previews\ Sep 29, 2003 at 8:00 pm

Grabbed by the Ghoulies - XB - Preview

It was a dark and stormy night. Cooper and his girlfriend were lost in the woods with a storm coming up when suddenly a storm drives them toward a mansion.

Hmm, looks a little creepy.

‘Creepy,’ intones the obviously unstable baron who owns the mansion. Well, no good turn goes unpunished. The baron responds to the insult by activating some ghoulish, ghostly gargoyles to snatch Cooper’s girlfriend. Now Cooper must brave the terrors of Ghoulhaven Hall to rescue his girlfriend.

Grabbed by the Ghoulies is a light-hearted adventure title for the Xbox from Rare and Microsoft Game Studios. Some might remember Rare as the creators of Banjo Kazooie and Donkey Kong Country. Given the arcade action styles of those titles, combine them with the light and spooky Munsters, or Addams Family setting, and you begin to have an idea of the type of game in store for adventure gamers.

The game uses a comic-book like frame storyboard to advance the tale. Cooper is the hero who must venture through the wonderfully rendered three-dimensional setting to rescue his girlfriend.

But don’t count on that happening right away. There are five chapters to this tale, and each chapter consists of overcoming the ghoulies (and there are quite a variety of them) in each room to advance to the next level. His girlfriend may seem tantalizingly within reach, only to have a wall spin and whisk her away.

There are mini puzzles to solve along the way, though few provided a lot of challenge cerebrally. This is mostly an action-puzzle game, requiring you to work quickly through the challenges to unlock doors and proceed in search of your girlfriend.

Crivens is the lowly butler at Ghoulhaven Hall, and he will help move the game along and offer hints and tips.

The sound of the game feature a spook-tacular music score that keeps the mood light and fun. The dialog in the beta consisted mostly of mumbling, and the maniacal laughter of the ghouls in Ghoulhaven Hall.

The controls are very simple to use. The left thumbstick controls the direction moved, the right thumbstick controls the attack direction, and the left and right triggers control camera rotation. There are a variety of objects in the house that can be picked up and used, though most disintegrate quickly. The controls were a little sluggish, but then this is a beta, and the response will likely be tightened up upon release.

Graphically, this game was a hoot. The three-dimensional look was wonderful and the game trades on every fun scary object you can think of. Yes, things do pop out at you, and scare you, but some quick key work and the vibration in the controller subsides, as does Cooper’s heart rate. But this is a delight to look at.

The game also features dynamic lighting elements which enhances the look of the game quite a bit. Shadows and harsh lights keep the tone of the game fresh.

Grabbed by the Ghoulies is a delightful tale. This game really does a remarkable job of keeping its overall tone and storyline flowing through the beat’em up action sequences.

While in many ways this is a simplistic game, the mood and look, as well as the action make for a remarkably fun and addictive romp through the mansion of a slightly deranged baron who likes to kidnap passers-by. The animation is wonderfully rendered and the overall feel of the game is light and spooky in a good old fashioned fun way.

This is a delightfully fun title.

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