The first thing that struck me about Galleon is its unique visual style, with oddly proportioned, lanky bodies and angular facial features. These people look downright freaky! The island scenery looks great from a distance, but up close there's very little to see. But the game's main undoing is its unorthodox controls.
Apparently the developers were trying to be creative, but this control scheme is anything but intuitive. Just completing an early "fight training" sequence is a colossal exercise in frustration. The controls are not only confusing, but unresponsive to boot! Performing simple actions like picking a mushroom requires you to carefully position your character, press the B button, and then press up on the directional pad! What the hell?!
At the other extreme, climbing on stuff is too easy! In fact, it's hard to walk around a simple room without having your pirate climb over every piece of furniture in sight! Simply turning your character's body is so slow that I couldn't believe my eyes! Adding insult to injury, the game's camera seems to have a mind of its own. While climbing rock walls or swimming underwater (which you're required to do far too often), you're guaranteed to be disoriented most of the time.
The save points are poorly spaced. During one infuriating incident, I painstakingly defeated a giant crab monster, then immediately slid through an "exit" chute, only to fly into a torch and die instantly! Speaking of bosses, your combat strategy against them is predictable - jump on their backs and attack their heads. Galleon contains some nice sound effects and music, but otherwise the game is a mess. With lousy controls, freaky graphics, and innumerable glitches, this one should be marooned on a desert island. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
The game supports up to four players at a time, but two is the optimal number when you take into account camera positioning and teamwork considerations. It's generally recommended to pair a "brute strength" warrior with a magic user. Missile, melee, and magic attacks are simple to perform, and it's fun to augment your abilities between stages. The graphics are decent but nothing to write home about. The burning ruins of the first stage might have been impressive had I not already played God of War (PS2, 2005). The countryside, forest, and pirate village locations are more repetitive than interesting.
Still, I was quite impressed by the hideous bosses, which include a huge, twisted scarecrow. I found Seven Sorrows to be an enjoyable romp, but there are definitely some issues. Although most enemies emerge from portals you can destroy, some enter from inaccessible areas, which is annoying. A few visible passages seem to be blocked by an invisible wall. When playing with my friend George, we would constantly confuse each other's characters due to their similar color schemes! Draw-in often rears its ugly head as chests magically appear as you approach them.
On the bright side, checkpoints are frequent, and monsters you destroy remain dead after you continue. Four difficulty settings are available, and the well-orchestrated soundtrack provides an epic flair. Certain critics have made the mistake of judging this game in RPG terms, but in fact it's an arcade title with a few RPG elements sprinkled in. In some ways, the game feels like a 3D Golden Axe (Genesis, 1989), which classic gamers would consider to be a major compliment. If you and a friend have a few hours to kill, Gauntlet Seven Sorrows is time well spent. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
The two competing armies are your mining "rock" goblins and chainsaw-toting fire goblins. Once you complete the time-consuming introductory levels, Goblin Commander really kicks into gear. It's engaging enough, although it didn't suck me in like Warcraft, Starcraft, or Command and Conquer. That may have something to do with the mission-based nature of these stages - I prefer to simply wipe out the enemy.
Commander's gameplay is far less manufacture-oriented than a game like Warcraft. You do build goblin soldiers, but can only have ten per "clan". By destroying ruins and collecting gold, you upgrade your arsenal and build cannons. One cool feature is your ability to employ giant "titans"; one of which resembles the cave troll from Lord of the Rings. These huge creatures must be controlled directly by you, which is a pain when you need to drag them all the way across the map. Still, they can unleash some serious whup-ass.
Commander's graphics are good, and you can easily zoom in or out, although swinging the camera is not permitted. Certain objects become translucent to allow you to see what's happening on the other side, but that can be confusing. I noticed a lot of nifty little details in the graphics like birds flying overhead and a goblin with a whip riding the back of the troll. The sound effects included humorous screams and thunderous crashes when structures were demolished. Goblin Commander won't become an obsession for most gamers, but it's not a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Ghoulies makes a fine first impression with its slick production values, fast pacing, and good humor. I really like the dance scene with monsters cutting the rug as a mummy works the turntables. The mansion is expansive, but you'll also venture through surrounding areas including a farm and a lighthouse. Ghoulies looks like a generic platformer on the surface, there's no jumping - just lots of fighting.
Upon entering each new room the doors are barred shut until you defeat all the creeps therein. The actual "ghoulies" are comical little demon monsters, but you'll also face zombies, mummies, pirates, and vampire chickens. I love how the pirates repeatedly scream "arrghh" as you pummel them. If you take too long to dispatch the creeps, the grim reaper appears, playing the "Evil Otto" role (Berzerk, Atari 2600). You unleash attacks using the right thumbstick, holding it toward an enemy to unleash a flurry.
This ill-advised control scheme feels mushy, inexact, and unsatisfying. It's actually hard to tell when a monster is defeated, so you'll waste a lot of time and energy needlessly pounding on lifeless corpses. Weapons include water guns and fire extinguishers, but these are confusing to use. The more you play Grabbed by the Ghoulies, the less enjoyable it becomes. Advanced stages incorporate arbitrary rules that force you to only attack certain enemies or only use specific weapons.
Monsters in advanced stages take too long to beat down, and some are practically impervious to attacks. Even the fun of exploration dissipates as you're forced to backtrack early and often. The camera control is left completely to the player (via the triggers), and it's a real hassle in enclosed areas. Rare dropped the ball with this one. Ill-advised controls and lazy design make Grabbed by the Ghoulies feel like a squandered opportunity. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
The gameplay isn't too shabby either, with easy-to-learn controls and surprising depth. The basic controls mirror the time-tested Street Fighter 2 scheme, except there are four basic attacks: punch, kick, slash, and heavy slash. Don't worry, if you've ever been proficient at any other 2D fighter, you'll be able to pick up on this one right away.
Most characters wield some sort of weapon, but despite brief streaks of red blood, the gore is minimal. Guilty Gear's roster contains characters unlike any you've seen before. Notables include the lanky, bag-headed Faust, the rock star-inspired Axel Low, the hulk-sized Potemkin, a guitar-playing witch named I-No, the hair-whipping Millia Rage, and a possessed body named Zappa.
Guilty Gear's unique style combines supernatural elements with the quirky world of anime. The worst part is the guitar rock soundtrack, which all sounds the same to me. The challenge never lets up, thanks to the wealth of playing modes, which include a story, mission, and "metal of millionaire" contest. I was initially disappointed that this Xbox version didn't offer anything new (except on-line play), but then I noticed two additional characters: an old man named Cliff and the heavily armored Justice. If you have the PS2 version don't bother, but Xbox fighting fanatics should snap this one up. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.