"RAREs first foray onto the Xbox is a decent game"
Mid 2002, RARE is purchased by Microsoft and gamers around the world are in shock. A heck of a lot of money later and the company that helped Nintendo in the past was now Xbox exclusive, it was time for them to deliver. Grabbed by the Ghoulies is their first game for the Xbox and its pretty much what most people would have expected from RARE in their first outing on a new console.
In Grabbed by the Ghoulies you play as a young man named Cooper. He and his girlfriend Amber are out hiking one day when they become lost. It begins to rain so they decide to find shelter, namely Ghoulhaven Manor inhabited by Baron Von Ghoul. He takes Amber hostage and Cooper makes it his mission to save her. However all is not right in this manor as you will soon discover, and Cooper may have even more tasks waiting for him once his girlfriend is safe.
Ghoulhaven manor is split into numerous rooms and various sections. The butler, Crivens gives you some help as do other characters such as the cook and maid. For most of the game you will be moving through the manor trying to reach certain areas of the mansion such as the kitchen or lighthouse. In each room you move through, certain rules are given to you. For instance you may only be allowed to attack one type of ghoulie or must defeat a certain number of ghoulies before your allowed to progress. Failure to adhere to these rules produces the games version of death. If Cooper is touched by him then no matter how much health Cooper has left, he will feint. Cooper can use this character to his advantage by luring him towards his enemies.
The health bar is determined as you enter the room. Baron Von Ghoul has a slot machine-like presence and whichever number comes up is your allowed health for this room. Obviously if he is giving you forty or fifty to start with then you can expect a tough challenge ahead. The amount of damage taken per hit depends on a few factors. Normally a hit will only reduce the health level by one, but should Cooper be scared at the time after a monster frightens him, then the damage level is doubled. As you progress through the mansion, on occasion Cooper will receive a super fright and in this case a button combination must be pressed in a timely fashion to help him.
Although I didn't find Grabbed by the Ghoulies to be overly repetitive, some people will. The storyline and rule sets help keep the game fresh and have new challenges thrown at you but when it boils down to it, in each room you're really only belting ghoulies to move further into the quest. There are boss fights which are a typical staple from RARE games and they can be quite challenging. The whole game can be challenging and it is unlikely you will be able to get through the rooms at the first attempt.
The other problem is the lack of save between tasks in a room. For instance in one room we had to defeat thirty ghoulies, then the maid took our weapon and then had to defeat a hunchback whilst being pestered by skeletons, this was quite tough and even more frustrating was the fact every time Cooper feinted we had to beat the first thirty ghoulies again. Halfway through the game you will rescue Amber but then be given the other task which serves only to extend the longevity of the game. Ghoulies is also one of those games that once finished you probably won't go back to.
During your quest you will at times have the opportunity to use special weapons. Weapons such as an egg gun the maid gives you. However for most of the rooms you will have to rely on Coopers strength or pick up objects located in each room. You can pick up chairs, vases and boxes then throw them at the enemy. The enemies can also at times pick these up and use them as weapons, so it works both ways.
The main story isn't the only game mode in Grabbed by the Ghoulies. In each room a RARE book is hidden, and collecting various numbers of these will unlock bonus games to play. Some of the RARE books are quite easy to find whilst others are obviously more difficult. For most of the game however you will be playing the main storyline and ignoring the bonus games.
RARE's style oozes in the game especially in the presentation of the storyline. The storyline is presented in a book and each page is divided into panels, this is where the animated cut scenes play out. Also throughout the main game as you progress you will notice some RARE nostalgia present in the game such as a portrait of a character from one of their other franchises, Banjo Kazooie.
The ghoulies individually are fairly easy to defeat, some have weapons, some don't. In the early stages of Grabbed by the Ghoulies it can seem easy but this is deceiving as the game ramps up the difficulty towards the end of the first quest. With most of the ghoulies the challenge comes from the number present in the room rather then them being individually smart. The ghoulies range from skeletons and hunchbacks through to characters such as Mr Bones. Some ghoulies can only be defeated in a certain way such as the hunchback which has to be hit in the face to take damage.
Each room in Ghoulies is destructible to a large degree. As mentioned before Cooper can pick up objects and throw them but other then this he can kick in cupboards smash tables and perform other violent acts. This can at times produce rewards in the form of power ups such as turbo or invulnerability. Most of the rooms are almost the same, some large, some small but the amount of ghoulies is not. Humour is also present in the game such the dance floor room where a mummy is the DJ and is spinning up some tracks with headphones and deck.
The controls are probably one of the most contentious issues I have with Grabbed by the Ghoulies, they are useable but could have been much better. Cooper is moved with the left analogue stick. The right analogue stick is used to determine which way cooper will attack. This could have been performed so much easier with the face buttons. The triggers are used to control the camera, which only rarely encounters problems.
Grabbed by the Ghoulies is presented in a cartoon style graphic format which suits the game perfectly. The style of the graphics is great and will appeal to all ages and the frame rate remains stable, even when there is over twenty ghoulies on screen at once running around. The cinematic soundtrack can add to the suspense and the sound effects used are well done.
Grabbed by the Ghoulies is a good start for RARE on the Xbox. It won't appeal to everyone and once the game is completed you probably won't want to go back to it, but while it lasts it offers a competent third person action game which oozes with style. The controls can be annoying at times, but you will become accustomed to them fairly easily. Grabbed by the Ghoulies is worth at least a rental and we can only hope that RARE builds upon this for their next crop of titles.