Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy
October 29th 2003

Introduction: Rare has finally made its jump to the next generation of video game consoles, and this time it’s not with Nintendo. The Xbox has the pleasure of having the unique game developing skills of Rare under their wing. Rare’s first title is Grabbed by the Ghoulies and they show their skills by producing a fresh spooky tale with Rare style.

The Game:The first thing you will notice about Grabbed by the Ghoulies is that it has unique approach compared to other action adventure games. The presentation of the game is in the form of a story book, since the tale could come from any old story book adventure, its natural simple and smart to present it this way. Like any novel you’re lead through the story by the author, and the other of Grabbed by the Ghoulies is developer Rare. The gameplay is strictly linear and you are at the mercy of their direction. This isn’t a bad thing all around, but it would have been twice as good to be able to freely explore the story and find you own way to solve the game.

The game revolves around boy named Cooper who has to rescue his girlfriend who is kidnapped when they enter a creeptacular mansion, think Rocky Horror Picture Show without the transvestites. Grabbed by the Ghoulies gameplay would be best described as a bunch of mini-missions thrown together under one plot line. Since there are no traditional standard levels the game gives you a new challenge every time you enter a new room within the mansion and its surrounding area. You will be challenged to overcome different obstacles in each room such as defeating a number of enemies or finding a key before you can move on. This approach to the game is interesting and can be positive and negative. I found it great for pick up and play, I could go through a few rooms at each sitting and not really worry about trying to piece the game together. It also gives you clear objectives so you’re not wandering around trying to figure out what to do next. The main downside to this is that it becomes overly repetitive and stale when playing for a long time.

In the game you will encounter your standard Halloween bunch of Ghoulies such as zombies, imps, hunchbacks, skeletons and such. How does Cooper defeat these Ghoulies? Surprisingly Cooper along with his basic kicks and punches will use a variety of wrestling moves such as the dropkick and the flying elbow. Cooper can also utilize items in a room which will become your best assets. In each room you will find unique items ranging from hamburgers to violins to plants. In the billiards room you can throw pool balls or use the cues to smash apart evil ghoulies, or in the games room you can use chairs, cheese boards, boxes and things of the sort to help you when you melee attacks wont cut it. At times you will also have to use weapons including a super cool giant super-soaker!

Rare definitely looked outside the traditional gaming box when the designed the gameplay of Grabbed by the Ghoulies. It will come off as fresh and interesting to some gamers, but to others they will see boring and repetitive gameplay. It is something that is better experienced then explained.

Graphics & Sound:The graphics in the game are very unique and have a life of their own. The characters seem to be alive from a comic book giving a cartoonish vibe which blends well with over the top story. Rare does an amazing job of giving us their own style of cell shading. When games are over using the cell shading tenique, this game feels like it had to of been cell shaded and not manufactured that way to make sales.

The level design is excellent and the characters are interesting and humorous. You can tell they spent allot of time balancing the game between a generic haunted mansion story and their own. Extra effects like reflections, particles falling off of items and enemy rag doll collusions are at the top of their game. It’s amazing how they present this game so simple being so complex underneath.

The sound is the area where I this game drops a bit for me. Everything about the sound is excellent except for one thing, the lack of voice-overs. Instead of voice overs in the game we get strange grunting noises, when it seems it would be perfect to have the character say the text that is displayed. I’m guessing it came down to a time issue to overdub all the text to vocals, since the sound otherwise is the perfect blend of cheese comic book horror sounds. It’s good, but could have been 100% better.

Innovation: The first thing besides the graphics that you will notice is the different setup for the controls. This is a good point and bad points depending on the type of gamer you are. If you have a hard time adjusting to new control schemes it might be a little more challenging to play the game, but if you take a few minutes you will find a nice intuitive control system.

The control system works with the left stick to move Cooper and the right stick to direct his attacks. The right stick which is usually used to control the camera is used for combat instead. They changed the camera controls over to the right and left trigger. I found that it worked well zooming left and right with the triggers and easy attacking in any direction with the control stick. It gives a faster reaction time then, turning around to kick in one direction. Brilliant design and it shows a new approach using the Xbox controller.

Another great innovation is a system where you character can be frightened. Cooper at times can be surprised or terrified by ghoulies which will cause him to take more damage and have weaker attacks or be so frantic that he can’t attack at all. When the Coopers hair stands on end you will be frightened, but you will notice when you’re frantic because Coopers walk becomes awkward and he starts shivering and biting his nails. Very funny stuff, poor sucker.

Other innovations is the way the game unfold in the way of a story book, which is great for the content of the game, the graphics, and the ability to play bonus challenges that are unlocked during the game. The bonus challenges are similar to the actual gameplay so it’s not that great, but again it offers something new to do and gives you a platform to test your skills in combat.

Mojo:Grabbed by the Ghoulies mojo is boosted because its Rares first Xbox game (1points). Although I would have normally looked past a game like this thinking it was too childish, I found it to entertaining and fun (4points). Another nod to the mojo is the lame-o-Coop. Yes, Coop isn’t that cool and he’s kind of a sissy, but he comes through when he has to with his omega powered dropkicks which bring the mojo down! (1point). One more nod comes for the cheese value in the monsters which are ghoulish and simply funny. I loved DJ Bones and the little Ninja Imps (2points).

Lowdown:Grabbed by the Ghoulies is humorous, unique and fresh. The spoofing the survival-horror is a great idea and its something no other game has done before. Rare comes into the Xbox world and delivers a fun polished game which borrows from old and new ideas. Although the game is great, it’s not going to be for everyone. Its core gameplay does get a bit repetitive and is geared towards a less serious audience base. Beyond those grips the game delivers more than expected.

Gameplay: 7, Graphics/Sound: 8, Innovation: 7, Mojo: 8. Final:8

  • Ghoulies galore. Players will encounter more than 25 types of ghoulies to keep them on their toes, including vampires, zombies, mummies, skeletons, haunted furniture and many more. Each ghoulie has its own crazed, personality and style of attack, and they all fight dirty. Gamers could be electrocuted, bitten, burned, cursed, thrown around and even mummified.
  • Superscary surprises. Spine-tingling events will happen without warning to test players' resolve and reactions, such as faces appearing in windows, ghostly figures and disembodied heads materializing from thin air, and ghoulies leaping out from almost anywhere. Gamers must avoid these scares to keep Cooper in control or risk being overwhelmed by debilitating fear and ultimately fainting.
  • Wide variety of weapons. Players will have more than 100 household objects at their disposal to use as weapons. They can bash ghoulies with chairs, pool cues, tables, pictures and nearly anything else they find in the house. Players also can look to the downtrodden staff of Ghoulhaven Hall to provide them with a variety of weapons for battling the ghoulies, such as a garlic-firing blunderbuss to take on vampires and a fire extinguisher to douse burning imps.
  • Environmental hazards. Players can explore more than 50 rooms in the giant Ghoulhaven Hall as they follow a twisted plot full of surprises, escapes and rescues. There are tons of puzzles to solve and, not surprisingly, they conclude in players unleashing a bash-fest on the ghoulies.
  • Sophisticated yet simple gameplay. Featuring an easy pick-up-and-play style, "Grabbed by the Ghoulies" offers something for gamers at all skill levels. Players can grasp gameplay basics quickly, and refine and improve their fighting strategy as they progress through the game.

Grabbed by The

Oct. 2003