Review: Gargoyles (Sega Genesis)

In this review, we try to break through this Sega Genesis game Gargoyles. We find out if this adventure game is worth playing.

This game was released in 1995.

The story of this game is that an evil wizard creates the Eye of Odin. You, as the player. plays Goliath and he is tasked to stop the wizard. The Vikings are also attacking the castle. By the time you stop them, Goliath is blamed for the attack and is turned to stone. He is only able to return thousands of years later in the near future.

You have a few basic moves you can perform. You can hack and slash and jump. If you encounter certain walls, you’ll be able to jump onto them. Using your claws, you’ll be able to climb not only the walls, but the ceiling as well. One final basic move of note is that if you jump while in the air, you can flap your wings once for additional height or distance. Great for completing larger jumps.

You also have a small set of advanced abilities. This includes the run and attack. You need to run at full speed, but if you attack at full speed, not only will you be able to lunge forward and harm enemies, but you’ll also be able to blast through destructible walls as well. In addition to this, you can smash through destructible floors. You must jump and use one of your attack moves while in the air to smash downward.

One final advance move of note is grappling. If you manage to touch an object that you can grapple with, you can perform a swing move.

Also along the way are various enemies. Some enemies are weak while other enemies are much more armoured. Most, if not, all enemies will require multiple strikes to take down. Some enemies fire projectiles while others use melee weapons. For most enemies, they will drop small items as you defeat them.

Items you can collect in the game include a number of items that increase your health. The most common ones are the small goblets. These are typically dropped by enemies, but are also found scattered in hidden places as well. These restore a tiny amount of health. In addition, you can find the occasional larger goblet. This sparkling item will restore all of your health. Though rare, it’s a very useful item.

Meanwhile, the silver shield grants temporary invulnerability. As long as your health meter is flashing rainbow colours, you’ll be protected from most, if not, all kinds of damage that can be inflicted on you.

The final item you can find is the free life. This looks like the face of Goliath. Collecting this will give you an additional free life.

You’ll be granted 5 free lives. With the addition of a health meter, this sounds like you are afforded a lot of margin for error. Unfortunately, it only takes a small handful of hit to cause you to shatter into itty bitty pieces. So, it’s very easy to lose free lives.

If you lose all of your free lives, you’ll be granted a continue. You only get one, but you’ll get all 5 free lives restored and you continue on the level you left off. If, however, you lose all of your lives again, it’ll be game over.

As you can imagine, the first thing that hits me with this game is the difficulty. While the general overall difficulty is infuriating, there are a lot of ways this game is annoying in other ways. I can see busting down well hidden walls to find secrets, what I can’t understand is having well hidden breakable walls just to generally progress in the game. While they can be found, you may find yourself squinting at some of the slightly different textured walls just to wind the one weak spot.

What’s worse is that the game seemingly assumes you know all the moves from the very beginning. This is because you must perform a large number of these moves just to complete the first few areas in the first level. As a result, when you get into the game, the came can make you feel like you don’t know what you are doing. When you throw in the difficulty on top of it, players are basically being thrown a wall to climb over before they even get a chance to even like it. So, ultimately, the game is not off to a good start.

To make matters worse, the games difficulty only gets harder from there. If you manage to reach level 2, you’ll encounter area’s that require very precise timing. So, already, you are being faced with extremely difficulty terrain. While it is certainly doable, it is by no means easy.

By level 3, I personally was hoping this game would open up in some way to allow for more interesting things to happen. while it does in some respect with the change in time and scenery, the game goes from annoyingly difficult to cheap and near impossible. This is because you are forced to use your grapple manoeuvre on objects with a buggy hit detection. In some spots, you are actually grappling thin air right next to the object rather than the objects themselves. If you miss this by a few pixels, you’ll find yourself plunging into the depths below.

To make matters worse, the game places sniper enemies in all the pinch points in these grapple areas. while it is certainly possible to evade the shots and take the bot out, you are always one fall away from plunging back to the beginning. Just to add insult to injury, every single sniper bot you took out is automatically respawned to boot. For me, things like this isn’t difficulty for the sake of challenging the player, but rather, difficulty for the sake of frustrating the player.

For me, after burning all of the last free lives I had left, I found myself switching off the game unmotivated to continue a game I never liked. This is because the first level was offputting, the second level was infuriating, and the third level was just insulting. Nowhere in this game did I find myself saying that this is in any way enjoyable. Because of the previous levels, I found no reason to continue playing a game because it would just be a chore at that point. So, I simply stopped playing.

Another problem I found with this game is that the health pickups, besides the full health items of course, barely make a difference in helping you survive the game. When hits can take almost a quarter of your entire life meter, you’d think health pickups can compensate for this. Instead, these item pickups barely restore a whole pixel of health. While they do help, I don’t think it is really set to helping enough to make this game bearable. The fact that some enemies have as much health as level bosses really didn’t help much either.

In addition to this, the animation sequences between levels are very quick. It’s so quick, you only have a chance to just skim the text before the game plunks you into the next level. I had a hard time reading everything, so it was hard to really understand the storyline from time to time (as you might be able to pick up with my summary in the beginning here).

Probably the only thing going for this game is that this game follows a familiar franchise for anyone growing up in the 90’s. This is thanks to the television show by the same name. So, that may cause some people to grab the title to see what it’s like. Unfortunately, that will only fuel the disappointment even further for some players.

Generally speaking, this game is a real letdown for me. While I wasn’t expecting anything huge because there is already the potential for a cash grab scenario, this game is still disappointing. You have a game with a steep difficulty curve from the very beginning, a steep difficulty curve early on, and few redeeming moments mixed in between. When you throw in the buggy physics with the grappling technique and cheap enemy placement, this game just insults the player at that point. The fact that health pickups barely make a difference in the overall gameplay only makes matters worse. This game is only appealing to those who like extremely difficult games. Otherwise, I don’t see this as being a very enjoyable game.

In some respects, the graphics is the strongest part of the game. This is thanks to the animation sequences of not only the player, but also the sequences of enemies and even some of the traps. This is a well done element. The fact that some breakable walls are so hard to see is a big set back, though. So much is so dark, that it can be difficult to see what you are doing at times. So, while it’s pretty decent, it isn’t without its flaws.

The audio, unfortunately, was another weakness in this game. The music is OK, but nothing too memorable. The sound effects weren’t that much better. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t all that good either.

Overall, this is definitely a missed opportunity. This game had the chance to take a fairly decent 90s cartoon series and translate it into an engaging video game. Instead, what this game ended up being was a series of game design missteps and high difficulty. The low power items and bugs only made matters worse. The graphics are pretty good, but the audio just doesn’t work out that well in the end. Not a recommended game in my books.

Furthest point in game: Died on level 3.

General gameplay: 11/25
Replay value: 4/10
Graphics: 7/10
Audio: 2/5

Overall rating: 48%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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