In days of old when knights were bold and nasty demons ran off with pretty girlies, there lived a brave knight named Arthur. Three years after he succeeded in rescuing his sweetie, the beautiful princess Hus, the nasty creatures of the Netherworld have risen and made off with her a second time. Unsurprisingly, Arthur is more than a little miffed, so armed with a plentiful supply of throwing lances and a sturdy suit of armour, the knight sallies forth into the ghostly regions to save his love.
The actual gameplay of Ghouls 'n' Ghosts is in the same format as its predecessor Ghosts 'n' Goblins. Arthur, under your control, runs along leaping across platforms and blasting various spirits. You begin with an infinite supply of sawn-off lances to hurl at attacking nasties, but you can upgrade weapons along the way by picking up pots dropped by skeletons or by opening chests. Occasionally, a magician emerges from these chests and turns you into a bow-tie wearing duck, which is surprisingly useful for dodging the odd particularly annoying flying wotsit thingy.
If you open a chest to find a suit of armour, you will be blessed with a mega-weapon, such as flares (no, not flare armour trousers), lightning or a "wall of death", depending on the weapon you currently have. You begin in the graveyard at the edge of the town, as in the first game, but take a different route through the underworld, passing guillotines, swamps, giant skeletons and deserted windmills to name but a few. At the end of each area is a large and fearful guardian creature, which requires a number of blasts before it dies. Once it has been despatched to its evil source it leaves a key for access to the next level of the underworld.
If you manage to fight your way through all the levels and reach the heart of the spirits' domain then you can take the Princess back to safety... but for how long this time?
GRAPHICS AND SOUND
It is no good. There is no avoiding the phrase 'arcade quality'. In fact, it is remarkable how similar the Amiga conversion's graphics are to its arcade counterpart.
The sprites are wonderfully drawn and the animation is as slick as you could hope for, with not a flicker to be seen as they whiz about the atmospheric backgrounds. Every creature has a separate character and there are plenty of them too!
The sound is of an even higher standard than the graphics. The lack of effects is more than made up for by the stunning music. The 'Power LED off' trick has been used to get the best quality sound possible from the machine and has enabled sound wizard Tim Follin to produce the most stunning effects.
The tunes range from jolly cartoon ditties to hypnotic Tangerine Dream-style pieces. Let us hope to see (and hear) more from these guys soon.
Arcade conversions are often good fun for a few goes, but the appeal fades after you have spent hours playing and still get absolutely nowhere. Once you start playing Ghouls 'n' Ghosts, however, it is hard to drag yourself away. Sure the going is hard, and it will take you a good while to get through, but instead of frustration at not getting off the level, determination sets in, pushing you to beat just one monster more.
Every level has a totally different atmosphere, thanks to the change in graphics and music in each, so that you just keep playing to see the next level and hear another tune. The going is extremely tough, so it is doubtful you will finish the game too soon, but just try to stop yourself going back to play until you succeed!
These days it is a good idea to reserve judgement on an arcade conversion until you have played it for yourself. Just going on a big name is not really enough. Well, I am happy to say that Ghouls 'n' Ghosts is a first-rate conversion worthy of any arcade gamer's attention. The look and sound could be straight from a coin-op machine: some of the most impressive seen on a licensed conversion for a long time.
The pleasure of Ghouls 'n' Ghosts transcends the audiovisual delights on offer, though. The playability of the game will keep the most adept players waggling their joysticks for hours. It is still not that often you see licences of this quality on a home machine, so Ghouls 'n' Ghosts is certain to please fans of the original; but whether you have played the coin-op or not, you should give it a try. You should not be disappointed.