It seems like years have passed since Microsoft announced the acquisition of software giant Rare. Since then we have heard mumblings of a new Perfect Dark, gotten confirmation of Kameo and Conker making an appearance, and now we finally have our first game from the once Nintendo only developer. With a track record like Rare gamers expect great things, innovation and the ability to push a system beyond it’s limits are their trademark. With that said I bring you to Grabbed By The Ghoulies, Rare’s first XBox outing and a totally new direction for the company. The problem here is that GBTG is under so much pressure to be the next big thing that some people will simply pass it off as a complete failure on Rare’s part and this is simply unfair to the game. Combining simplistic game play and stunning visuals Ghoulies is sure to appease anyone that will give it a chance as a videogame rather than a Rare product. With that said I delve deep into Rare’s first XBox delight, Grabbed By The Ghoulies.
The minute you boot up Ghoulies you can practically smell the Rare flavor. Gorgeous presentation and delightful menus grab the player and simply demand that you embark on it’s quest. The story unfolds through cut scenes delivered in what can only be described as an animated book. Panels come to life as each frame of the story is told and it definitely comes off as unique. You play the role of Cooper, a spiky blonde haired boy who was travelling with his girlfriend when they came upon the mansion. Before Cooper can warn his loved one of the danger she is kidnapped and you are destined to get her back, besides you have to get home to see the soccer game on television tonight. Yes Ghoulies displays the kind of humor and innuendo that Rare was made famous for and it shines through in spades here. The controls are simple yet unique and the execution is damn near flawless. Using the left analog stick to move and the right to attack adds a sense of simplicity yet retaining enough depth to never bore you. There are also button combo sequences as well as collecting all of the “rare” books scattered throughout the game. Rare has always been known for it’s simple yet effective innovation and Ghoulies is no exception.
The first thing you will certainly notice are the graphics. The main hero Cooper looks like he was taken straight from a comic book and the enemies are so animated you can’t help but love them. From Ninja Imps to the Hunchback Ghoulies packs a cast of nasties that you just can’t help but fall in love with. This is typical Rare fashion as they tend to create diverse and interesting characters and Ghoulies could easily have their best yet, aside from Conker that is. The mansion is a maze of beauty and wonder and only gets better the further you progress. Gorgeous lighting and top notch effects flood this game and are nothing shy of what Rare is fully capable of. The audio is also full of delight even though the main characters are sans voice overs the simple grunts and moans will simply please your eardrums as will the magnificently scored soundtrack.
Now don’t get me wrong there are plenty of things wrong with Ghoulies but none of them even slightly hinder the overall appeal and fun factor. For one the camera system is lousy, with Rare opting to use both analogs for movement and attacks you are forced to arrange the view with the triggers. This becomes second nature after about an hour but in the beginning you will become frustrated with it quickly. Another gripe can only be found in the game’s difficulty, while certainly not a cake walk the game does suffer from being challenge deficient. You will not die often and when you do there are no consequences which will turn off some gamers looking for a brisk challenge but for me it simply exaggerated my enjoyment. Even with these minor flaws Ghoulies fails to impress on any level of the field.
For what it is worth I truly enjoyed Grabbed By The Ghoulies and am hopelessly awaiting Rare’s next XBox outing with glee. The quick pick up and play mechanics mixed with Rare’s usual visual and innovative greatness have once again captivated me into one of their happy worlds. The inside references and quirky new approach to the adventure genre are more than worth your price of admission, not to mention the game weighs in at a economical standpoint of 39.99. The future of Rare and XBox are looking bright and I hope that Kameo is just as much of a blast to play as Ghoulies was, then again it is made by Rare so how could it be bad? Definitely recommended for those in need of something fresh, but you may want to rent first to see if it is your cup of tea.