Ghosts'n Goblins is a sideways scrolling action platformer spread over six levels, each of which must be completed within three minutes (or a life is lost), taking in forest, village, mountain and cavern settings with increasing difficulty.
Arthur the brave knight must rescue his beloved Princess from the Demon King Astaroth and his forces - amongst them are the various undead (ghosts, zombies), bats, ogres and goblins. Other challenges include moving platforms, ladders and water/fire hazards. As in most games in this genre, the player can pick up power-ups such as daggers and bombs during the course of the game, giving the player greater firepower.
It seems that there actually are some people in the world that never heard of Ghosts'n'Goblins. Let's go back to the 80'es, the golden age of video-games. A time when games were played more or less equally on many machines, consoles and computers. Each one of this platforms had its own abilities and therefore had different "styles" of games. Sometimes the same game on different gaming platforms could make a completely different impressions. Although there were always clones and xxx-likes of the hits, people still put a lot of energy in creating something new and completely original. A time when video-games started to seriously march into the world of entertainment, conquering more and more people of the modern world. A time when arcade machines ruled the gaming world. That was the time that produced another all-time legend: Ghosts'n'Goblins.
Although games with horror themes weren't anything new, there were no huge hits, or at least there was no horror game that gained the fame of GNG. It is a simple arcade-action game with shooting and some platform elements. There is a brave knight, a beautiful princess and an evil demon in his castle on the top of the hill. This time a fantasy world of good is not facing a fantasy world of evil but a hellish enemy instead.
The story goes like this: our hero Arthur was enjoying the time with his beloved princess Prin Prin - originally he made himself comfortable, sitting in his underwear beside the princess near a graveyard (?!) and you can see the castle on the distant mountain. Suddenly a horrible demon appears and kidnaps the princess. Arthur puts his armor on and begins his quest. He has to go through the graveyard and the forest, to pass the ancient city of Camelot, enter the caves and go across the fire lake into the hart of the mountain. Then he has to reach the highest chamber of the castle where the evil lord is keeping his beloved Prin Prin. He will have to fight various sorts of hellish creatures: demons, witches, dragons, flying and non-flying creatures... But at the very beginning, where you run through the graveyard jumping over the graves while zombies are coming out from the ground is something that the game is remembered by.
Unfortunately what you see in front of you is probably the lousiest excuse for a conversion ever. If we put aside several bugs that are not small at all, it is inexplicable who could create a game putting in as little stuff as possible, use solutions so simplified that are running the game by completely destroying some parts of it, even using some solutions that are completely unacceptable for any PC game in that period. Afterwards it is even less understandable who could possibly publish this and even use it as the official conversion of one of the greatest arcade games ever. Not understandable is an understatement, for this is purely outrages. The game surely manages to bring some horror into your life but not in the way you'll like.
Where to start? Well, first of all the game is not scrolling like the original but you progress through the screens. All those who enjoyed playing this game on the arcade machines have probably opened their eyes in disbelief by now. You can go back to the previous screen and forward again and every time you enter the screen it resets. This means that the enemies don't follow you; that you can go back and pick up some upgrades, or even go back and forward killing the same monsters and picking up bonuses. Also, you don't know what awaits you in the next screen - a hole, a platform or something else, unless you've already been there before, that is.
The enemies don't wait for you in the new screen but are just popping up after some time in certain places. Unbelievable! Not only you can't see the zombies coming out, but you don't even know if the next step is safe until you memorize the possible places where the creatures appear. For example, a bird will appear on the grave. But if you are simply moving on and see that the way is clear and you jump on the grave, the bird might appear when it's too late to change your mind and deal with it. Also, on certain locations it is possible to simply walk on before any monsters manage to appear. This makes the game too easy and some places become trivial. You simply move on until you reach the end of the level. Considering the challenge you had to deal in the original, this is more than unacceptable.
Also, some locations are repeated in a row to gain the length of the level. Yes, you read it correctly - exactly the same locations with the same items and appearing creatures will repeat two or three times in a row. No slight difference, no new dangers, just a simple repetition. If you do something like this and show the game to someone who never played the game before like in the early 70'es, he will probably be offended by your lousy try to avoid any additional work there. In this case it is outrages. On the third level you'll think that those platforms will repeat themselves all throughout the level, but they are easy to handle because of the screen by screen progress. You simply stand on right edge of the higher platforms and you'll just travel until you reach the next part of the level. Not really amusing.
Considering the time it has been published, EGA graphics sound unbelievable but not even the graphics are satisfying. There are too few sprites of the enemies, preventing any sort of a felling that the game should give you, except perhaps some disappointment. Most of the times the creatures are animated using only one or two sprites. The situation gets somewhat better with the bosses enemies at the end of the level, which is expected. The background looks fine, but there are still lots of simplified solutions. Just like EGA itself should be enough. The looks of our hero and of the monsters are not convincing and the age of the game is no justification for this. You'll find some CGA games with creatures looking much more impressive. As for the simple solutions, there is only one sprite for each weapon, so weapons are always turned to right even when you shoot to the left. Unbelievable!
As for the bugs the most irritating one is the collision detection with objects that you can stand on. If you are in the middle of a jump and are falling narrowly, don't fall near the edge of objects or platforms because you will most likely fall through them. This means that you can fall into a grave or fall through the ground or a platform. There is also no way to go down. If you touch the bottom of the screen, you'll immediately loose a life. There is a big mansion in the city of Camelot where you have to climb a few floors up in the original version in order to find the way to proceed. Here you must simple go on through the wall skipping that important and interesting part of the game. No need to go up and if you do, you can't go down again. Why did they make the upper levels then anyway? The already mentioned platforms on the third level are harder to stand on because of this, so combined this with the non-challenging ability to simply move on above them, it seems that you fight with bugs more than with your in-game enemies.
The game provides three different levels of difficulty but it is too easy in general, although this is not necessarily a fault, considering the quality of the game. The AI of the monsters is too simplified and is limiting them to simple movement patterns, although this may be slightly improved at a higher difficulty level. Many times you can simply skip duels and proceed on. The higher level of difficulty increases the speed of the monsters and their number, but this only means that some preordered monsters will appear again once or twice. This also goes for the bosses at the end of the first, second and fifth level and for the demons that support them (the dragon on the third level). Most of the bigger demons can be defeated by simple fast shooting once you know where they will appear.
As for the demon at the end of the fifth level, he is supposed to be extremely hard but he simply repeats the same attack directed toward the middle of the screen allowing you to simply shoot at him from the side. You'll pick up a shield on the fifth level that has the ability to destroy enemy bullets. Use it in the final battle against the devil lord and you'll destroy him by simply shooting at him. Horribly easy. At least there is the last chamber and since no other conversion had it at all, this is the only original part of this conversion. As for the weapons, except this shield all the other weapons are almost the same, with only slight differences in their range. Originally there were two categories of weapons considering the directions, while the range wasn't limited. This creates more variety in the gameplay that surely lacks in this conversion.
After all these disappointments, this game barely deserves to be called the video-game without even daring to consider the fact of quality of the original comparing to the PC conversion. The lowest mark is too high for this one. It is probably worth playing because it is easy to beat and once again, because of the title, off course. On the other hand, if you never saw the original version, perhaps you'll totally ruin the possible feeling by playing this one first.
This review can't end here, with a description of the PC conversion in order to show a well deserved respect to the original. A game had two sequels. First one called Ghouls'n'Ghosts was even better, but it is naturally impossible to get more fame than the predecessor. The engine was greatly improved, there were more original and interesting creatures, with better graphics and effects. Unfortunately the third game in the series was published for SNES systems only. GNG games, besides being legendary and famous, are surely among the most entertaining and interesting arcade games ever.
You need a joystick to play this game.
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