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Gobliiins 4

14:3422/04/2009Posted by D+PAD StaffOne Comment

It would be easy to dismiss Gobliiins 4 without a thought. It’s the continuation of an obscure, notoriously difficult point and click series, the most recent iteration of which was released sixteen years ago. It’s not a real looker; Gobliiins 4 certainly won’t be utilising DirectX 10, although its visuals have a colourful, childlike charm. There isn’t a strong narrative, something most point and clicks rely on. It’s the kind of game that you might skim past in the release list. Unless you have fond memories of the series, the title itself won’t turn your head. And I won’t lie, Gobliiins probably won’t set your gaming world on fire in the same way as a big hitter. It may, however, surprise you like it surprised me. It’s all a matter of perspective.

gobliiins1Designed by Pierre Gilhodes – one of the creators of the original Gobliiins – and developed by Société Pollene, Gobliiins 4 returns to the series’ roots, handing you control of three different goblins whom you can switch between at will. The goblins occupy a single screen per setpiece, and the goal is to activate various aspects of the setpiece as well as finding a tidbit of info to continue the (admittedly flimsy) plot. The game begins with Tchoup, the ’smart’ one, receiving a summons from the king. Something’s afoot and only the three most celebrated goblins in the country can help. Tchoup wastes no time in gathering up his brethren and heading off on an aardvark hunt.

It’s just as well for Tchoup that he’s not alone, because brothers Stucco and Perluis are indispensable. Each goblin has its own special ability; Tchoup can talk to characters and has an inventory, Stucco is strong and Perluis is a magician. In gameplay terms, this translates to using the goblins individually or in tandem to solve a variety of puzzles. On each of the thirteen levels in which they appear together, all three of the goblins are utilised, and while Tchoup is most definitely presented as the main character, there’s no chance of leaving the other two to one side. You’ll soon be flicking between goblins, commanding Stucco to lift a rock as Tchoup tentatively sticks his hand underneath or what-have-you.

The puzzles are where any adventure game needs to shine, and there was some trepidation amongst Gobliiins fans when it was announced that Gobliiins 4 would be an accessible title aimed at all age groups. All this ends up meaning is that the game isn’t as punishing as the original Gobliiins title, which is no bad thing given its reputation as one of the most frustrating adventure games of all time. gobliiins2Gobliiins 4 is still plenty challenging. Puzzles elicit a range of responses, from the ‘Eureka! How didn’t I spot that?’ to the ‘How obscure, yet strangely sensible…’. There are very few occasions when a solution is so oblique that trial and error is the only way, yet you often have to think in goblin logic to push forward.

The levels themselves are laid out in a linear fashion; there’s no travelling between locations here. Each level is one screen, you complete that screen and then move on. It’s a setup very similar to 2008’s Zack & Wiki, only without the instant deaths or needless frustration of destroying an entire puzzle room with one false move. There are sixteen levels in total, with one being a (highly amusing) bonus level unlocked upon meeting a certain criteria.

There is one area where opinions will most certainly be divided. For all intents and purposes, you can’t save your game. Sure, there’s an option to continue from the start of the level you last reached, but that’s all. Progress is ’saved’ in the form of passwords, which must be written down. This will either seem like an archaic, restrictive system (being forced to restart a level if you have to stop playing is nowhere near as bad as it seems, becoming a short memory game in its own right) or it’ll seem like a glorious shower of nostalgia, swansong to the days when gaming required you to jot down notes, draw maps, memorise passwords or complete games in one sitting. That’s not to say Gobliiins 4 is too lengthy or time-consuming, however. It’s best played in bitesize chunks – in Windowed mode – flicking back and forth between the game and your daily activities.

gobliiins3I admit, I became especially enamoured with Gobliiins 4 during my time with it. Every solution I reached was an achievement, every password I gained was a cause for celebration. The cute, simplistic narrative was expertly weaved to hold together the fiendish and enjoyable puzzle action without encroaching on the focus; to tax your brain. It may not be a big game and it may not be a perfect one. It’s not for everyone; if the idea of a tribute to hard-as-nails adventuring turns you off, then walk away. It may not have the impact or technical prowess of most games on the market nowadays. But it had heart, soul and fun in absolute spades; it reminded me why I enjoy this hobby and why the Adventure genre has always been a favourite. We need more games like Gobliiins 4 and more developers like Pierre Gilhodes and Société Pollene who are prepared to make them.

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One Comment »

  • Triggerhappytel said:

    I loved Gobliiins 1 back in the day, but I had written this off as soon as I heard about it a few weeks back. However, my interest is now well and truly piqued, and I shall perhaps see if I can pick it up cheap. I don’t normally play PC games though, and I wonder about this game’s requirements, because my PC is old – like, really old. It struggles with Operation Flashpoint (!).

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