Ghostbusters back in new video game

Harold Ramis, actors have renewed interest in a third movie

NEW YORK -- It's been 25 years since the Ghostbusters first saved Manhattan from the giant Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Now they're back in virtual form and talking about a third movie.

Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson stepped into the recording studio to breathe life into their virtual characters for a "Ghostbusters" game from Atari, which will be released Tuesday.

The setting is New York around 1991, two years after the events of "Ghostbusters II."

Players step into the role of a replacement prototype equipment technician and work with the Ghostbusters to resolve strange paranormal happenings that unfold just before the Museum of Natural History opens its "World of Gozer" exhibit.

Aykroyd and Ramis, who co-wrote the 1984 and 1989 films, worked with developer Terminal Reality to create the adventure, which both actors consider a third film in virtual form.

The game writers prepared the story line, and the actors gave them feedback to make sure the dialogue was realistic for their characters.

They also checked out the ghost-busting technologies introduced in the game, such as a beam for immobilizing ghosts and a slime launcher upgrade for the trustworthy proton pack.

"I was always taught ... to respect the writer, and I think we respect the programmers and engineers in this trade as creative people, which tends to result in the best product," said Aykroyd, who has championed the game through multiple publishers.

Ramis said getting everyone on board with the new game -- even Annie Potts reprised her role as the receptionist -- has rekindled their interest in doing a third live-action feature.

"It had sort of been contemplated before, and Dan had once written a spec script about it, which was not bad, but there was no group will that galvanized around that script," Ramis said.

"I think what the game did was revive our belief in it and certainly demonstrated that there was a public appetite and interest in it."

Columbia Pictures has optioned Emmy-nominated screenwriters Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg ("The Office") to write a script for a third feature film.

Sierra Games, a division of Vivendi, originally was slated to release the video game last year, but after Activision purchased the company it passed on releasing "Ghostbusters" as well as "Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena."

Atari, owned by French game published Infogames, stepped in and picked up both titles.

Todd Slepian, a producer for "Ghostbusters: The Videogame" at Atari, said the additional time gave the teams the opportunity to get the actors back in the studio for more dialogue.

The team also was able to add cooperative play to the cartoonish Wii and PlayStation 2 versions of the game while a game for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 was fine-tuned with competitive four-player online gameplay.

"There are over 30 ghosts in the game ranging from the green glob, Slimer, to fishermen ghosts to an assortment of golems and a T-Rex," Slepian said. "Players will come face to face with the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man."

But despite the brand appeal of "Ghostbusters," Michael Pachter, video game analyst at Wedbush Morgan Securities, said he thought Atari would struggle to sell more than a million units.

"It's a fun concept, but it's really old, and my guess is that the game will fizzle after a few weeks," Pachter said.
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