Ghosts 'N Goblins review
There's hard, and then there's just frustrating

The good:

Pretty slick production values, and at least the game isn't technically bad or anything...

The bad:

Too challenging and frustrating to play through for us mere mortals. But without that, then this would just be another mediocre, forgettable NES game. Controls are unnaturally stiff, too.


Throughout my Neoseeker reviewing career, I've just noticed that I haven't actually done a negative review. Positive is fantastic, but sometimes, you have to show negativity so that people know where you draw the line between good and bad, and the game I'm reviewing isn't even bad by any stretch of the imagination... just not very fun, and in the end, fun is all that matters when playing a video game. If it's not the insane difficulty, it's the sheer mediocrity that holds this game back.

The story is that King Arthur and Princess Prin Prin are out on a picnic in a graveyard. Then suddenly, one of Satan's minions kidnaps the princess, and Arthur has to save her. Typical NES stuff, ladies and gentlemen. The story is largely ignorable as there aren't any cutscenes or any of that junk, except the beginning and ending scenes.

The game operates like a sidescroller. You know, left to right, jump over platforms, kill the odd enemy dumb enough to get in your way.. that happy stuff. That's about it, and there's nothing here that would be help in making this game seem like a classic. The level designs are very basic, in which they have some platforms to jump up or across. The enemies just walk around, fly around in a pattern, or throw stuff at you. You get some power ups that either fire in an arc pattern or are just stronger, and it's not even worth my time describing what they are beyond that. Nothing special here, folks - except with the power ups, in which you only get them when the planets are perfectly aligned. I actually found myself rather bored while trying to play through this game due to how everything seems so generic.

So where does it gets its alleged classic status from? Difficulty. It's mostly of the "strength in numbers" variety, as although enemies are simple in design, there are often many enemies to go through, and some aren't above taking multiple hits before croaking. Some enemies are actually not of the super generic variety - in fact, some have very, very erratic patterns that have lead to the demises of many gamers. If it's not the enemies, it's the controls, which are stiff. Basically, choose where you jump carefully, and make sure enemies are on the same horizontal plane as your weapon. As you only move at one speed, cannot change directions while jumping and you aren't given the option to shoot diagonally or even vertically (ooh so challenging), platforming and aerial combat can be trickier than it needs to be.

If not those, then the infamous "this is a trap devised by Satan" message will be the game's downfall. Seriously, why should I have to play this mediocre game more than once? Especially if it's going to be harder.. HARDER! BECAUSE IT WASN'T HARD ENOUGH ALREADY! This killed it for me, and I'm sure it killed the spirits of many gamers, too. Quite frankly, I was pissed off. I saw it coming, I knew what to expect, and yet, when I beat the final boss that first time and saw that message, I just wanted to destroy my house and kill everyone around me. That's how bad it was. THIS IS BAD GAME DESIGN! Come on, the Atari 2600 at least had the option to select the difficulty of the game, and that was in 1977! ARGH!

Oh man, it's a good thing that this game at least got the graphics and sound right. The graphics are pretty good, considering that this was made in 1986. Like, there were some edges that needed to be rounded to make it look a little smoother, but considering the year, it's forgiven, especially when the colors are used as well as they are to create this gothic atmosphere, like you're playing through a game with some horror themes.

The soundtrack is limited. It only consists of a handful of songs, and they're pretty short. BUT each song sounds so good, that it doesn't really matter too much that they're short, repetitious and limited in quantity. They, like the graphics, get across this gothic vibe that makes the game seem darker than your typical NES game, pretty much in the sense that it influenced many darker NES games like Castlevania to be shaped the way they are. The sound effects are okay, but can get on your nerves after a while... well, this was before you could adjust the volumes, and it's not like they're horrible, so.. eh, just pay attention to the soundtrack and you'll be fine.

If only the gameplay was anywhere near as good as the graphics and soundtrack, because then I'd be able to see why Ghosts And Goblins is considered the classic that it is. As it stands, it's just "that one really hard game", and nothing else. Mediocre gameplay, overly frustrating difficulty, stiff controls and "this is a trap devised by Satan".

Gameplay - 4/10 - On top of being sadistically difficult and forcing you to complete the game twice in order to actually complete the game, the level designs are just standard platformer affair and the game, sans difficulty, is so mediocre... I guess that explains the difficulty. At least you're given infinite continues.
Controls - 3/5 - At least he moves and jumps on cue. Sadly, only horizontal fire is allowed. Come on, Contra had 8 directional fire! Also, stiff jumping physics? Why not?
Story - N/A - Standard damsel in distress affair. Yawn. Needs more stuff about Satan.. oh wait, this is NES.
Graphics - 4/5 - Fairly good for 1986. Bit rough around the edges, but the colors are used appropriately enough to give off a gothic atmosphere.
Sound - 4/5 - There's not much in the soundtrack department, but what's there sounds pretty good and

Overall - 2/5 - Ghosts And Goblins isn't technically broken, but it's a pretty frustrating experience. On top of that, it feels like a mediocre platformer that's basically style well over substance, in which it has good graphics and a good (albeit limited) soundtrack, but bugger all gameplay to actually back it up.

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