Video Game  Review:   Grabbed by the Ghoulies (XBox)

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coverTop Pick. Fist-fighting, weapon-wielding skeletons, pirate zombies, annoying imps, and haunted furniture are just some of the "ghoulies" Cooper, the boy-hero of Grabbed By the Ghoulies for the XBox, has to contend with after an evil Baron captures his girlfriend and holds her prisoner in a very haunted mansion. This video game is absolutely hilarious—and it's accessible to younger, perhaps less experienced, gamers as well. Ideal for the whole family, this humorous, graphically-rich beat-'em-up game is entertaining, gently challenging for kids, and hilarious fun. 

The first XBox game by the very talented RARE (remember the fabulous Donkey Kong Country?), Grabbed By the Ghoulies stars an unexpected and endearing hero, Cooper, who ventures into Ghoulhaven Hall with his girlfriend, Amber. As soon as they enter, Amber is kidnapped ("grabbed") by ghoulies and the thrilling adventure begins. During his journeys through Ghoulhaven Hall, the boathouse, lighthouse quarters, and other fun venues, Cooper comes face-to-face with a fun set of characters—both enemies and allies—including the likes of Crivens the butler, Ma Soupswill the cook, and the ghoulies—from the lowly imp to the giant hunchback, with plenty of skeletons, imps, vampire chickens, and zombies in between. Each type of ghouly has its own set of weaknesses. Zombies can be vanquished with holy water, for example, and mummies can only be destroyed with fire. The Grim Reaper is a particularly nerve-wracking and challenging enemy as he glides through rooms chasing Cooper.

The controls of the game are relatively easy to pick up. The left control stick moves Cooper, while the right one enables Cooper to attack. The A button is used to confirm choices, advance text, and to pick up destructible weapons, such as chairs and coat hangers, for use in battles. When particularly spooky ghoulies catch Cooper by surprise, players must quickly repeat the letter button patterns shown onscreen (A, B, X, and Y in various combinations) in order to avoid the loss of 10 health points. The trigger buttons on the gamepad allow players to change camera angles.

In each fabulous room, a bonus book is hidden somewhere—it might be in some tight corner, hiding in a box, or even inside a ghouly. Bonus challenges are earned for every five bonus books collected. If players do well in these challenges, they earn a bronze, silver, gold, or platinum medal. Each room and area holds its own special challenge—players might need to beat all the drunken pirate zombies in the room before running out of health points, for example, by direct attack (punches and kicks), throwing bottles and hamburgers at them from a distance, or bonking them over the head with a leg of ham. Another room's challenge might be to destroy at least 30 spiders only using weapons. If players mistakenly punch or kick, the fearsome Grim Reaper appears. A little white glove hovers over items, such as barrels and anchors, players can pick up and use to destroy both enemies and furniture. Sometimes traitor ghoulies lend a helping hand, although they'll turn on Cooper if they aren't busy, and a variety of power-ups aid Cooper on his mission to save Amber. Turbo Cooper offers a chance to speed the hero up, and "mini-me's" (miniature Coopers) do some work for Cooper as he attempts to complete a challenge. Invincibility and invisibility are other time-limited power-ups, while "power-downs" include energy sappers, reverse controls, and slow-motion actions. Players meet up with bosses like the resilient hunchback who is protective of his "handsome" face. He turns his back to Cooper, cowering with his face covered, and players will need to find a way to make him angry in order to get in some good punches and kicks. Haunted doors attack with their super-powerful doorknobs, and Jessie-and-Clyde monsters deliver scares that slow Cooper down and make him more vulnerable to attacks. 

Although the ultimate path of the game is linear, each room is highly interactive. Players explore every nook and cranny, if possible. The story is told through comic strips and chapters, and it's filled with humor the whole family will enjoy. Cooper exclaims (through a grunt and text), "You're Notre looking so well" after he has beaten the hunchback, for example, and the Baron delivers his evil laughs ("mwa ha haa!") throughout the adventure as well as a mistaken speech about father and son before correcting himself near the end of the game. 

Grabbed by the Ghoulies offers a fantastic time for children and their parents. Less experienced gamers can take advantage of a brew option that gives them extra health points if required. More experienced gamers might be better off renting the game, simply because it might not last too long, but the game absolutely fills a gap—video games that are manageable for kids without being too simplistic are hard to find. Very satisfying game! If your family doesn't already own an XBox, this game could easily become your motivation to get one. 

Why do we recommend this game? Grabbed By the Ghoulies contains progressively challenging missions along a linear path, and at the same time offers kids a chance to explore each area in a highly interactive fashion, making the game manageable for children. A helpful and kid-friendly option offers less experienced gamers the choice of using extra health points in order to more easily complete challenges, so the chances of the game frustrating kids are low. Although older gamers might find the game repetitious and perhaps too easy to master, most families will find Grabbed by the Ghoulies contains just the right mix of options and level of challenge to be both fun and satisfying.  

Rated E for Everyone (ages 6-up). 

For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Grabbed By The Ghoulies


For XBox By: Microsoft Studios  Ages: 8-up  Published: 2003





Our Rating:


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Reviewed November 2003                                                                                                 Comments? Email us.

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