Gargoyle's Quest (Game Boy) review
"Games, at least to me, are my past time. While other children were out digging their baseball kleets in dirt or breaking their noses getting hit by footballs I was blistering my thumbs on nearly every system ever made. I had so many games they all seem like a jumbled mass inside my head if I think about them now. Very, very few stand out and sadly, only about one for each system. There was, and will always be, only one for the gameboy. A game few have probably heard of and even less have played...."
Games, at least to me, are my past time. While other children were out digging their baseball kleets in dirt or breaking their noses getting hit by footballs I was blistering my thumbs on nearly every system ever made. I had so many games they all seem like a jumbled mass inside my head if I think about them now. Very, very few stand out and sadly, only about one for each system. There was, and will always be, only one for the gameboy. A game few have probably heard of and even less have played. A game that came in the tiniest of cartridges, a game that could only be played in black and white but a game that still makes my soul shudder when I play it: Gargoyle’s Quest.
In the wake of Castlevania and the ever-looming popularity of side-scrolling games, gargoyle’s quest wormed out alongside the countless other GameBoy games being released. It was by chance that I picked it up; it was by sheer captivation that I couldn’t put it down. The moment it begins, you’re shoved into a realm of burning villages worthy of a Robin Hood movie. Countless hoards of skeletal creatures barrel towards you hoping to stop your escape and leave everyone in the ghoul realm dead. But you’re no ordinary human—hell, you’re not even human; you’re a gargoyle. A monster of such over-whelming power no enemy in the world could stop you.
So it begins. Your escape and eventually your birthright. Being one of the last of your kind, it’s inevitable that you’re bound by a destiny you can’t ignore. You’re not a stone creature perched atop a chapel simply put there because of superstition; you are a living, breathing monster. As enemies launch towards you, your only answer is to spit fire back at them. Enemies who taunt you from there high perch will only fatally discover that you have the ability to push your nails through stone and climb up to get them. And when worm-like creatures with too many hp for you to handle decide on a chase, you fly, drop down and fly again as you course your way through the decayed corridors.
The King of Destruction is out there. You, Firebrand, are the only one who can stop him but not as weak as you are right now. You must set forth on a journey, gather important items, banish King Breager’s minions and most importantly: unlock every ounce of power your tiny, scaled body has.
Every bit of Gargoyle’s Quest pushes the boundaries of an entertaining 2-D game. While simplicity would seem evident with only two buttons at your disposal, the strategy of this game comes into play within the first five seconds. You don’t have the ability to fly as long as you want, to hover there endlessly as you bark fire at enemies advancing on you. Your wings tire and eventually you drop like a—pardon the pun—stone, sometimes onto waiting spikes. If you have a long trek of dangerous ground ahead of you, you better plan it carefully. Jumping at the right time, hitting the “b” button again to fly at just the right moment, clinging to the walls and landing on tiny platforms is crucial. Bridges crumble under your feet the moment you land; if you’re not quick enough Firebrand descends along with them.
Mapping out your plan of flight seems daunting, but even more so are the battles. At most you have four different “fire” choices. Certain enemies are weak to some and immune to others. Finding them is going to take patience and time—but as you don’t have that, a Russian roulette of trial and error is put into play. Selecting a breath from the menu, leaping up to spit it out at your enemy and dropping down before it has the chance to hit you back. Most of it is simple, but some boss battles require all abilities young Firebrand has. Sticking you to the walls, forcing you to hover there and pluck tirelessly away at the enemy’s hp.
When you’re not scratching through dubious caverns, the game takes on an RPG style—placing you on a world map as you venture from town to town, talking to certain townspeople for clues and even having you encounter random enemies. These encounters differ from others, as you are no longer in a dungeon but a one-framed screen with only one or two enemies, putting you right back where you left after it’s over. Even your advancement is reminiscent of RPGs during the same era. And while you don’t exactly “level up”, certain items increase your jump, wing strength, hit points and your attack.
The structure and storyline follows well behind a game with graphics good enough to send some 8-bit games into embarrassment and leave you so stammered you don’t notice the breeze blowing into your gapping mouth. While the townspeople or the world map don’t have much in the way of creativity, the light seeps through the clouds with the enemies. The skeletal worms, the hooded no-names and even the bosses—skeletons riding in spiked cars or giant veined blobs with eyes, pulsating on the wall—make you squint at the tiny screen to try and capture every fragment of detail this game has to offer. The score matches eloquently, raising your adrenaline or making you weep with only a few simple, perfectly placed notes. Every sound was taken into account; Firebrand’s breath makes different scorching sounds for each one used, the looming sudden change of music during an encounter and the cripple of fallen enemies. While there are no voice-overs, quick chirps are used when someone is talking, though sometimes annoying it adds a slight amount of variety.
The controls themselves are receptive, even though they can be a bit simple. Walking can make this gargoyle come across as a bit sluggish but moving and even fighting in the air is achieved with a pinpoint accuracy. Firebrand can pull a 180 faster then the flash after a Red bull. While this may seem insignificant--try hurling down a corridor, whipping around to seer an oncoming enemy, then facing front again to continue flight with anyone else.
Everything about this game—from stellar graphics, noble storyline and intricate structure—is majestic. The near-end sequence still electrifies my skin and I still reminisce about the battles from time to time. I was sad to see only one sequel (and counterpart as it may be) come from this series. This game is a buried treasure: Well worth the time and effort it would take to find, astonishingly glimmering upon sight and something everyone else should want. Perhaps someday, some company will find it in themselves to resurrect this hidden gem. For now, though, only hope and pray that someone is dumb enough to get rid of their copy.
Community review by True (June 02, 2005)
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