Ghouls 'N Ghosts (U. S. Gold) Review | ST Format - Everygamegoing

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Ghouls 'N Ghosts
By U. S. Gold
Atari ST

Published in ST Format #6

Ghouls 'N Ghosts

The intrepid Knight Arthur has finally crossed the murky waters separating coin-ops from the home micro. Ghouls 'N Ghosts has been out of the arcades for three years now, so what sort of game can we expect? Outdated graphics and medieval gameplay or state-of-the-art action?

Those pale-faced ghosties are back in action again, screaming and howling like a bad nightmare.

It's been a while since we last saw Knight Arthur in Ghosts 'N Goblins and programming skills have advanced a lot in that time, so it's not surprising that we should be expecting something more than just an assault from the ghouls in your local cemetery.

The Capcom coin-op delivered considerably more in the form of horizontal and vertical-scrolling levels and hordes of horrendous attackers, so the ST version sure has something to live up to.

The objective of Ghouls 'N Ghosts is to rescue the stunning princess imprisoned by half-dead monsters. Do this and you'll get unprintable rewards!

You wander across a horizontally-scrolling landscape, sidestepping ghosts and objectionabe creatures that pop out of the ground for a breath of fresh air. If you want even more fun then you can turn to a range of weaponry and have lots of laughs tossing poisoned arrows at your foes.

Weaponry includes hammers, spears and arrows which you can fling at anyone fool enough to get in your way. Most weapons have pretty much the same effect so there's not a lot of point risking your best coat of armour for a brief spell with a shirikin.

Fireballs are the one exception to this rule; they act like mini timebombs. Hurl them at the ground and they flare up moments later, scorching anything that dares to follow you. But they do have disadvantages, the main one being that you can't throw them up and give those hazardous buzzards a rude awakening. If fireballs are your only defence against these characters then you'll never see dawn.

You gather weaponry by blasting ghouls, and if you're lucky they'll leave behind some useful extra weapons. It's impossible to change weaponry once you've picked something up, so you need to be careful not to replace a good weapon with a useless one.

Whilst you're blindly wandering across different terrains, the odd magic box will glide out of the earth. Kneel down and tap it and you'll receive a chance reward. Either an evil magician will temporarily transform you into a duck or some new bonuses will materialise. These include bolts of firepower which blast across the screen killing everything in sight or even a twin knight who follows your actions several steps behind. Doubling your firepower obviously means you can conquer more ghouls.

Ghouls 'N Ghosts doesn't just set you off on a boring jaunt across a scrolling landscape. You go through different platforms and tackle all sorts of creatures in your quest to complete the game. At the end of each level is a guardian or a major obstacle which must be overcome if you're going to collect the key - which is the goal of each level.

The game is played with three lives. When you start a level, Arthur is equipped with a shield of armour. After his first unsuccessful encounter with a ghoul, this is taken away, leaving him in his underwear. Bump into someone while dressed like this and you lose a life.

Instead of returning to the start of the game, there are points which must be reached within each level and you return to the last one. A Continue Game option gives you three chances to progress from the last point reached.


The graphics consist of excellent atmospheric backdrops and an enormous number of animated sprites. If the sprites had been larger there would have been a better impression of movement, but we're stuck with small characters only.

Backdrops look exciting but it's all the added extras which make it fun to play. Falling rain and lethal pools of fire are excellent but it's when you switch into vertical-scrolling mode, things really liven up. Suddenly the landscape becomes as much of a problem as the aliens floating overhead, with sharp points to avoid and blood-drenched stone walls.

The sound effects make excellent use of the ST's sound chip. Although there are no extra spot effects during the game, you can have the music playing throughout. It's captured the coin-op music brilliantly and added its own slick and sophisticated style.


The scenario is great fun to play - if it wasn't then it would never have been such a hit in the arcades. Its translation to the home micro has taken a long time but it only takes an instant to become addicted.

The only thing which grates is the joystick controls - lose concentration for two seconds and Arthur kisses goodbye to his shining armour. He doesn't respond to your joystick movements as fast as he did in the arcades.

There's nothing novel about the effects - all the sprites could easily have been doubled in size. Altered Beast and Knight Force have proved that it's possible to use massive sprites in horizontally-scrolling games without running slower than a Skoda.

So the game takes a few steps backwards in the graphics department but don't let this put you off. Whatever it lacks is more than made up for by brilliantly addictive gameplay. It's a "just-one-more-go" challenge which has you coming back tackling the ghouls and ghosts well into the night.

Mark Higham

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