Ghost Battle logo

Thalion * £19.99 Joystick

The glossier the cover, the duller the content and vice versa. It is a good rule to live by, especially when buying paperback novels. Invariably, the more exciting the jacket the more tedious the story, and inversely, the duffer the cover the better the tale. This rule often pays dividends when applied to software selection too. For instance, Ghost Battle has "dull" written all over it, but actually proves to be an intriguing discovery.

Ghost Battle is little more than a platform jaunt, that concerns a hero rescuing a Princess. It does not win friends with originality though, but with exquisite timing puzzles allied with strong console-type graphics. All backed up with a good Jochen Hippel soundtrack.

Horizontal hold
The hero has to work his way across a number of horizontally scrolling landscapes. The most pressing problems on all levels is killing the horror-movie refugees - Jason, chainsaw murderers etc. - who all insist on trying to top him. Secondly, and far more taxing, is working out a route past the absorbing array of timing and platform problems.

To kill folk the hero chucks rocks in a short arc, but to kill the bigger end-of-level beasts, special tokens have to be won and used at the correct time. These include shields and bombs, which will help at any time but are targeted as solutions to specific posers.

It is the puzzles though, not the end-of-level guardians, that really impress. At one point on the second level for example, the hero encounters five disembodied heads bouncing in arcs near the ceiling. These follow a three-point route, spitting instant-death fireballs at each point.

The challenge is to get past, without being fried: which entails watching, waiting and nipping in between the falling fireballs. In most of these puzzles there is no room for error and a single slip will cost a hard won life. But, getting everything right has a satisfying confidence payoff.

Jump off...
Working with the excellent puzzles is a range of rich graphics. The characters are drawn in a cartoon style, unrealistic but fun, they are bright, bold and brash. They are far from fault free, the animation flicks rather than flows, while jumps are made more perilous by varied collision detection on the intended target blocks. These remain constant though, and only prove to be a minor irritation.

There are two big downers with Ghost Battle, however. First is the relative toughness of the whole affair. Easy, normal and hard modes of game can be chosen at the title screen, but have little discernable effect on the tricky gameplay.

Worst of all is the lack of credits. The game restarts very fairly where you died, provided you have lives left. But once they run out, you are lumped back at the start, no continues, no chance.

The downers do drag Ghost Battle down and spoil the surprise of discovering such excellent timing puzzles. It is a frustratingly enjoyable experience. The frustration eventually outweighs the enjoyment, but that takes a while. It is not the best platform romp ever designed, but the evil puzzles, good pics and excitable soundtracks are far better than the box lets on.

Ghost Battle logo

Wenn schonmal ein hübsches Mädchen bei einem Game mitmachen darf, dann wird es meist von grimmigen Unholden entführt, in einen finsteren Kerker gesteckt und muß dann endlos warten, bis der Spieler in den letzten Level vorgestoßen ist...

So auch bei Thalions neuem Actionadventure, aber hier weiß das darbende Fräulein wenigstens, warum es darbt: der Held ist ein knackiger Bodybuilder im kleidsamen Muskelshirt!

Unser Schwarm aller Friseusen läuft nun mit wiegendem Gang durch eine horizontal scrollende Welt voller dunkler Wälder, düsterer Friedhöfe und modriger Verliese.

Drückt man kurz auf den Feuerknopf, wirft er mit Steinen um sich, drückt man etwas länger, schleudert er seinen Widersachern eine Bombe ins garstige Monstergesicht. Den Rest der Zeit verbringt er mit dem Herumklettern auf Leitern und dem Einsammeln von Schlüsseln oder Schatzruhen. Kurz und gut, er benimmt sich so, wie sich das in einem ordentlichen "Ghosts'n Goblins" Clone nun mal gehört!

Aber trotz flüssig animierter Sprites und hübsch gestalteter Landschaften (sehr detailliert gezeichnet, nur ein wenig blaß) läßt der Spielspaß zu wünschen übrig.

Es hapert am Gameplay: Das Bombenwerfen z.B. wäre ja eine rechte nette Idee, aber wenn man mehrere Sekunden den Feuerknopf drücken muß, um die Dinger zu aktivieren, verzichtet man in der Praxis lieber drauf. Auch die Kollisionsabfrage ist nicht gerade ein Meisterwerk, und oft kommen die Gegner so unfair daher, daß an Ausweichen nicht mehr zu denken ist.

Bei Lichte betrachtet, erweist sich der Geisterkampf also trotz der gelungenen Präsentation (Musik von Jochen Hippel) als ein eher mittelmäßiges Spielchen (C. Borgmeier)

Ghost Battle logo

Ghosts 'n' Goblins has been the inspiration for some terrible crimes in the world of computer software, and I am afraid this is another one. Let's get right down to the brass tacks straight away, shall we?

Good points: nifty sound effects, a bit different from the usual bangs and zaps; pretty graphics; three difficult levels; reasonably slick presentation.

Bad points: utterly execrable animation, featuring the worst jumping and ladder climbing I've seen in a very long time; slow gameplay; baddies that seem to appear out of the ether, even from somewhere you've just visited which was quite definitely a baddie-free zone; hundreds of unavoidable 'appearing-from-nowhere' traps (my pet hate in arcade games); quite spectacular lack of imagination in all areas of plot and game design; huge amounts of dull trekking around in what it later (much later) transpires was entirely the wrong direction(s), not that there was any way of guessing beforehand; enemies that need to be shot a dozen times before they die - even the cannon-fodder ones; teeth-grindingly infuriating smug message at game-over time; everything else.

Though superficially classy-looking, Ghost Battle is an utterly tedious game, and a real bind to play more than twice in any given 24-hour period. The game's cover blurb says it all, really - 'Thalion. Sometimes, it's frightening'.