Grabbed by the Ghoulies

Inside Every Living Person Is a Dead Person Waiting to Get Out happy and smile

Because weÂ're Â"Gamers With JobsÂ" one might assume that a few of us are also Â"Gamers With ChildrenÂ" although imagining some of you raising kids really puts a strain on my sanity. Regardless, some of you have little rug monkeys and although you're bigger than them they deserve a chance to play with the console too once in a while. The problem is, if youÂ're an Xbox owner it may be a bit tough to find a game suitable for a younger and more impressionable audience. Good thing Microsoft gobbled up Rare because finally the console is getting a much needed Â"kid friendlyÂ" shot in the arm. So it goes with Grabbed by the Ghoulies, RareÂ's first Xbox release.

Much like previous Rare games Ghoulies is a take-off from a Nintendo game, LuigiÂ's Mansion in this case. Much like LuigiÂ's Mansion you go from room to room solving puzzles, fighting bad guys and finding hidden items before moving to the next area. The controls are even similar with the left analog stick used for movement and the right analog stick for attacking. Whichever direction you press is where you attack with various punches, kicks, elbow smashes and drop kicks. It sounds simplistic but itÂ's a lot more fun than youÂ'd think. Kicking undead pirates in the nuts and sending imps flying into a dresser (and smashing it to bits) is pretty satisfying. Aside from the punching and the kicking you can also pick up a ton of different objects to beat your enemies up with. Chairs, giant plates, glass bottles, hamburgers, rakes and pretty much anything else that look about the right size for Cooper (the boy you play) to swipe or throw.

There is a certain Â"fear factorÂ" you need to keep in mind as you play the game. Cooper looks about 14 years old and while heÂ's a tough bugger he is also a bit of a scardy cat. Sometimes a ghost will suddenly jump out at him and you have a certain amount of time to press the button sequence shown o­n screen or you may lose health due to fright. In other instances a ghost will appear and send out a fear bubble that will prevent Cooper from attacking anything and leave him chattering, chewing his fingernails and stumbling around the room for a few seconds if you canÂ't get out of the way in time. I should point out the scares might make a younger kid jump but they are more along the lines of a Warner Brothers cartoon rather than Resident Evil. happy and smile

The trick to enjoying Ghoulies is youÂ've got to get over the fact that itÂ's made and heavily styled towards kids. The graphics are mildly cel-shaded with comical looking skeletons who put their dukes up, undead pirates that say Â"yarrghÂ" a lot and animated chairs and doors just for starters. The story (girlfriend kidnapped in mansion, must save her - natch) progresses in a story-book form with each panel being fully animated. There isnÂ't any voice-acting to be heard as most of it is delivered as text. Cooper makes the occasional grunt of acknowledgement and Â"Oh yeah!Â" but thatÂ's about it. The cut-scenes are very well done and preserve the fun and unique presentation of the game.

The puzzles are varied and get more intricate as you progress. Sometimes itÂ's simply a matter of finding a key while usually getting past a certain room requires that you kill your enemies in a certain way to pass. For example, you may enter a room and the o­nly way to get through is to kill enemies in a certain order or o­nly be allowed to use weapons to take them out. Sometimes youÂ're not allowed to be hit o­nce and sometimes you o­nly get a certain amount of strikes you can deal out. Now if you break the rules youÂ're in trouble. You donÂ't fail the level right away; instead the Grim Reaper shows up and starts coming after you with a thin, glowing, bony finger pointing directly in front of him. If he touches you, you die instantly. The funny part is if he touches any enemies in the area they die instantly too. Sometimes breaking the rules isnÂ't such a terrible thing. I should point out that when you do die you just restart the room youÂ're in so youÂ'll never find yourself doing the same ten minutes of playing over and over again.

One of the areas that Ghoulies really shines is the destructible environments and the hugely varied amount of enemies to be fought. Almost everything you see can be smashed, picked-up or used in some way. This makes the rooms feel a bit more real and keeps the combat from getting stale. Your enemies are all strange versions of the usual creatures of the night. Large, busty vampires walking around in coffins, ninja imps, mummies, the aforementioned skeletons, the undead pirates, zombies, medusas and more than I can comfortably list here. Suffice it to say that although the combat may be simple the amount of enemies and destroyable levels make it interesting and usually quite a bit of fun. happy and smile happy and smile

IÂ've used the word fun a lot in this review because thatÂ's what best describes the game. Great for kids, fun for adults and if nothing else the perfect renter when youÂ've got some time between games and you want to try something a little different. Sometimes the analog controls can be restrictive and difficult to aim properly and the usual camera problems can be found here when you get yourself into a corner. You can rotate the viewpoint but that doesnÂ't always do the trick when some off-screen baddie is wailing o­n you. Some may also find that the game is just too Â"kiddieÂ" for their sensibilities even though the game does get pretty tough as you get closer to the end.

If you own an Xbox and youÂ've got kids consider letting them be Grabbed by the Ghoulies, they probably wonÂ't mind at all.

- Shawn "Certis" Andrich


Cool review, thanks!  I've been wondering about this game and it sounds like it's enjoyable.  More and more games to get....