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Ghoul School (NES) artwork

Ghoul School (NES) review


"If anything keeps Ghoul School from mediocrity, it's the kitschy touch. It's entering the music hall and battling a monstrous music instructor and his carnivorous music note sidekick. It's cheesy enemies like the Grease Monkeys, cap-wearing primates that chuck wrenches. Sadly, camp is not enough to elevate the experience to greatness. The act of tediously searching through mostly bland environments wears you down. "



Ghoul School asset

High school is hell


How far will a man go for love? When young Spike learned that a hulking demon absconded with his teenage crush into the high school, the prospect of saving her and guaranteeing a date with the head cheerleader presented itself. As such, he rose to the occasion. Grabbing his baseball bat and charging into the night, he vowed to vanquish the vicious demons inhabiting the halls of his stomping grounds. Clearly, the teenage libido knows no bounds!

The high school: a nauseating blend of pink bricks and greenish-brown walls crafted into a convoluted tangle of hallways, classrooms, and illogically placed staircases. It's here that Spike will wander and dive deeper into the heart of depravity, eventually losing his way. Without much in the way of distinct scenery, traversing these halls is a challenge in itself. And yet, it renders much of Ghoul School's experience, creative though it ultimately is, dull and tedious.

Apart from cyclopean aberrations, green muck monsters, and the occasional apple, he'll find nothing in 90% of Ghoul School's rooms. Most of the doors lead to the same classroom setting with a different monster and nothing of any use. Yet, Spike still tediously checks every door in the hopes he will stumble upon one of the 10% that contain something out of the ordinary. He'll find a kitchen full of primordial ooze and aproned demons, search a gymnasium and weight room while battling possessed basketballs and muscle-building monsters, hit the showers with Frankenstein's creation, and square off against the grim reaper in the principal's office. The change of scenery is very welcome, thanks to the lack of scenery outside the special areas.

Through these special areas Spike creeps, spotting weapons and tools that will allow him to advance. Half the fun of combat is experimenting with different weapons to discover what is effective against different fiends. From a bathroom towel to embalming fluid, and even some high tech gizmos left behind by local Ghostbuster wanna-bes, the array of weapons you receive is impressive and imaginative. Spike even manages to lift a few non-weapon items for getting past tricky impediments. He would never be able to leap over a stack of crates without spring shoes, and suction cup shoes allow him to walk on the ceiling and over long beds of spikes.

Incessant collecting grows tiresome before long, especially when you hear the same depressing hallway track and see the same nauseating color pallet. Poignant areas are few and far between, and without a walkthrough or a map you could wander for ages before finding one. At the same time, it is nice to have the illusion of freedom. Even though there is somewhat of a rail you must travel, Ghoul School leaves it to you to find those places. There are no journal notes or mysterious voices telling you where to go next, and only a few very subtle clues on accessing the final area.

What we would be looking at is a mostly unremarkable 'Metroidvania' title with a few high points. Once again style comes to the rescue, though doesn't entirely succeed. If anything keeps Ghoul School from mediocrity, it's the kitschy touch. It's entering the music hall and battling a monstrous music instructor and his carnivorous music note sidekick. It's cheesy enemies like the Grease Monkeys, cap-wearing primates that chuck wrenches. Sadly, camp is not enough to elevate the experience to greatness. The act of tediously searching through mostly bland environments wears you down.

I can't help but feel that Ghoul School came out in the wrong era. Had this have been an SNES or Gameboy Advance title, it might have been much better. By that point we would have had games like Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night to teach developers how to craft spectacular 'Metroidvania' titles. Unless someone disrupts the space-time continuum, though, this is what we get.

Rating: 6/10

JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (October 24, 2011)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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