Rare’s Grabbed by the Ghoulies didn’t make many waves when it was first released on the Xbox in October 2003. The game received middling reviews and, at most, was deemed good but not great. I recall seeing the game box in the stores, thinking “eh, looks dumb,” and moving onto belatedly drool over American McGee’s Alice. Fast forward some eighteen years to me trying out Grabbed by The Ghoulies for the first time through Rare Replay, and now I’m singing a different tune.
Having played a bit more of the game since this first go-round, I can easily say that the game is one of my highlights on Rare Replay. Yes, the game is simple and repetitive, but it’s also really fun and silly. There’s something to be said for its uncomplicated ways, because not every game needs to ridiculously complex or unwaveringly deep. Grabbed by the Ghoulies is neither of those things, and what it does — be absurdly entertaining — it does well.
Grabbed by the Ghoulies tells a basic story that’s predicated on, well…name-calling. Stuck in a storm, the human duo of Cooper and Amber happen upon a large mansion that’s owned by a baron. For whatever reason, Cooper decides to make fun of the baron, and the baron decides to kidnap Amber in retaliation. Cooper must fight his way through the baron’s mansion, which is inhabited by lots of different creepy creatures called “ghoulies,” in order to rescue Amber.
(Hmm, perhaps if Cooper had been nicer, they could have simply just stayed the night and then been on their way. Then again, if that had been the case, we wouldn’t have graced with Grabbed by the Ghoulies. Eh, your mileage may vary, as they say.)
Grabbed the Ghoulies is a generally spoopy game from the outset, the game’s bright, bulky graphics scream classic Rare, but they are more refined that what the studio gave players in previous adventure games such as Jet Force Gemini and Conker’s Bad Fur Day. After the games comic book-like introduction, they are showcased especially well once players are given control of Cooper in the mansion. Early on, in fact, players the one of the spoopiest moment in the game – the Hall of Heads!
Mounted animal heads are creepy, and that’s a fact. Grabbed by the Ghoulies shows off their own twist on such trophies, as they make players maneuver Cooper through a twisty hallway that full of mounted heads, which include very menacing versions of Rare’s beloved mascots, Banjo and Kazooie! As Cooper treads lightly through the very creepy hallway, the occasional heads pops out of the wall to give him a “super scary shock,” introducing one of the game’s mechanics involving a series of button presses to calm down Cooper. It’s all very silly, and yet it’s quite effective at showing players what to expect as they delve further into the game. Scaring Cooper too much and failing to calm him down results in some very unfortunate consequences. It doesn’t help that scares lurk around every corner, but encountering them and defeating them is all part of the goofy fun of this goofy game.
Grabbed by the Ghoulies is game that induces a few laughs, a few puzzles, and a whole lot of simple enjoyment. It’s not going to change anyone’s life or make the world a better place, but its lighthearted nature and easy-going spoopy spirit might just change one’s mood for the better, even if just for a little while. It’s a great game for the Halloween season, and then some.