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Grabbed by the Ghoulies (Xbox) artwork

Grabbed by the Ghoulies (Xbox) review

"Since Rare moved over to the Microsoft ship, the team has been hard at work on numerous titles for the Xbox, while putting out a small title in the midst of the process. Grabbed By The Ghoulies was not received well by critics, as well as by fans of the development team. Most are certain that Rare has fallen from grace, while many agree that the company is brewing up something special, and wanted to have something released for the system by the end of the fiscal year. Regardless of the constant ..."

Since Rare moved over to the Microsoft ship, the team has been hard at work on numerous titles for the Xbox, while putting out a small title in the midst of the process. Grabbed By The Ghoulies was not received well by critics, as well as by fans of the development team. Most are certain that Rare has fallen from grace, while many agree that the company is brewing up something special, and wanted to have something released for the system by the end of the fiscal year. Regardless of the constant excuses, Grabbed By The Ghoulies is a charming romp through a “spooky” world that is filled with many major flaws that eventually cause the downfall of the game itself. Should this game be overlooked as a failure due to this? Possibly for most audiences, but let’s take a glance through the looking glass on this one.

Grabbed By The Ghoulies takes place in a fictional forest, where our leading man Cooper is taking a stroll with his beloved girlfriend, Amber. They come across a haunted mansion, where Amber pries a little too hard. Baron von Ghoul, the leader of the Ghoulies, owns the mansion. Taking the opportunity to have some fun, Baron kidnaps Amber, and so the quest to retrieve Amber from the clutches of the ghastly ghoulies begins. Cooper will meet several of the servants, housekeepers, cooks, and the like as he travels through the entire mansion several times over to save the love of his life, who will continually treat him like crap throughout the game.

It all depends on the type of game you’re looking for when it comes to inquiring about Grabbed By The Ghoulies. The game is quite cute, with a very cartoon look and appeal, as the graphics are done in a different look to cel-shading, which can either be appreciated, or despised, considering it has become the overbearing cliché amongst the past three years (specifically in this genre). Regardless of the majority, the game has a sleek look to it, but sadly, the game plays as if it were sandpaper in comparison to silk. While the controls are something slightly different, as you cannot jump (ala Star Fox Adventures), along with the unique idea of making use of the right analog stick in an action title as the attack stick, this can cause for severe confusing when throwing an object at an enemy. Talk about taking a stab in the dark. As expected, the lack of a jump command actually takes away from the game. There may have been more variety if platforms were incorporated into the gameplay, rather than your casual 1991 “chase and grab” fest that went out of style at the birth of the Nintendo 64.

As usual with these types of free-ranged action titles, Grabbed By The Ghoulies suffers from an acute case of bad camera angles. You will find that, throughout the entire game, you must juggle between controlling your character, defeating enemies, and moving the camera so that you may actually see the enemies before you fight them. Needless to say, that is very bothersome, and something that could have easily been fixed before the product went gold. This plagues the game during the harder levels towards the end, where you can be defeated in one hit, and you cannot even see your surroundings as you walk straight into a trap that will eat you alive. Not good at all.

One of the more problematic features in Grabbed By The Ghoulies has more to do with the pure frustration that is presented by the complete shock of your hands being destroyed by the vibration feature of the controller. The controller will rattle every five to ten seconds, literally, when your health is low. Considering you have a set amount of health upon entering every new scene, this can become extremely annoying, especially if you’re trying to clear a frustrating part of the game. Of course, you can turn the vibration feature off, which is a wise thing to do, but the reason that the vibration feature was invented was to add an element to the game, not take away from it. If you’re looking to simply tone it down, you might as well give up. Whenever your hands are tense, it does not make things easier, or enhance the gameplay, to shock them until they are numb.

The scenery is quite interesting, as you make your way through greenhouses, kitchens, freezers, ballrooms, hallways, laboratories, and more unique areas that implement the kiddishly spooky feel. Along with the repetitive puzzling combat that the game bases itself on, there are random monsters or alien-like creatures that will pop up out of nowhere to scare Cooper. If this happens, you’re forced to press a certain random combination of buttons in order to calm your heart rate. This is both very different, and very vexing. If you are nearly finished with a long, complicated room, only to find out that the exit door is really a hidden “Super Scary Test,” you will be forced to press a combination of buttons before you die of a heart attack. Little things such as this are what make the game challenging.

The main problem with Grabbed By The Ghoulies is the lack of variety in the gameplay. While there are over 50 different weapons to use on the abundance of hip and fresh enemies, it is practically all the same, over and over again. The desired object of nearly each room in the entire mansion revolves around certain tasks that must be performed; some with a time limit, some without. For instance: in one room, you may have to kill six enemies without killing the same type of enemy in a row to unlock the door. In the next, you may have to kill all of the enemies in the room using only your fists. While this may sound like a pretty decent idea, and yes, it may have worked in the late 1980s in an adventure title, but nowadays, gimmicks like this just do not hold the attention span of most gamers, especially when the gimmick is poorly executed. Simply put, it’s tough to keep playing when you’re doing the same thing in a different setting consistently.

Alas, the game is not exactly a bad game, as it has some nice, redeeming qualities. While perfecting the title is not an easy task, especially for children, which are the target audience for the game, making it through the game will be a decent challenge for the pre-teen that’s playing it in preparation to tackle some of the harder games out there. As you enter a stage, you will have an infinite lifespan, and as mentioned earlier, a set amount of health that averages in the 30’s. New enemies are introduced in a stepping stone fashion, where players will become acquainted with how to defeat the enemy before an overabundance of them appear on a single screen to discourage the gamer. The enemy layout is one of the finest in recent years, which is an overlooked portion of most games, but highly appreciated when it comes to a target audience, like the kind that Grabbed By The Ghoulies aims at.

Grabbed By The Ghoulies is a decent first outing for Rare on Microsoft’s console, but you would like to believe that Rare is over the first-attempt butterflies. Ghoulies is a game that is directed towards pre-teens (and slightly younger) that can be enjoyed by their parents, and it succeeds in doing this, but will fail miserably for the average age group in the industry. Sure, it’s not Mickey Mouse, but the humor and character design are meant to impress younger gamers. If you’re an overall gamer that can enjoy anything, much like myself, try a rental unless you can purchase it for a decent price. The gameplay has potentially fatal aspects that can run the game into the ground for those that dislike bad cameras, or flaky controls. Being a 3-D action game, if the camera gets behind you during a dangerous part in a stage, you could die without knowing it. Little things like this will turn away a good percentage of gamers within an hour of playtime.

Sound: 4.5
An absolute catastrophe. The music is repetitively played in loop fashion, while we’re forced to listen to indecipherable voices that are slurred, in typical Rare strut. It works for most games, but just sounds awkward amongst the human beings in the game. Listening to this soundtrack is a lot like listening to a punk rock cover of a Beatles classic: all you can mutter to yourself is “Why?” The sound effects of the environments are decent, but seldom heard.

Graphics: 8.0
While it’s definitely not the best cel-shaded game out there (not even in the top three of the genre, actually), it does look fairly good. The polished objects in the environment stand out from the backgrounds themselves, which also look beautiful. The characters look a little too polished, resembling shiny cartoon characters that were supposed to be knickknacks in an Anime. Regardless of this, it’s one of the prettier dark cartoon games in existence... whatever that’s worth.

Gameplay: 7.0
Despite the constant, nagging flaws that obstruct the game’s flow in literally every other stage throughout the adventure throughout the unique mansion, the gameplay is solid, although it is repeated throughout the game like a Linkin Park video on MTV at 3am. The bad camera angles plague the gameplay to the point of utter frustration, and the heavy vibration is a must-ditch idea. The game plays as if you need a strategy to get through to the next stage, which is one of the strong points that the developers obviously thought out for quite some time. Tons of interaction with the levels is one of the saving graces for Rare’s behind, and is definitely something that children and adults alike will find to be absolutely cool, in every sense of the word.

Enjoyment: 6.0
Walk into room, look at stipulations that are combinations of one another, complete stage under stipulations, repeat. As you can tell just by reading that, the game is filled with the same objectives that are mixed in as proper of a way as they possibly can be. Even so, performing the same tasks in different atmospheres just becomes boring to the point that you question yourself on why you’re even playing it anymore. You can complete a chapter after the end of the game in order to save innocent teenagers that are locked in the mansion, but even that involves the stipulations that hurt the game more than help it. You can only take one idea so far... The funny thing is that, apparently, no one told Rare this.

Overall: 6.0 (not an average)
Like most games, Grabbed By The Ghoulies comes with a set of terrible flaws that parade happily across the screen when they need not show the most. Quite depressing, as Ghoulies had a wonderful chance at being one of the first action/adventure must-owns exclusively on the Xbox. Is it a bad game? Certainly not. It’s a short romp that should be experienced by younger players, and fans of the company. The bad thing for Rare is the fact that this is usually as far as it will go. There are other action/adventures out there that are on par, if not better, than Ghoulies. Is it different? Sure it is. But so was Spice Girls’ solo albums, and look how far they got. Personally, Ghoulies is a somewhat enjoyable experience that, if honed to perfection on the initial concept, could be a smash hit series. This is not the case, however, so expect nothing more of it. It all comes down to the question of if you enjoy extremely linear games that have little to no variety, and how much patience you have with the faults. In the end, is it really worth your time? It honestly might be, but it’s a lot like buying a new puppy: there may be more hectic times than fully enjoyable ones.

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Community review by zoop (February 05, 2004)

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