Your Sinclair1st December 1989
Published in Your Sinclair #48
Ghouls 'N Ghosts
I got told off by Jackie for swearing this week, and now I've got to put 20p in the swear box every time I allow an expletive to pass my lips. She's got £4.60 off me already but insists "it'll all go to a good cause". Hmm.
Anyway, now I've got to try and get through this review without letting a single bit of saucy, blue or otherwise spicy language slip out. She's really picked the wrong time for these sort of shenanigans as well, 'cos Ghouls And Ghosts is a right sod (um, okay, a fiver) and just the sort of game that encourages the spontaneous use of colourful colloquialisms. In other words, it's bloomin' tricky! (Yikes! £5.20! Oh no, I said "Yikes"! That's £5.40. I mean 60! Damn! Uh-oh. £5.80) I mean, there you are, wandering along, minding your own business, and what happens but a zombie skeleton murderer leaps up out of the ground and has a go at you! Then another ont! And another! Vultures fly after you, plants lob skulls, pigs charge, other monsters spit fire and it all gets very unfriendly indeed! And that's just the first level! It's enough to make a grown man weep - and take out a blinking standing order with the ruddy swear box! (Another couple of 20 pees. That's £6.20 you owe. Jackie)
Yup, Ghouls And Ghosts is really hard. Perhaps a bit too hard to be friendly. In addition to the baddies, the checkpoints you have to reach to prevent getting sent right back to the beginning are quite far apart, meaning your first hour of playing is Frustration City. At least, it is if you're as crap as me. (£6.40. Jackie.)
Generally the controls work well but you have to jump up in the air, using your joystick, before you can access the upwards throwing weapons - which is sometimes rather unfortunate because it means you leap so high as to touch the villain you were trying to shoot and so kill yourself. Baddies sometimes rise up out of the ground right beneath you too, giving you no chance. Mmm. Basically really good gameplayers with a lot of perseverence will find it 'just right', but ones who are a bit crap might get a bit put off. (What's that. Jack? Oh. I didn't say crap' again, did I? Alright, £6.60. What do you mean "£6.80"?)
Right, now we've got that out of the way, let's take a look at, erm, the look of the thing. Even though it's based on an arcade original, programmers Software Creation seem to have totally thrown out of the window any pretence at emulating coin-op graphics in their conversion. In other words, it looks like a good old fashioned Speccy game, not an 'interesting', 'honourable' but ultimately failed attempt to recreate the colour and giant sprites of your average snazzy coin-op. Totally the opposite of games like, say, Altered Beast and quite a welcome relief.
The small, monochrome figures you see here may not initially set the pulses racing, but they're serviceable, have a wide range of movements and don't get in the way of the extremely challenging gameplay. Later on, when a big, snazzy graphi appears (or a neat little one, like the flickering fire bombs you throw or the rain that falls in some scenes) it's a nice surprise and sometimes truly stunning. The whole thing is backed by some of the neatest sounds (in 128K) I've ever heard on the Speccy, with a real sing-along intro ditty too. Other than that, there's not much instant appeal here but tons of life expectancy.
So, to sum up, Ghouls And Ghosts makes a welcome change from the recent slick, flash but ultimately shallow coin-op hits which US Gold has produced recently (Fog Worlds, Strider) and shows a massive improvement on the dull conversions it did at the start of the year. It's good to see the gang producing genuinely good arcadey games again and this must rate as one of the most challenging and playable of the year. A bit of a triumph for USG and Software Creations all round, I think. Blimey O'Reilly O'Rourke!
(I think we'll round that off at seven quid, thankyou very much. Jackie) Oh drat.
Simple but pleasing graphics plus bags of playability equals the best US Gold release this year (possibly). It is a bit hard though.