Review by Phediuk
"A thoroughly wretched platformer--among the worst on the NES."
Ghosts 'n Goblins exemplifies the worst kind of challenge in a game: a game that is ridiculously hard solely to piss off whoever plays it. Ghosts 'n Goblins has no real agenda other than to make you mad. And it will succeed in that mission long before you ever complete the game. This is the kind of game where the developers purposely jacked up the difficulty to disguise the fact that their game plays like a fart. It looks bad, it sounds bad, it plays horribly, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a single redeeming feature about it. To the average misty-eyed nostalgic Nintendo fan, Ghosts 'n Goblins isn't hard, it's just an "old-school challenge", and you're a pansy if you can't handle it. To them I say: NO.
Every aspect of this game is obnoxious. The game's scrolling could be called choppy on its best day, giving all of the gameplay a stuttering, staccato feel. You'll immediately notice how annoying the music is, being one ten-second loop that plays non-stop until you get to level three, when it changes to another track every bit as grating as the last. And then again at level five. You won't make it that far.
If you've ever wondered the purpose of stress balls, you obviously have never played Ghosts 'n Goblins. From the moment you start playing, your mood will worsen and worsen until you finally give in and turn the game off. The hero, Arthur, starts out the game in a graveyard, immediately swarmed by hordes of enemies. The jumping mechanics are horrid; Arthur cannot change direction after he leaves the ground, leading to many, many collisions with enemies on your way down. Being a knight, he's armed, of course, and he can pick up various weapons strewn throughout the levels. They're all quite similar to each other, however: no matter which item you have, Arthur just throws it in front of himself and hopes it hits something.
And while you're fiddling around with the controls, you've probably already died. No matter what hits Arthur, he's immediately stripped of his armor and left in just his boxer shorts. If he's hit again, it's death. And back to the beginning of the level. Yes, you could have avoided every enemy, jumped over every pit, and braved every other obstacle, just barely making it through the stage, but one hit from the boss and you have to do it all over again. Always. Health powerups are so rare they might as well not exist.
Let's not forget the brilliant level design sprinkled throughout the game. How about those beefy guys who guard all of the ladders in the second level? Most of the time, they hover exactly where you need to climp up/down to, making it impossible to not be hit and die as you try to do so. Even if they've decided to wander off to the side of the ladder for a bit, as you soon as you stop climbing, they immediately charge and kill you. This particular enemy takes about fifteen hits from any given weapon to die, making level two very much a luck-of-the-draw proposition.
And speaking of luck, you're going to need a lot of it if you plan on getting anywhere in Ghosts 'n Goblins. Every level has a strict time limit that allows no time for you to sit and carefully plan out your next move. The gameplay quickly devolves into a mad rush for the exit, haphazardly jumping over enemies (a tactic which usually fails) and hoping that no stray projectiles hit you. This isn't the fun kind of time-limit game like Prince of Persia, where you slowly memorize the whole layouts of the levels, making it just a bit further with each life. Ghosts 'n Goblins is the type of game where you die on the same spot fifty times, becoming more and more furious with each attempt, knowing with each restart that you're just going to die again and become even more pissed off.
With enemies like Firebrand, it's easy to understand. He's a little red demon who appears at various spots throughout the game and chases Arthur throughout whatever level he's in. Firebrand usually flies above you, making him very difficult to hit. Furthermore, he uses a swooping attack every couple of seconds which is almost impossible to avoid unless you happened to be standing in exactly the right position. There's no way to know what that position is, of course, until you've already been hit. It's possible to kill Firebrand with several hits from your equipped weapon, but stopping to do so uses up precious time on the clock and will probably just result in your death anyway. Back to the beginning of the level. As always.
The game's twist ending is perhaps its claim to fame. After defeating Arthur's nemesis, Astaroth, it looks like it's going to be a happy reunion with the princess, but then you're suddenly sent back to the very beginning of the game and "GO AHEAD DAUNTLESSLY! MAKE RAPID PROGRESS!" This means, in non-Engrish terms, that you must go through the entire game over again. Yes, the entire thing. If seeing the message "CONGRATURATION THIS STORY IS HAPPY END" means that much to you...okay, look, just don't play this miserable piece of dog ****. I've just spoiled the whole ending so you don't have to play it.
And let's not forget about the requirements needed just to access Astaroth's throne room. Simply put, if you reach the end of the sixth level and you don't have a cross equipped, you're sent back to the beginning of the fifth level. So you have to go through two excruciating stages of this garbage all over again, all the while praying to God that you happen to come across a cross on your way there. Of course, there's no way you could possibly know this until reaching the end of level six yourself.
Do we really need to go on with this? Do we really need to being up the absurdly fast moving platforms in the fourth level and the extensive memorization required to know the exact timing of when to jump from each one? Or the part in level three where two Firebrands chase you simultaneously? Or the anticlimactic boss battles, which are the only time your muscles will loosen during your time with the game? Or the constantly glitchy appearances of enemies, who sometimes disappear after going offscreen? Or suddenly appear onscreen? The game is crap. It's not fun; it's frustrating. It's not challenging; it's just impossible. Ghosts 'n Goblins is so hard it's nearly unplayable, and even if the difficulty was reasonable, it would still be a mediocre platformer at best. Do not play this game.
Reviewer's Score: 2/10 | Originally Posted: 08/08/06
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