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PSP  header logo

Ultimate Ghosts 'n Goblins

For: PSP

Warning: do not play if suffering from a heart condition

Product: Ultimate Ghosts 'n Goblins | Developer: Capcom | Publisher: Capcom | Format: PSP | Genre: Action, Arcade, Conversion, Platform | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
 
Ultimate Ghosts 'n Goblins PSP, thumbnail 1
Being grounded by your parents. Your divorce settlement. Schumacher's on-track antics. Whatever you think of as unfair, the word hasn't truly fulfilled its potential until you've battled Ultimate Ghosts 'n Goblins.

If you're after the most unjust, deceitful, and one-sided gaming experience ever, this is certainly a strong contender.

Given the game's heritage, this isn't surprising. The original Ghosts 'n Goblins, released in 1985, is considered by many dedicated gamers as one of the cruellest, most infuriating and challenging titles ever created. But it's also one of their favourites, and so they're likely to scrutinise any new version with an electron microscope.  

Such masochists needn't worry. Although games may have since become as tame as a Golden Retriever with regards to difficulty, Tokurou Fuijiwara, the original creator of G'nG, oversaw this latest version – and it shows. Equally, though, gamers coming to the series fresh are likely to feel as though they've just stepped into Hell.

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Which isn't an inappropriate way of describing the gameworld that Arthur, the game's central character, finds himself in. On his way to the Black Palace to save a princess, our hero knight battles the undead, fights off ghouls, shoots down vile creatures too large to fit on the PSP's screen, and negotiates some fiendishly tricky environments where every step threatens to bring him closer to the afterlife.

So, the original storyline has been preserved. Indeed, if you select the Ultimate difficulty level, then aside from the gorgeous graphical and musical update you can expect an experience blood boilingly close to the original. Despite adding more lives, armour power-ups (meaning Arthur can sustain more than two hits before dying), and the ability to continue where you perished (rather than restart at either the beginning or middle of the level only), Standard simply moves things from 'impossible' to 'insanely difficult'. And while Novice further increases the life count, tones down enemy presence, removes environmental trickery (such as the whirlwind you encounter early on) and generally stacks the odds a little more in favour of the player, it still provides a challenge that wouldn't have been out of place in the '80s.

It's appropriate, then, that the core dynamic feels suitably old skool. The vibrant, beautifully detailed graphics may now be in 3D but the game effectively still plays out in two-dimensional form, with Arthur moving left to right and, occasionally, up or down. Ghosts and goblins appear randomly around you and the skill is in (quickly) working out how to navigate the inconceivably treacherous levels while avoiding incoming danger and simultaneously dispatching foes before they return the favour. Easy, then.

Your strategy alters drastically depending on the weapon you're wielding. Arthur starts off with a fairly slow firing lance but soon you're offered several alternatives – anything from daggers or bombs to three-way crossbow and even homing blades. Though some will suit certain play styles more than others, an imbalance within the weapon system is nevertheless evident. Mistakingly land on the 'wrong' weapon icon and completing that particular level becomes near-impossible until new armaments are acquired.

Offering a little assistance is the new item management system. This enables you to equip Arthur with a variety of shields and magical powers, as well as storing special items you'll find dotted around the cursed land, some of which, such as the double jump, improve the brave knight's abilities.

Far from disrupting the dynamic of the original game, this addition slots in elegantly and, along with other elements we won't mention so as not to spoil the adventure, does much to increase the surprisingly multi-layered nature of the game while also bringing it up-to-date. A crucial decision, when you consider that the locked arc of the jump function – already controversial 20 years ago – feels hopelessly restrictive by today's standards. Its inclusion as an integral part of the G'nG experience proves acceptable, however – predicting where Arthur will land, as well as timing those jumps without the ability to alter his trajectory once in motion, is all part of the challenge.

We won't criticise Ultimate Ghosts 'n Goblins for its difficulty level either. It is absurd, but as well as being in the spirit of its predecessor it's also refreshingly different to play something so at odds with the current trends.

More importantly, it's underpinned by an excellent, solidly crafted platform game. And that's why even though it feels grossly unfair, you'll keep coming back for more.
 
Ultimate Ghosts 'n Goblins
Reviewer photo
Joao Diniz Sanches | 11 September 2006
Devilishly unforgiving and dangerously infuriating. But also delicately updated and delightfully addictive
 
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