprites. Along the way we cross the wandering sliders, which we can capture with a special ghost vacuum cleaner.
Once in front of the haunted building, another action sequence takes place, where we have to move two of our Ghostbusters who set a trap in the middle of the screen. The slimer, meanwhile, floats here and there, the two of them must be good at trapping the ghost inside the rays fired by their proton backpacks, in order to direct it right over the trap. As soon as the slimer is over the trap, it is triggered and a ray pulls the ghost into the trap.
As well as capturing the ghost, you have to be good at not letting the two proton rays cross, otherwise the two will be fried. When the ghost is captured, you get money.
Meanwhile, the map shows us another danger, very insidious: the Marshmallow man. A big candy monster trying to do damage around New York. The Ghostbusters must have some money to cover the damage of that giant monster, if they can't attract him with some bait where he can't make new ones.
The psychokinetic energy of the other ghosts increases as the slimers arrive in Zuul's palace. When he crosses a certain threshold, the ghost catchers must be ready and with enough money to face the Marshmallow man directly and enter Zuul's palace.
I arrived exactly in the Marshmallow man scene (I used to get there all the time), but I never managed to get the Ghostbusters between the monster's legs while jumping in front of the front door.
I've been told that that scene, for Commodore 64, is the final part. After we've managed to get the Ghostbusters into the building, the game ends with a congratulations sign that shows the final score.
That same evening, after playing the game, I remember exactly what I did. I had noticed that the Commodore 64 showed two colors when I turned it on, a light green for the edge and a darker green for the background. Actually, they were light blue and light blue which, because of the green phosphor monitor, looked like green to me. But the game changed those colors to black. I looked in the Commodore manual how to make the screen change color and wrote, I still remember it:
Without knowing it, I had just begun my long career as a programmer.
Video games of yesteryear were not just fun, but fantasy and imagination. Nowadays, you probably play with graphics that are bordering on total realism. Years ago, the Video game was another world made of pixels to immerse yourself in.
You who can see us now can open an emulator and replay this great classic of the Commodore 64 videogame history. I am left with the memories and the music that I always listen to with pleasure. Ghostbusters! Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!