While out on a romantic walk with your girlfriend, she’s grabbed by a group of ghoulies. Now you’ve got to rescue her, not the most original storyline out there but it works for the type of game that this is. On your search-and-rescue mission, you take the role of a young boy named Cooper who needs to go to Ghoulhaven Hall, a haunted house to rescue the fair damsel. Pretty simple stuff.
The game uses cel-shading graphics which create a comic type feel for it which works well for … comedy-horror type game. Cooper is bit generic, and many of the other characters as well, but that’s okay when you have a haunted house type game where you expect a certain look to the ghouls and zombies. That being said, there is a lot of real-time reflections, moody lighting, and highly expressive animations. Given the amount of action on the screen at any particular time there’s a bit of slowdown every once in a while but it is not very frequent and does not detract from the game.
Grabbed by the Ghoulies has a great soundtrack. The music is somewhat campy and less scary, which is fine seeing as how this game likely is directed at the 10-12 year old crowd. The music sets the mood perfectly for a slightly corny monster-bashing game with ambient sounds, disturbing piano lines, and really great harpsichord and xylophone segments. However, it does tend to become monotonous and by the time you’ve entered the 4th room you would swear that you’ve heard the same tune 5 times. The voice acting in the game is not really composed of spoken lines, but rather expressive grunts and other ambiguous sounds, with text used to convey the explicit message. Not only does it seem to make the game a bit funnier, but with some of the lines in the game, it would have been to the game’s detriment to hear them spoken aloud.
The structure of the game is simple enough – enter a new room/area, the doors shut and you need to beat the challenge given to you- beat all of the enemies in the room under a strict set of rules. As each fight begins, one or more icons will appear in the corner of the screen which tell the player what they can or cannot do for the challenge. For example you can only fight one certain type of monster or fight alternating types of monsters. Breaking any of the rules will call forth the Grim Reaper who will seek you out and kill you with one touch. He can be avoided, but considering some of the craziness on screen, that can be tough.
To help, you can find power-ups. The location varies –some can be found laying out in the open, sometimes found hidden in breakable objects. You’ll find invisibility power-ups, one-hit kills, and even ones that will automatically end the challenge. Almost all items on screen are breakable – revealing power-ups, anti-power-ups or more monsters.
In addition, every room has a number of weapons that can be used in battle. From boxes to books to even hamburgers, these melee and projectile weapons not only come in handy because of their strength and range, but are sometimes required if the rules call for only weapons.
Sometimes the camera can be your worst enemy. The confined rooms filled to the brim with objects can often make the camera get into some strange positions. The fact that enemies are attacking you from all sides can make trying to find the best angle very difficult.
The auto-targeting can also cause problems. Cooper will usually turn and face the closest enemy which can be a problem. When you’re trying to run away from an enemy the auto-targeting can lock on, pulling the view in the general direction. This makes running away very difficult at times, especially since you’ll often be running backwards due to the auto-targeting.
Not much replay value here. Once you’ve finished the game the only replay value is to go back and try to find all of the undiscovered power-ups and weapons. Not a real reason to go back and play it again.
This isn’t a bad game, but it’s not great. The game is very repetitive, and there aren’t any opportunities to do anything else other than smash and bash. And then there’s the end of the game which is quite anticlimactic given the amount of time you could have spent playing Rainbow Six or Crimson Skies.
But it does have a really good presentation – good looking cutscenes, graphics, and sounds are very well done, and the simple controls make it a game that can be simply picked up and played by anyone. But is it enough? Yes if you’re a novice to video games and the X-Box, otherwise rent before you buy.