Friday, 16 September 2011

Arcade - Ghosts 'n' Goblins

Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins
If you were any kind of arcade rat, there isn’t any way in the world you won’t have heard of this one. The big talking point whenever this game is discussed is the absolutely UNFORGIVING and totally EXTREME difficulty level. And it’s true, and you’ll discover very quickly, if you somehow haven’t played this before, especially when you first encounter Red Arremer.

If you’re saying “Who?”, tell you what… Stop reading this article, either hunt down MAME, or a Flash version of the game, go and play it for a bit, and when you meet an enemy that isn’t a plant, zombie or crow, that’s Red Arremer. He probably killed you. Twice.

Now, I played this game a LOT. It was probably one of the most common games around, probably almost as common as Double Dragon, if not more. It was one of those games that an arcade would have as long as it had electricity. But one particular instance of this game stands out in memory more than any other, and that was at a holiday campsite in Perranporth, Cornwall.

Y’see, their Games Room was basically a shed, away from all the rest of the site’s buildings. Inside the Games shed were several well-known games… Gladiator, Q*Bert (in fact, this was where I discovered Q*Bert for the first time), Mat Mania (a.k.a. Exciting Hour), G’n’G and Chase H.Q.

G’n’G and Mat Mania resided down at the bottom end, and these had someone on them from opening to closing, guaranteed. There was a very good reason for this… someone had broken the locks on the coin mech doors, so opening the door and jiggling a little piece of metal behind the coin mech rewarded you with as many credits as you could eat.

EVEN WITH THIS, progression beyond level 2 was asking too much.

No explanation of the game yet… hmm… ok, here we go. You play the role of Arthur, Knight of Legend (King, even?), and whilst relaxing with your good lady (Princess Guinivere or Prin-Prin depending on where you’re from), she is suddenly snatched away by one of Satan’s demons. On goes your best suit of armour, and with a seemingly endless supply of lances in your pocket, off you trot to try and save her.

Forgetting to question exactly why you were camped in a graveyard (How romantic!) that is where your quest begins. Zombies rise from the ground to attack you, Venus Fly-Trap style plants spit balls at you, and one hit from any of these will knock every last piece of armour from your body, leaving you running around in only a loincloth. One more hit will strip every bit of flesh from your bones, signifying the loss of your 3 lives. Believe me, you’ll see that a lot.

Reaching Red Arremer will result in 1 of 2 possible outcomes… you’ll get lucky and hit him sufficiently to kill him almost straight away… or he’ll avoid your feeble lances and sweep down straight through you, and if that didn’t kill you, the next sweep or his fireball will. And this is only the mid-way point of the 1st level, believe me, it gets so much harder.

The graphics are great, little touches like how your skull comes to rest on top of the pile of bones as you die, or the different weapons you can pick up along the way (look for enemies with a pot attached to them). The weapons vary from Daggers (usefully fast)

You may find yourself accidentally summoning an enemy from one of the graves… these enemies can actually turn you into a frog or a duck! It might seem pointless, but it’s not… killing the magician type thing is worth 200 of them. Apparently.

But why make life harder for yourself? Well, truth be told, the first level is POSSIBLE. Frustrating, but definitely POSSIBLE. After all, even I’ve completed the first level. But after that? Not without cheating. Unless you’re really and truly an excellent games player. There’s a very good reason this game regularly features in lists of “The Hardest Games Of All Time”.

Oh, just so you know, say you do manage to beat the game, you have to do it twice to see the “real” ending, and the second time through you’ll be facing faster enemies… Wonderful!

Still, there’s worse ways you could waste a few hours…

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