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Grabbed by the Ghoulies
game: Grabbed by the Ghoulies
three star
posted by: GF! Back Catalogue 10/2004 => 1995
publisher: Rare
date posted: 12:00 AM Tue Dec 9th, 2003
last revision: 12:00 AM Tue Dec 9th, 2003

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By Eric Qualls

When playing Grabbed by the Ghoulies, it definitely feels like you are playing a Rare game, but the magic seems to be gone. The characters, story, and humor are all vintage Rare, but the gameplay is severely lacking. Everything is too simple and too easy and it is hard to shake the feeling that you are being babied through the game. To put it simply, Grabbed by the Ghoulies is a major disappointment. At least, it is disappointing to those of us hoping for the same type of game we have come to expect from Rare over the last few years. Kids twelve and under should be thrilled with it, though.

In Grabbed by the Ghoulies, you play as a kid named Cooper. Cooper and his girlfriend Amber get caught out in the rain and the only shelter they can find is a nearby mansion known as Ghoulhaven Hall. As they approach the mansion, monsters appear and kidnap Amber and it is up to Cooper to save her. The story is told by using still pictures along with video that all appear to be on the pages of a book. This is a clever way to tell the story and it works exceptionally well.

Haunting Ghoulhaven Hall is a myriad of ghouls and goblins. Skeletons, spiders, zombies, mummies, and even haunted televisions inhabit every room, and you have to clear them out in order to move on. The gameplay in Ghoulies is very simple. You move with the left stick on the Xbox controller and attack using the right stick. You can also pick up brooms and chairs and lots of other objects and use them as weapons. This sounds pretty cool, and it would seem you have a fair bit of freedom in how you play the game, but the techniques and attacks you use are exactly the same in the last room of the mansion as they were in the first room. Another problem I have is that Cooper seems to move rather slowly, and that combined with the simple nature of the combat makes the game feel more tedious than fun.

To try to combat the feeling of repetition from the combat, the game gives you different challenges in each room later in the game. At the beginning, it is simply a beat-em-up where you have to clear out all of the enemies. Later rooms require you to clear the area without getting hit, do all of your damage only using weapons, or clear the room within a strict time limit. If you violate any of these rules, the Grim Reaper will come out and kill Cooper, which isn't much of a problem really but I'll cover that later. The game starts off easy and rather dull, but when the game starts imposing stricter requirements for clearing rooms it becomes more difficult. Well, not really difficult, annoying is a better word. You find yourself fighting the controls and the simplistic combat and the incredibly slow pace of the game more than the enemies.

My main problem with the game lies in that everything is too simple and it feels like you are being babied through the game. You are told when and where and how to do everything in the game and there is no exploration at all because you never have a choice as to what door you go through. If you die in the game, either because of the monsters or the bony hand of the Grim Reaper, you just get to restart in the room you are currently on. You only need a couple of looks at even the most difficult (annoying) rooms and you can beat them, so the fact that you aren't penalized at all for dying makes Grabbed by the Ghoulies even easier than it already is.

Graphically, Grabbed by the Ghoulies is a very pretty game. Everything has a bright, cartoony look to it and the characters are all nicely detailed. The rooms you explore are also very detailed and look very nice. You can destroy a lot of the furniture and things in each room, and even though it has little to no impact on the game itself, it is pretty fun to look back on a room that you just completely trashed. The look of the game is very true to the Halloween theme, and it is pretty safe to say that the graphics and theme are the only things keeping this ship afloat. There are also tons of references to past Rare games all over the place as well, so that is definitely something to look for.

The sound is also very well done. In typical Rare fashion, there isn't any voice acting in the game and each character is instead represented by different grunts and groans. The enemies all have unique sounds and manage to be both menacing and incredibly comical at the same time. The music fits the spooky theme and does a good job of tying everything together.

Overall, Grabbed by the Ghoulies isn't exactly up to the standard we expect from Rare. Does this mean that the magic is gone and Nintendo was smart to get rid of them when they did? I would say no. Despite the fact that it doesn't seem like anyone can admit it, Grabbed by the Ghoulies is obviously a kid's game. A game with combat this simple and gameplay that is intentionally so easy (You can turn on an option in the menu to give you double health when you die, hello!), I can't imagine that it was intended for all of the adult reviewers that are panning it. If it appeared on the GameCube, I think it would have been better received just because Nintendo fanboys would force themselves to like it. On the Xbox, though, Grabbed by the Ghoulies just seems out of place. If you have kids or just want to see what Rare has been up to on Xbox, give it a rent.