When Ghostbusters released, it released with fairly complete code and provided a pretty strong initial experience. Early feedback was mostly positive, but there were a few concerns about the game’s difficulty, the somewhat unneven score balancing, and some pretty basic usage of the game’s major features. With a fairly long gap in time between the 1.05 launch code and 1.10’s release (and the follow up 1.11), there were high expectations that the game would take a major leap forward. After putting significant time in on both 1.10 and 1.11, here’s how I feel the game has changed from launch.
To simplify talking about these two releases, I’m going to treat 1.11 as a single release. Stern has the actual readme files avilable to see exactly what 1.11 added over 1.10, but the main focus of the release was to address bugs. A couple of small things were added over 1.10 in addition to the bug fixes, such as adding light 2X scoring into the skill shots, but the two releases are essentially one major update. I’ll refer to the updates as the 1.11 update for the rest of the review.
With 1.11, it’s obvious that the main objective was to make the game more forgiving and more accessible to entry-level players. Whether this was a reaction to chirping on Pinside or a direct response to gathered data from exported audits from operators and owners, Stern felt that the game needed to be a bit easier to progress through. This was accomplished by adding the options (which are enbabled as factory default), to allow the player to time out active modes as well as to continue modes after a drain. It’s a seemingly small tweak, but it completely changes how Ghostbusters is played.
In 1.05, draining during an active mode was a huge setback to progressing through the game. If you drained out without finishing the mode, you would either need to use your skill shot to continue or start a new scene, or you had to spell G-H-O-S-T and hit Slimer three times to get your modes lit once more. The former method was safer, but it removed your ability to shoot for the rollover skill shots. Going through Slimer was riskier, but definitely higher on the risk/reward scale. In 1.11, you can now go right back into the mode on the plunge, allowing you to shoot for any of the skill shots you wish without harming your ability to progress in the game.
The biggest impact of this change is that you can fairly easily progress through a ladder to reach a mini wizard mode. If you want to get to We Came, We Saw… (WCWS), you can generally get there by ball one or two by just focusing solely on that left ramp ladder and leveraging the ability to continue or time out modes. Given the points available in WCWS and the relative ease of getting there, it’s a strong and safe way to get into big points rather than swapping ladders and trying to get through the first level modes. In addition, you’re going to be progressing through locks to start Storage Facility Multiball on the left ramp. This approach is so far and above any other, that really there’s no real other way to play the game if you’re shooting for a high score.
Nothing is stopping you from playing other ladders in the game, but nothing offers as easy of a path to surefire high scores than playing the “We Got One” ladder. If making the game easier was meant to open options up, the opposite has actually happened here.
The modes themselves haven’t been changed, but a new video mode has been added to the game. Don’t Cross the Streams is lit and collected the same way as Negative Reinforcement on ESP Ability. When collecting the lit video mode, you have the choice of which mode to play. Don’t Cross the Streams is much more interesting, but it would have been nice to have integrated it differently into the overall experience. Throwing it in as an option is kind of odd, especially as the playfield art only indicates the original video mode. As far as strategy goes, Don’t Cross the Streams is a more reliable source of points, but you can get a bigger payout on Negative Reinforcement if you’re lucky. All in all, it’s a pretty minor addition to the overall experience.
Unfortunately, 1.10 ushered in quite a few bugs into the game; some which were squashed by 1.11. At 1.11, it’s far more common to see power drops on the flippers, some issues where bonus isn’t awarded after a ball, awards (Tobin’s Spirit Guide, video mode) being lit but not able to be collected, some scoring oddities, and a few other things that are being identified by players fairly often. While it’s impossible to test code to the point of being absolutely certain that bugs don’t exist, these releases seem to have been very lightly tested. I ran into issues from the very first game I played and only found more as I went on. With some testing it would be impossible to miss some of these bugs, because they are consistent in their triggers and don’t involve rare behaviors. Hopefully the next code release not only cleans up current bugs, but it’s much better about introducing new issues into the mix.
Bugs aside, the code has some additional problems. It didn’t do much to address the uneven aspect of the scoring, and it’s still a rush to get to the mini wizard modes and multiballs. It would have been nice to see some combo scoring, new paths to score multipliers, incentives to swap to different ladders within the same game, and create better opportunities to get scoring going other than just going to the next mode (to help provide a more even ramp up in score). Some additional differentiation for the premium/LE would also be much appreciated, especially with how the Ecto Goggles and the right ramp being loopable could be more deeply explored.
I don’t think that 1.11 makes the game worse, but it doesn’t move it forward very much either. 1.11 is more of a lateral step that introduces a few things of nominal value to the overall package. I appreciate that the mode continues and mode timeouts are optional and that it will give more casual players an opportunity to see the wizard modes, but that’s the vast majority of what constitutes this update. If “easy mode” isn’t what you were looking for, there’s probably more bugs in this update than features for you. We also lost the ability to change the pulse power on the magna slings, which is a big bummer for the home user that is obsessive about dialing in his or her machine.
All that said, I do recommend updating to the newest code release, whether you’re on a pro or a premium/LE model. The issues aren’t showstopping, and the better use of the multipliers in skill shots, the new video mode, and some of the better use of RGB lighting makes it worth upgrading. I do think it’s fair to expect a much more impactful update from Stern in the future, especially if the game continues to sell as well as it has. Ghostbusters is a very good game right now, but a bit more of a push through code evolution could elevate the game into one of the all-time greatest games ever. I hope that Trudeau’s design eventually reaches its full potential.
Code updates are available directly from Stern’s official website.