It takes more than just a pair of nostalgia goggles to make a good retro inspired game. But can Ghoulboy follow through?
Good morning everyone!! We’re back for another regularly scheduled edition of the Daily Backlog! Where I spend anywhere from 3 to 5 episodes powering up and make you teeter at the edge of your seat waiting for the action to happen! So stay tuned between the hours of 8AM and 9PM sometime in the next 365 days!
I kid of course because the latest edition is right here, right now gracing your face orbs! And today I have a bit of a special post because I’ll be taking a look at another game that the gracious team over at Eastasiasoft (in collaboration with Dolores Entertainment) sent over to me for review! And that game is Ghoulboy on the PlayStation 4! Now, just to get it out of the way, I’m fully aware of the debacle that went down with the developer of this game and the whole revocation of Steam keys and price increases, but I’m not here to report on all of that. I’m here to give my full and honest opinion of the game. If you’re interested in finding out what that’s all about though, you can watch SidAlpha’s video covering this very topic in detail. I don’t necessarily condone the opinions in the video, but it was the most “to the point” source of information on the subject that I could find that wasn’t just a reddit thread filled with speculation. Enough with those shenanigans though, let’s get to the game!
Hey This Looks Familiar!
Ghoulboy is a 2D action platformer originally developed by Serkan Bakar and was released on Steam in 2017. And now two years later Dolores Entertainment has ported the game to the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch! Although Ghoulboy is touted as a 16-bit inspired game like something you’d find on your SNES, graphically it more reminds me of an old DOS game I would have played in the early 90’s. Not that that’s a bad thing as the graphics definitely have some charm to them, but there is a simplicity and emptiness to the characters and environments that remind me of a time when you had to launch games from the command line and before PC mice were a thing.
And if you really want that “nostalgic” feeling you can apply some post-processing filters to the game so it simulates scanlines or a composite signal like you would find on an old CRT. Honestly, I’ve never been a big fan of this and would much prefer to see those crispy pixels instead of blurry and oversaturated blobs. One thing that was a little off putting though was the fact that your character is so cartoony compared to all the other characters you meet in the game. Where all the other character portraits are intricately detailed, Ghoulboy himself is a deformed little cartoon kid that just doesn’t seem to fit in to the rest of the world. Aside from that, the aesthetics of the game are solid if not a bit thrown together at times.
The background music is catchy as well, but I’ve encountered a few instances where it freaked out on me and layered multiple tracks on top of each other. It basically turned into a high volume cacophony of sounds that made my ears bleed! After hearing it for a while it did become a bit repetitive, but luckily a new theme was introduced once I moved on to the next area!
I’ve only finished the first stage so far and defeated the first boss, of which I think there are only two. At least going by the PS4 trophy list. And the gameplay seems passable. It takes many inspirations from games like Ghouls n’ Ghosts or the classic Castlevanias minus some of the challenges and clever level design you would have found in them. Ghoulboy, kind of gives you the illusion that it’s going to be challenging, but the developer never really followed through. So really it just feels like your going through the motions and staring at the screen in surprise when you finished the stage or defeated the boss with minimal effort. That’s not to say the game is completely devoid of inspiration, because you can do things like throw spears at walls and use them as platforms, or you can find hidden treasures in fake walls, but that’s also been done before. I mean all these same features were in the last action platformer I played, Volgarr. And although I had my gripes with Volgarr in the past, I honestly feel like it did it better. It does have a default double jump though!
One of the stranger additions to the game was the inclusion of a shop on the main menu screen. So when you boot the game up and if you have an existing save file, you’ll be presented with a shop menu that you can use to buy upgrades for your character with the gold you’ve found in the game. It definitely helps as well! You can also encounter a witch in certain levels of a stage that’ll sell you stuff too, but she isn’t quite as useful and it’s only for consumable items.
That’s all well and good, but the biggest travesty that Ghoulboy commits is swapping the attack and jump buttons!! And the developer didn’t even think it was necessary to give you the option to customize your controls! Ok, ok, after playing it for an hour or so you’ll get used to this layout, but I mean come on! Give use some options! I’ve died plenty of times trying to escape a monster by accidentally hitting the attack button instead of jumping! And if one travesty wasn’t enough there isn’t even an option for multiple save files or the simple ability to start a new game! No, if I want to start a new game I literally have to delete my save file from the PlayStation 4!
It may seem like I despise this game, but truthfully it isn’t too bad if your just looking for a short and simple distraction. There’s definitely fun to be had with Ghoulboy, but it doesn’t do anything special that would set it apart from all of the other fantastic 2D platformers out there! Even at its current price point on both the PS4 and Switch I have a hard time recommending it. Unless of course you can get it at a deep discount or free with something like PlayStation Plus. If you’re still interested though you can find it on the Nintendo eShop ($9.99) and the PlayStation Store ($7.99) using the links below:
The Roman Numeral for 54 is LIV
Welp my friends, that’ll do it for today!! Although I wasn’t 100% convinced by Ghoulboy I’ll still be playing it in the coming days. Because, who knows?! It may surprise me in the end. And of course I’ll still be plugging my way through the fantastic Riddled Corpses EX until there are no more corpses to riddle (if that’s a thing). Oh! And before I forget, Devil May Cry 5 comes out tomorrow so I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll be seeing me gush all over that game in the very, very near future!
I should be back to my regularly scheduled shenanigans tomorrow so until then, have a great rest of your Thursday!
Riddled Corpses EX (Switch) – Me
Ghoulboy (PlayStation 4) – Me
Stardew Valley (Switch) – The Wife
Mario + Rabbids (Switch) – The Trio
Total Backlogged Games: 735 …A ghoulish amount!
Total Completed Games: 11 …One plus one is eleven! Nailed it…
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And you can keep tabs on my backlog by checking out the Backlog Odyssey Backloggery game list!