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Ghosts n Goblins Gold Knights Review

Ghosts and Goblins logo
Axe Ace Arthur Attacks The Groovie Ghoulies

Any gamer worth their salt knows the drill, you guide a courageous knight into the hazard packed Ghoul Realm, a setting so perilous that running, firing javelins and double jumping is essential to defeat the despicable demons and liberate the innocent maiden's souls. Gold Knights employs retro platforming mechanics, so care and caution must be taken to land safely on each unstable precipice, whilst still dodging the fire breathing fiends. However, a surprisingly accessible difficulty curve pleasantly rounds off a new iteration in Capcom's classic franchise. Ghosts 'n Goblins Gold Knights is a gem of an exclusive title, which is an asset to the iPhone's games catalogue.

Despite the main point of comparison for Gold Knights, both visually and in playability, being the 2006 release of PSP's Ultimate Ghosts 'n Goblins, comparing the two is unfair. Take solace in the realisation that whilst this has less depth and is not nearly as impressive visually as the PSP game, any fair comparison must consider the fantastic iPhone introductory £1.79 ($2.99) pricing. Regardless, the iPhone game's visual setting is still spook-tastic, it sounds superb and it deploys addictive hooks to drag you back for repeated play. The premise is simple and it is tried and tested to provide fun, addictive gameplay. Today it is Friday 13th and there can not be a more apt date to impale demon's on the spiked tip of Arthur's legendary lance. Ghosts 'n Goblins Gold Knights is the real deal; a gamer's game on iPhone. Buy it.

Graphics

Ghosts and Goblins Screenshot 1The first thing that is apparent with Gold Knights's visuals is that Capcom have often placed the foreground details as a priority, with many of the backgrounds simply being a single coloured empty space. The game presents 3D graphics on a side-scrolling 2D plane, although it does not dabble too deeply into 2.5D scenery movement. The scrolling remains fixed as 2D and does not wind in and out of the screen. The polygon power is used to inject life into the well animated characters and to create environmental effects such as rotating towers, or collapsing platforms. However, this visual design choice has resulted in inconsistencies, players will quickly notice that the frame rate drops and there are bouts of slowdown, particularly in the TiG iPhone 3G review version. Whilst this is initially disappointing, once you become absorbed in the action it becomes far less noticeable, what is most important is that it does not hinder the gameplay in any way.

Aspects of the level design hark back to classic levels from previous games, and the backgrounds follow the staple creepy forest, lava pits and haunted stone castle towers. However, Gold Knights would have benefited from lifting more from the colourful mix of ice and the greater pronounced colouring of orange lava levels, found in retro versions like SNES Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts, to add brightness to the visuals.

The second level is the weakest visually, being consistently grey and drab. The game does have visual highpoints, level three is graphically stronger and more action packed, however level four begins with a completely black background, yet again. The boss battle on stage four is visually superb and great to play, its dramatic warped, flaming background displays far stronger visual effects, as does the burst defeated demon effect, where enemies literally explode into fireworks. Both Arthur and Lancelot are brilliantly animated, curling up and spinning around to get some impact behind their double jump attacks and charismatically bounding around the Ghoul Realm. The visual boss design is excellent and demonstrates that despite any faults, this is a graphically pleasing iPhone game.

Gold Knights may not provide a convincing example that the iPhone is technically on par with the PSP, but it is still a nice looking game in its own right. Anyone familiar with the layers, varied colouring and depth, including wind and rain effects of the PSP backgrounds will instantly realise that the iPhone version is visually inferior. Precisely why developers are obsessed with incorporating 3D models and graphics into new installments of retro games is a mystery. Konami have proven brilliantly through their Nintendo WiiWare 'ReBirth' additions to well loved franchises that classic sprites, pixels and 2D effects can still impress today and this approach may have been preferable over the choppy frame rate and reliance on blank, dark backdrops. However, if further updates fix the frame rate, this issue will become minimised.

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Audio

With both a wonderfully atmospheric soundtrack and stunningly clear, weighty effects, Ghosts n Goblins Gold Knights shines in the audio department. The tunes manage to both fit the spooky action and drive the player on at the same time. From the moment the first level kicks off with its memorable and classic tune, retro iPhone fans will be beaming. It is worth noting that the sound is consistent throughout the entire game and is arguably the strongest part of this wonderful package. The overall soundtrack may not be held for years to come with the esteem of Mari Yamaguchi's Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts tunes, yet it is still effective in maintaining and continuing a tradition of fantastic Ghost 'n Goblins and Ghouls 'n Ghosts audio. Great work, Capcom.

Gameplay

Ghosts and Goblins Screenshot 2

For the first time in a Ghosts 'n Goblins game, and from the very outset, Gold Knights allows players to choose from two different characters. Gamers will be familiar with the diehard Arthur, but now there is the choice of the younger, blue armour clad Lancelot. Lancelot's default swords are as fast and rapid firing as Arthur's powered-up knives. The two differ slightly by the range of their in-game weaponry options and Lancelot is the weaker of the two. He begins with only three out of five bars of armour energy, compared to Arthur's four bars and Arthur also has stronger power-up armour. The energy bar differentiates Gold Knights's gameplay from retro iterations, in that players will no longer be punished by two hit kills, where the first hit reduced our hero down to his snazzy, red heart boxer shorts. However, whilst core gamers may actually miss the merciless difficulty of the arcade and 8-bit/16-bit titles, many iPhone gamers will welcome the accessibility of this addition.

Therefore, the game is easier than all previous versions of the game, which is instantly noticeable, as the first level contains very few enemies on screen, with environmental hazards, collapsing pillars and blind jumps actually proving more hazardous. Retro gamers used to constantly re-spawning ghouls will be wondering if the majority of beasts from the Ghoul Realm have taken a nice little holiday. Later levels increase the enemy amount and the game's level design, plus its implementation of set pieces, including collapsing platform hazards is a high point of the playability. Players dodge slicing blades and avoid massive encircling centipedes, whilst at the same time, concentrating on leaping between platforms.

Collecting the golden armour boosts weaponry, three way arrows suddenly fire six shots and you are rewarded with a new magic button, one example of which enables Arthur to unleash a fierce blue dragon attack. Even after taking a hit you do not lose your golden armour, or your upgraded weapon. The game includes lots of fan service, magicians transform you into a chicken, stage five sees the return of Red Arremer and the end of stage five sees a recognisable boss return. The enemy design is excellent, including upright wolves with gnarly clubs which spit fire bolts and bats that drop skulls, yet it is the boss battles which are potentially the highlight of this title, so much so that these encounters are the most memorable portion of the game.

Ghosts and Goblins Screenshot 3

The playability is tried and tested, strategically understanding the weapons and managing them to match the position of enemies in the levels adds to the fun of progression. The powerful weapons are more difficult to aim and some are more suitable to actual level progression than boss fights, for example traversing stage five is easy with the flames, spreading out onto the floor, but this weapon is useless against the boss. The player must experiment with the power-ups and in actual fact Arthur is not particularly ace with an axe, it is an example of a weapon which is slow and one which you have to understand its trajectory. Although Gold Knights does not have nearly as many items as the PSP game, the selection in this game still add up to a fun package. It is also excellent that Capcom have allowed the player to select any stage once it has been completed, players will enjoy dropping into stages in a random order, whilst they have a spare ten minutes of iPhone gaming time.

Control

The onscreen controls are as well implemented as you could hope for, the d-pad, jump, fire and magic are receptive and responsive to touch presses. However the retro mechanics of the series and particularly the incorporation of the classic double jump technique, originating from SNES Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts, is demanding for a touch screen set-up. Jumping takes a fixed trajectory with the direction of the second jump remaining set in place, necessitating that the player must be sure to get their timing right, because they will not be able to change their direction mid air.

It has never been possible to fire at an angle in a Ghosts 'n Goblins game, so couple this with ducking or firing upwards at enemies and some gamers may be frustrated by demands of the controls, despite Capcom making effective use of the touch screen. However, the gameplay is built around these mechanics, it would be unfair to unduly criticise the controls for staying true to the franchise.

Lastability

This may be an easy Ghosts 'n Goblins game, however the difficulty does ramp up on reaching the fourth stage, with huge swinging guillotines to dodge which knock Arthur into lava, leaving only his bones as a recollection of the ordeal. In theory this game could be defeated within the space of an hour, but that is unlikely. However, whilst it is not a long game, with five short levels and a boss battle for the sixth stage, the gameplay is so addictive that you will return to it for another play, perhaps choosing to finish the game as Lancelot as an alternative character to Arthur.

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Gold Knights has one of the most unusual incorporations of extra purchasable upgrades that TiG has seen. Priced at 59p (99c) each player can buy unlimited lives, increased attack power, rapid fire weapons, unlimited magic, more durable armour and weaker enemies. However, each and every one of these purchases are completely unnecessary and border on being pointless. The game mechanics are based upon almost 25 years of fine-tuning, the difficulty level is already much fairer than previous games and purchasing any of these upgrades would actually upset the game's balance.

A much more welcome addition is the inclusion of a rankings table, for individuals to chase their own high scores, although the option to compare high scores on a global scoreboard has sadly not been included in this first version of the game.

Value

You need to hurry in purchasing this one, the limited time launch price of £1.79 ($2.99) will only last until Monday 23rd November. The six levels of great gaming are brilliant value at that price point, so you have ten days to head over the App store to snap this one up. It has been implied that the game will then increase to a £2.99 ($4.99) price. Ready. Set. Go!

Presentation

The opening animations set up the story for the brave knight's mission to reclaim maiden's souls, stolen by wicked demons in the Ghoul Realm, both the start and end sequences are short, but they are effective at setting the scene. This game understands its heritage, as the scrolling zoomed out map screen of all six Ghouls Realm settings demonstrates. It is in the main in-game presentation that Gold Knights excels, particularly in the boss battles, many of which introduce themselves with dramatic silhouettes hinting at the intimidating boss size and demonic shapes.

The game displayed some basic glitches in version 1.00.00, it randomly chose to switch between both sets of landscaped play, forcing TiG to rotate our phone. However this niggle may have had more to do with the fact that TiG decided to continue playing the game with the mains plug connected, because the original iPhone battery life was drained by our repeated fun play through of the game. The power cable may have confused the iPhone’s screen orientation, plus with an obsession towards taking screenshots, it was almost as though we were deliberately being awkward and trying to break the game! This game is too good to dwell on a negative, so TiG will end by acknowledging its excellent use of the iPhone's rumble feature, which is a brilliant inclusion.

For iPhone gamers, who love Capcom classics, this is a game to celebrate, iPhone "Ghoulies Are Go!", so go get it.

TiG Review Score

Graphics Rating:
7
Control Rating:
7
Gameplay Rating:
8
Value Rating:
7
TiG Overall Rating:
(not an average)
8