Old School Ghostbusters, The C64 Way

Old School Ghostbusters, The C64 Way

Recently there was yet another new Ghostbusters game that came out for the Xbox 360 on their XBLA service. This comes closely on the heels of the full blown retail Ghostbusters game that came out a year and a half ago for all of the major consoles. That game had the cooperation of most of the major characters from the Ghostbusters franchise, including Dan Akroyd and Harold Ramis. I managed to play through and finish that game and I will admit that it was a lot of fun and made me remember why I loved the Ghostbusters in the first place.

After finishing that game I was once again tied up in Ghostbusters hype so I went out and watched both of the movies again on Bluray. The first movie was as good as I remember it being, and the second movie, well let’s just say, it was about as successful for me as Bobby Brown’s career has turned out to be. I won’t forgive him for that awful Ghostbusters rap song that was the theme for the second movie.

Anyway, after the movies were over, I was still in the mood for more Ghostbusters but realized that there really wasn’t much left to consume. Then it hit me! I had forgotten that one of the greatest video game creators of all time, David Crane, and turned out the finest movie license tie-in game that has ever been made, which was Ghostbusters on the C64.

I immediately went into my game room and dragged the C64 and the 1541 disk drive down from the closet and got it all hooked up. I had to look through many shoe boxes filled with 5 1/4 C64 games before I found the disks for Ghostbusters, but I did find them and into the drive they went. Now would I be able to remember how to load them after all these years? Load “*”,8,1

“The opening screen to C64 Ghostbusters. Loved the bouncing ball and the voice that said “Ghostbusters – AH HA HA HA HA”

Soon I was pulled back into that magic time of tons and tons of awesome C64 games. To a time when HD graphics were only a glimmer in eyes of some inventor somewhere. To a world where the internet was nowhere to be found, but I was dialing in to my local BBS system daily to talk about all of the great games I was playing.

Many things make David Crane’s C64 version of Ghostbusters one of the greatest games of all time. I have actually spoken directly with Mr. Crane at the Classic Gaming Expo in Las Vegas Nevada about many of his games, but Ghostbusters in particular. He let me in on some of the behind the scenes knowledge for the game.

To begin with, Ghostbusters did not start off life as the Ghostbusters game. It was going to be a game about buying cars, tricking them out, and dueling them against other cars around a fictional city. David had worked on the game for about a month had the car drawn and working and had begun to make some of the weapons for the car, when he got a call from fellow Activision co-founder Gary Kitchen.

Kitchen had received a call from the movie company who was publishing the Ghostbusters movie and they asked Kitchen if he would be willing to create a game for the movie that would come out the same day as the movie. Anyone besides me smell the potential for another E.T. here? Well not where David Crane is concerned.

Kitchen called Crane to his office and told him the situation with the Ghostbusters license. Crane immediately sat down and figured out a way to change his car dueling game into the Ghostbusters franchise with only minor changes and additions, and the deal was signed. Crane and Activision delivered the first truly successful movie licensed game in history.

Next, Ghostbusters was the first “talkie” game for the C64. Crane had worked on voice early on by doing a Transformers based demo but never took it any further than that. Activision would later get the Transformers license based on the success of Ghostbusters and he would use the voice there.
Ghostbusters had little to no on screen instructions and instead made the player rely on the manual. The manual though did not list all of the things that you could buy for your car, and therefore the player had to figure out what many of them did by trial and error. Crane said he did this purposefully in order to prolong the life of the game.

Very few people have actually ever finished the game, and that is because there is a programming glitch that makes it very hard to do so. There is some optimization code in the game that was inadvertently left in the game when it was sent to be gold mastered that allows the ghosts in the last level to move at speeds that the player simply cannot match. It doesn’t happen all of the time though so the game can be beaten.

Ghostbusters was a phenomenal hit for Crane and Activision and the proceeds from it allowed the company to stay afloat in the pirate heavy C64 market for many years. He would go on to create Little Computer People as well, and its main screen is the inside of a house that Crane was going to use in Ghostbusters but cut out. Crane never throws any code away.

If you have never had a chance to play the C6 Ghostbusters, then you have missed out on a true classic that plays as well today as it did in the 80’s.

Who Ya Gonna Call? If you want an amazing C64 game, you better call David Crane!

The Doc

If it was made in the 80's it's simply better! Take Empire Strikes Back for instance!

This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. From what I remember, we had difficulty beating the game not because of the speed of the ghosts, but because at the end, you only had about 2 pixels of clearance to run beneath Marshmallow Man at the peak of his jumping back and forth in front of the building, and you had to get two of your Ghostbusters past him. And yes, that’s a terribly written sentence, but I’m standing by it.

  2. Remember calling my friend, quite a bit in fact…
    He had a C64 and i didn’t:)

    Fantastic game on the C64, my humble spectrum version just couldn’t compare to the colourfull viberious comodore. Not to mention the non show of the marshmallow man leap of faith, one of my favourite features of the game, along with the speech.

    Just hearing that “ghostbuuuusttters” made it so much more, much like the speech in the starwars game.

  3. The IBM PCjr had a very good port of this game – and I believe they corrected the difficulty issue. It was essentially the same graphically as the C64 version – which was nice because so many PC games of that era were of the 4 color variety. I had no idea it didn’t start out as a Ghostbusting game from the initial design. That’s especially funny since it is one of the best movie tie-in games ever.

  4. I can’t wait for Ghostbusters 2 to come out on blu-ray. It should look pretty cool.

  5. I love the Computer Chronicles episode where David Crane is showing off this game. Upon the karaoke section of the title screen playing through, David Crane’s obviously happy face is an open book, which reads: “Yeah, yeah I went there… I did that”.

  6. I loved this game. I don’t remember it being hard to beat at all. I didn’t finish a lot of games, but Ghostbusters wasn’t that difficult.

  7. This was one of the great C64 games and I actually did beat it. I kept a tiny composition book to write down my save codes. It was a blast! The car customizing really did add something special.

  8. Great post, Doc!

    I cannot count how many hours I must have spent playing this title. I was playing it still in High School, I was also running the Ghostbusters RPG at lunch. So I’ve never gotten over the Ghostbusters fever. Ha, ha.

    @Peachy You are absolutely 100% correct about that video, friend! :)

  9. ANyone want to get a petition going for 2600 Pitfall 3? I’ve spoke to David Crane at Classic Gaming Expo also, and he said he would actually do it if somebody paid him. Heard a rumor lately about a new ghostbusters sequel(not remake), but a part 3 with Dan Akyroid. Anyone heard about this?

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