Not just ghosts 'n goblins but gargoyles too in Elite's medieval rescue mission!
Well, first of all, Elite ought to consider supplying some sort of instructions for the game along with the packaging. The outside of the cassette inlay claims 'full instructions inside' but the little leaflet that comes with the game only tells you that you can move left/right and so on, in half a dozen languages. There is a bit of self congratulatory blurb along with this that tells you what a terrific version of the original arcade game Elite have produced, and the assumption seems to be that everyone will know all about the original because there's absolutely no explanation of the plot, the purpose of the game, scoring system or anything else. As a result, it took me ages to even figure out the game mechanics - admittedly I began to enjoy it once I'd worked out what was going on but it was a bit of a chore getting there.
It seems your girlfriend has been captured by some sort of winged gargoyle and it's up to our to fight your way through hanted cemeteries and castles to rescue her. You are equipped with a suit of armour, one of several possible weapons, and a total of nine lives to help you achieve your goal within the time limit.
The first section of the game is a bit like a medieval version of Green Beret. You run across a scrolling landscape (in this case a cemetery) being chased by zombies who rise from beneath the ground. Some of these are fairly harmless, but others will rob you of your armour and leave you vulnerable to the next blow that strikes you. Dying causes you to go back to the start of that section.
Further into the graveyard, there are birds that swoop down on you as well as plants (?) that hurl fireballs at you. Some fancy footwork can get ou past these and all the creatures that attack you can be destroyed with the weapons you carry. If you get far enough you'll then be faced with the gargoyle who stands between you and the later sections of the game.
These later stages of the game combine elements of the Green Beret format with the good old fashioned platform, and throws in a bundle of additional monsters for you to cope with. Despite the relative age of the platform game by now, this one, along with the combat element that's been added, is enjoyable addictive. It's not as sophisticated as some games these days, but it's still fun.
The graphics are good, though not outstanding, and the colours tend to be a bit on the dark side - but this is probably dictated by the game scenario, ghosts and graveyards and the like. The scrolling landscape works well, and the controls respond quickly and smoothly which adds to the game's playability. I did find the 'front end'; the choice of joystick/keyboard controls, and redefining options a bit fiddly. On several occasions I redefined the keyboard controls only to find that the game was still on joystick control, so I had to wait until I'd lost all nine lives and then start again. This could have been avoided if more detailed instructions had been included.
Once more, Elite have done a good job in converting a popular arcade game onto a home micro, but it's a little unfortunate that a bit more care couldn't have gone into the presentation. Ghosts 'N Goblins is a good game, but one or two easily rectified flaws have crept in which mean that it doesn't quite match the heights of boggle-eyed addictiveness that Elite's recent conversion of Bomb Jack achieved.