Come together, boys and ghouls.
Everybody remembers the more iconic and famous platformers of yesteryear. Super Mario Brothers, Sonic The Hegdehog, and a slew of others always feature highly on our lists. But on DOS and Amiga computer systems, there were also many fantastic games of note. With that in mind, it’s pleasing to know a developer has taken the task to make a modern game in the old home computer mold, and the result is the lovely little Ghoulboy. It may not be the most original approach to retro gaming, but there’s a lot of dark love here.
The game stars the titual Ghoulboy as the son of a famous monster-slayer in a world populated by all manner of Halloween-style creatures. This world, named Gunzabar, turns out to have a prophecy of a banisher of a supreme evil, which is misinterpreted to be the boy’s father. It’s up to the so-called Ghoulboy to take his father’s mantle after his dad gets kidnapped by the supreme Ghoul. In doing so, he becomes the unwitting actual figure of said prophecy in a massive “oops” moment.
Every witch way.
The game is a slower-paced affair, favoring precision platforming and simple hack ‘n’ slash mechanics over speed. Our dear Ghoulboy is equipped with a few weapons, including daggers and spears, which require a bit of tactical thinking to use properly. In addition, spears can be thrown at walls to function as makeshift platforms, allowing players to access otherwise unreachable areas or make an otherwise tricky jump a tad more accessible. The inclusion of a double jump also helps to make platforming all the more responsible, and I personally am a fan of this mechanic, even though some people may consider it a crutch.
Ghoulboy joins a long line of game invoking a retro style, and therein lies a great chunk of its charm. Not only is a glorious collection of sprites and pixel art, but it also features several filters that invoke the sense of an old CRT monitor, much like the You Have To Win The Game series by PirateHearts. The scan lines and dithering will make you want to tilt your head back further as your dear old mum probably cautioned you to do back in the day, while you tap your foot to the old-style soundtrack and effects. I especially enjoy the assorted scenery, from caves to dungeons to creepy forests, adding some life and color into the mix. It would have simple to stick with a graveyard theme throughout, but I appreciate the effort here. I also love how the enemies are basically Halloween clichés, being goblins, witches, skeletons, and the like. It’s trite, but perfectly in line with the game’s light-hearted dark fantasy setting and a loving tribute to old games like Castlevania and Ghosts ‘n Goblins.
Is this the real life? No, it’s just fantasy.
It’s a jolly little romp, though not without a few issues. Perhaps the biggest concern is the difficulty, or lack thereof. It’s fairly easy to beat this little adventure. Enemies never seem to pose much of a threat, and even bosses are woefully simple and require the most basic of pattern recognition. The aforementioned spear mechanic means that sneaky players can easily abuse it to traverse over huge sections of levels. This is negated somewhat by the fact that spears are a finite resource, but they’re still in abundance. Nonetheless, the game remains and enjoyable affair; just don’t be surprised when it’s over in about three hours or so.
The other issues included the occasional crash, or a stubborn enemy that wouldn’t die. The actual AI of the enemies leaves a lot to be desired at the best of times, and they can largely be avoided, but still, it’s a noticeable lack of polish. I also encountered areas of the levels that I was clearly not supposed to see, as well as the odd clipping issue. Here’s hoping that future patches will address these issues in what is an otherwise enjoyable title.
Do you fancy old-type platformers that would have been available back in DOS games? Do you like slower, combat-focused platforming, with collecting loot and hacking away with reckless abandon? If you answered “yes” to those questions, then Ghoulboy will definitely be up your alley. It’s a satisfying nugget of retro goodness that doesn’t take too long to complete, but for the price, it’s practically a steal. If you fancy fetishizing pixels, platforms, and power-ups, then peek on over at its official Steam page now and download a copy of your very own.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: PC (Steam), Android ; Reviewed on: PC ; Publisher: Serkan Bakar ; Developer: Serkan Bakar ; Players: single-player ; Released: the 5th of November, 2017.
Full discloure: this review is based on a review copy of Ghoulboy – Dark Sword Of Goblin given to Hey Poor Player by the publisher.