I got told off by Jackie for swearing this week, and now I've got to put 20p in the swear box every time I allow an expletive to pass my lips. She's got £4.60 off me already but insists "it'll all go to a good cause". Hmm.
Anyway, now I've got to try and get through this review without letting a single bit of saucy, blue or otherwise spicy language slip out. She's really picked the wrong time for these sort of shenanigans as well, 'cos Ghouls And Ghosts is a right sod (um, okay, a fiver) and just the sort of game that encourages the spontaneous use of colourful colloquialisms. In other words, it's bloomin' tricky! (Yikes! £5.20! Oh no, I said "Yikes"! That's £5.40. I
mean 60! Damn! Uh-oh. £5.80) I mean, there you
are, wandering along, minding your own business, and what happens but a zombie skeleton murderer leaps up out of the ground and has a go at you! Then another ont! And another! Vultures fly after you, plants lob skulls, pigs charge, other monsters spit fire and it all gets very unfriendly indeed! And that's just the first level! It's enough to make a grown man weep - and take out a blinking standing order with the ruddy swear box! (Another couple of 20 pees. That's £6.20 you owe. Jackie)
Yup, Ghouls And Ghosts is really hard. Perhaps a bit too hard to be friendly. In addition to the baddies, the checkpoints you have to reach to prevent getting sent right back to the beginning are quite far apart, meaning your first hour of playing is Frustration City. At least, it is if you're as crap as me. (£6.40. Jackie.)
Generally the controls work well but you have to jump up in the air, using your joystick, before you can access the upwards throwing weapons - which is sometimes rather unfortunate because it means you leap so high as to touch the villain you were trying to shoot and so kill yourself. Baddies sometimes rise up out of the ground right beneath you too, giving you no chance. Mmm. Basically really good gameplayers with a lot of perseverence will find it 'just right', but ones who are a bit crap might get a bit put off. (What's that. Jack? Oh. I didn't say crap' again, did I? Alright, £6.60. What do you mean "£6.80"?)
Right, now we've got that out of the way, let's take a look at, erm, the look of the thing. Even though it's based on an arcade original, programmers Software Creation seem to have totally thrown out of the window any pretence at emulating coin-op graphics in their conversion. In other words, it looks like a good old fashioned Speccy game, not an 'interesting', 'honourable' but ultimately failed attempt to recreate the colour and giant sprites of your average snazzy coin-op. Totally the opposite of games like, say, Altered Beast and quite a welcome relief.
The small, monochrome figures you see here may not initially set the pulses racing, but they're serviceable, have a wide range of movements and don't get in the way of the extremely challenging gameplay. Later on, when a big, snazzy graphi appears (or a neat little one, like the flickering fire bombs you throw or the rain that falls in some scenes) it's a nice surprise and sometimes truly stunning. The whole thing is backed by some of the neatest sounds (in 128K) I've ever heard on the Speccy, with a real sing-along intro ditty too. Other than that, there's not much instant appeal here but tons of life expectancy.
So, to sum up, Ghouls And Ghosts makes a welcome change from the recent slick, flash but ultimately shallow coin-op hits which US Gold has produced recently (Fog Worlds, Strider) and shows a massive improvement on the dull conversions it did at the start of the year. It's good to see the gang producing genuinely good arcadey games again and this must rate as one of the most challenging and playable of the year. A bit of a triumph for USG and Software Creations all round, I think. Blimey O'Reilly O'Rourke!
(I think we'll round that off at seven quid, thankyou very much. Jackie) Oh drat.
Simple but pleasing graphics plus bags of playability equals the best US Gold release this year (possibly). It is a bit hard though.
Look out, it's a a vulture. He'll sit there looking all innocent, but just wait 'till you go past. (He'll whizz down and attack you.) The scamp!
This is you (or in this case, me) Arthur the Knight Errant. Dull looking chap aren't you? Or aren't I, I suppose I should say. The things you're throwing are javelins. Take that, ghost or ghoulie, whichever you are!Uh-oh. More of these Grim Reaper zombie things. Get back in the ground, son of soil!Uh-oh, a treasure chest. Watch this one - if a magician pops out you've only seconds before it's quacking time!
WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT, THEN?
Ghouls And Ghosts is, of course, the sequel to that earlier arcade smash Ghosts And Goblins, and features the return of all our favourite characters. There's our hero, Arthur the Knight Errant, a rather skinny, characterless little monochrome sprite with an exaggerated running action, magic cast iron armour and a limitless supply of throwing spears. He's got a wide range of movements (left, right, jump left, jump up, jump right, crouch, throw left, throw right throw up (yuk!), throw down and climb) and can collect other weapons from the magical chests strewn along the way or from jars carried by dead baddies. Collecting and using these weapons in the right order is apparently the secret to success in Ghouls and Ghosts but I haven't quite got it sussed yet. Then there's his chick, the wonderfully named Prin-Prin. She can't do anything (as such) but just sort of waits for you at the end of the game. Of course, you won't get that far - not if the forces of evil have anything to do with it anyway (and they will). And that's the plot. Good, eh?
Yikes! It's a giant end-of-level baddie. This one's a giant fly who comes right at the end of the last level (Prin-Prin is hidden just off-screen) but there are also fire spitting 'Shielder' monsters, giant dogs (really funny, those ones), funny cloud things and even an 'enormous maggot-infested seas monster carcass'. Blimey! Adn 'blimey!' again - I've got through an entire caption and it's only cost me 40, uh, 60p.
It's weapons-collecting time. These treasure chest doobries contain extra weapons like throwing daggers (a really good weapon - you toss them three at a time), shurikens, magic armour (which makes each additional weapon you have into a super weapon), axes (which go right through more than one baddie) and flames which burn across the floor. be careful though. Should a magician jump out he'll turn you into a duck(?) - so shoot him quick!
And here he is - the giant Cerberus fire-dog thing from the end of Level Two. He's huge! He's mean! He bounds on screen like a great big Andrex puppy! Then he bounds off again! What a hoot! (Uh, down Shep!)