Ghosts 'n Goblins Resurrection review: A fiendish gauntlet

Ghosts 'n Goblins returns bearing the lance-slinging platforming action we remember with a lovely coat of new paint and all of the classic difficulty.

5

I’ve never beaten the original Ghosts ‘n Goblins. I came close on Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts, but I have beaten Demon’s Crest and gotten its true ending, which happened to be one of the most beautifully triumphant moments of my gaming life. These games are tough as nails you see. Claiming victory in even one of them worked our rapid-tapping fingers to the bone as we poured quarters into arcade machines and hit continue over and over at home. By the time you were done with a game in the Ghosts ‘n Goblins series, you knew every level of the platforming arcade adventure front to back because there was no other way to overcome its challenge. Fast forward to 2021 and the return of this devilish franchise with Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection. This game may be sporting a fancy new look, redesigned levels, and even some neat new features to cushion the pain, but it’s every bit as diabolical as its predecessors, for better or for worse.

One fine day, Hell came a-knockin’

Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection re-explores the beats of the original arcade games (both Ghosts 'n Goblins and Ghouls 'n Ghosts). For the uninitiated, it’s the medieval tale of Arthur and his beloved princess (formally known as Princess Prin Prin). Arthur and Prin Prin are minding their business one day when suddenly, an actual, factual Satan shows up and steals Arthur’s beloved away. He has no choice but to fight his way through legions of demons, monsters, and the undead to save her. This culminates in a gauntlet of platforming levels in which you fling lances rapid-fire at anything that moves and try to live longer than seconds in the face of the challenge every stage throws at you.

Perhaps one of the coolest parts of Ghosts ‘n Goblins Ressurection is its reimagining of everything in those original games. All of the familiar characters, creatures, bosses, and locations of the original game appear in Resurrection with a fresh, almost papercraft art style. It’s more than just the same levels with a fresh look though. Each stage has been redesigned with its own gimmicks and tricks to make them uniquely challenging and make the adventure seem truly new as opposed to just sort of a remaster or one-to-one remake. The music is also a recrafted array of many of the beats found in earlier games, including the iconic Graveyard theme, and all of it is very well done.

Ghosts, goblins, ‘n more than a little trolling

So, let’s get down to the nitty gritty of what makes up the Ghosts ‘n Goblins formula. Traditionally, you have Arthur starting with a lance which can rapidly be thrown two at a time, one after another. If a lance hits, you can immediately throw again. Meanwhile, the levels throw a massive array of both static and randomly spawning enemies and pitfalls right back at you. You might have to battle a wave of flaming fox creatures that bounce off ground and ceiling leaving lingering fire in their wake while also watching for rolling stones along the ground floor. You might also have to shimmy carefully along a moving zone of teeth through a gelatinous pit while grim reapers jump out at every corner to try to take a swipe at you.

The levels and enemies are colorful and varied, but rest-assured, they are meant to destroy you. Each level culminates in a boss with their own gimmicks and only by defeating them can you move forward to the next zone. Not only that, but each level contains a myriad of secrets to discover, making for some interesting replayability.

Your defenses against all of this mayhem? At the most basic, you have two hits, a randomly spawning array of weapons found in chests and pots, and a jump that leaves you at the mercy of your momentum when you leave the ground. Seriously, errant jumps in this game will kill you as much as any enemy. Incrementally built knowledge of what comes next is your greatest weapon, a direct result of the fact that you will die… a lot. Getting a knife weapon for rapid fire, arrows for angles and multi-hits, and fire bottles for scorching the ground (to name a few) may help more or less in a given area. However, the game often cycles the weapon drops randomly, so really it comes down mostly to learning exactly what the game is about to throw at you at any given point and trying your best to be ready for it.

All of this is to say that for all the new paint and sound, much of the crushing Ghosts ‘n Goblins experience remains intact. This game aims to break you. Only by trial and error can you determine the best actions and reactions you’ll need for each section, and boy howdy can these levels be unfair. There’s even a certain intact feature at the supposed end of the game that remains a staple of the Ghosts ‘n Goblins series in case regular punishment wasn’t enough.

Ultimately, I can’t count how many times I breathed a sigh of relief after finally killing a boss, getting the key, and moving forward to the next level. That said, I also can’t count the times I outwardly called this game cruel or mean while playing it, nor can I possibly believe that everyone will enjoy its dastardly design. Between savage level gimmicks, nasty static enemy placements and the borderline random spawn of foes at certain points, Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection’s adherence to its classic franchise difficulty feels pretty likely to make one or several players put it down never to return again.

Bells ‘n whistles to sooth the pain

With all that talk about difficulty out of the way, I’m happy to share that the designers of Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection aren’t entirely merciless. They want you to play and achieve your victory. To that end, there are a lot of features in Resurrection that are aimed at softening its otherwise sheer cruelty. For one, there are four difficulty levels. Legend is what previous Ghosts ‘n Goblins players are probably used to. You can take two hits, enemies are abundant, and you must complete large swaths of levels in one go. Knight is still difficult, but there are checkpoints scattered through levels and you can take three hits. Squire keeps checkpoints, reduces enemy appearances, and gives you four hits. Finally, for those who just want to see what Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection has to offer, there’s the Page difficulty which offers everything in Squire, but also if you die, you’ll respawn immediately and can continue at your leisure.

More than that, Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection has a few other features that can be discovered regardless of difficulty. For one, you don’t have to beat the game in one sitting. Legend to Page, once you clear a level, it remains cleared and you can pick up where you left off later or play previously beaten levels again. Then there’s the magic system. Hidden throughout each level are little magical sprites called Umbral Bees. By coaxing them into the open and capturing them, you can use them to obtain magic spells.

At the most basic, you can summon a lighting to hit foes horizontally and vertically from your character, but later magic unlocks can really shake up the game. Medusa will allow you to turn all minor enemies to stone (perfect for randomly spawning and swarming enemy areas) and Doppleganger will allow you to cast a body double that will throw weapons alongside you (perfect for knocking out bosses fast with doubled weapon throws).  Some Umbral Bees are very well hidden in levels, but it’s still pretty easy to just stumble across them, amass a good collection, and unlock the means to make the game easier. This goes a long way in giving the game even more replayability and making some of its most annoying chokepoints more manageable.

A raucous resurrection

Ghosts ‘n Goblins was never meant to be easy. I’ve been around this franchise long enough to know that Resurrected was going to be a daunting task, and I came away getting exactly what I expected: a savage beating for most of my playtime, inch-by-inch progression, and finally, victories filled with joyous yells. Moreover, I was rather happy with the visual redesign of characters, enemies, and levels that has brought this series forward to modern times. I’m glad the Squire and Page difficulty exist because otherwise it would be very hard to recommend this game to any but the most hardened platformer players. With those difficulty options, the magic system, checkpoints, and a save system around to ease the burden, the game becomes a much more accessible platformer to a wider range of players and skill sets. Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrected is an absolute monster of a game, but both a thoughtful redesign and a fully intact foundation make it one that feels glorious to tame at whatever level you play it, as well as a refreshing and colorful adventure all along the way.


This review is based upon a Nintendo Switch digital copy provided by the publisher. Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrected launches on the Nintendo Switch on February 25, 2021.

News Editor

TJ Denzer is a player with a passion for games that has dominated a lifetime. When he's not handing out beatdowns in the latest fighting games, exploring video game history, or playing through RPGs with his partner, he's searching for new food and drinks in the constant pursuit of good times with good people inside and outside the South Texas area. You can also find him on Twitter @JohnnyChugs.

Pros
  • The entire Ghosts 'n Goblins foundation is intact
  • New art style looks great, especially familiar bosses
  • Great soundtrack full of re-arranged franchise classics
  • Multiple difficulties to ease the adventure
  • Fun magic system with tons of spells to explore
  • Beating it feels like actually defeating Hell itself
Cons
  • The -entire- Ghosts 'n Goblins foundation is intact
  • Higher difficulties are outright cruel
  • Even softer difficulties can be unfair
  • Weapon spawn is entirely random
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