Sunday, March 14, 2010

Virtual Console Review - Ghoul Patrol

Ghoul Patrol - Lucasarts for Super NES - 4/10

I'll keep this short and simple, kids.  Ghoul Patrol is a terrible, awful, annoying video game.  Don't waste your precious time or money.  Go find some better Virtual Console games, or go find a good book.

I think the dirty little secret is that most game developers have no idea why something sells or what makes a game good.  They work off checklists of market-tested items, and if they make it all the way down the list, the project is considered a success.  Nobody seems to actually test the games they work through, or if it's a sequel, try to understand what made the original a success.

Ghoul Patrol is guilty on all counts.  It was a sequel to a goofy little game called Zombies Ate My Neighbors, which became a hit on the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis.  The sequel simply takes that game and piles more! more! more! on top of everything.  More colors!  More enemies!  Bigger obstacles!  Cut scenes!  Main characters with hip "attitude" and surfer slang!  Yuck.

As a practical matter, almost nothing works.  Your character moves painfully slow, sluggishly skating along the maze-like levels.  Your weapons are surprisingly weak against monsters, which can become a major problem in cramped quarters.  Some genius decided to put zombies right in front of doors to buildings, and then decided they should immediately re-spawn the second you shoot the old one down.  That became a real problem for me.

Let's see, what else?  The cartoon music was irritating as hell.  It was like clown music, or Scooby Doo on a bad day.  This is very much a "cartoon game," which was in vogue at the time.  The lengthy opening cut-scenes bored me to tears.  I forgot how much I hated all that Ninja Turtle surfer slang.  Whoa, dude, bogus!  That was never cool, and teenagers were never impressed.  What part of "Poochie's Dead" didn't get through?

The more open levels of Zombies Ate My Neighbors give way to smaller, more cramped mazes in Ghoul Patrol.  I felt pinned down in corners, or stuck between boxes and passing cars.  The layouts are terrible, too many dead ends and little sense of where to go.  Ugh.  It really was a struggle to play this game for 20 minutes.  After that, I was done.

Yes, the graphics are excellent, if overly dark, but so what?  Playing Ghoul Patrol is a chore, an obligation.  You could just as easily play ZATM instead and save yourself the trouble.  Or you could play records and read books.  That works, too.

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