Ghoul School

 

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Genre: Adventure

Publisher: Electrobrain

Total time played: 1 hour 15 minutes (using walkthrough)

Short review: A horror themed game featuring the exploring mechanics of Metroid and item system of Mega Man or Zelda.  Unfortunately it does not live up to any of the games that influenced it.


Interesting links related to Ghoul School


 

When I was about 15 my mom agreed to take me to a flea market to look for NES games if I agreed to go to a psychic fair with her.  At the psychic fair I had a crazy woman tell me that the rock sitting on the table in front of her was haunted by a spirit so evil that she kept the rock buried deep in her backyard when not attending psychic conventions.  I am not sure if she was trying to scare me (it didn’t) or was just crazy (she was).

After leaving the fair my mom took me to a flea market where I met another woman, this woman had a large box full of hundreds of NES manuals for $1 each.  This was in 1997 and no one really cared about NES at the time so she didn’t have a lot of people at her booth.  I remember pulling out a stack of manuals for the game Princess Tomato In The Salad Kingdom.  At the time I had never seen this game before and only recognized the name from the NES rarity guide online.  I decided that I didn’t want to waste a dollar each on a bunch of manuals so bought the only game she had, a complete in box copy of Ghoul School for $5.  Unfortunately I sold the box and manual years ago in a lot of empty boxes and manuals for $35 on craigslist.  Some of the boxes included Contra Force, Gyromite, all 3 Castlevania’s, all 3 Double Dragon’s and Rockin’ Kats…my single biggest regret in my collecting history.

On the way home I read the manual and studied the box art and couldn’t wait to play. When I got home and popped the game in I gave it about 5 minutes, realized I had no idea what I was doing and put it on the shelf until today.

This game is fun, the music is better than average, the controls are tight and there are more than enough weapons and shoes that change the way the game is played to keep anyone interested. Unfortunately there is one thing that makes the game nearly unplayable, the confusing navigation.

The game features over 100 different rooms and no map system. There is nothing that tells you where to go or where you have been. Basically you just walk around aimlessly until you find an item and then find a place to use that item. It is much like Metroid in this regard, but even though Metroid is hard to navigate I found it slightly more intuitive than Ghoul School.
Thankfully my friend Aaron (Arnpoly, who writes the amazing www.takesontheNESlibrary.com) wrote a really detailed and easy to follow walkthrough that I followed to the T and was able to beat Ghoul School in just over an hour.

The game features the following weapons which are collected throughout, each weapon has a strength and weakness:

Bat – The first weapon you get in the game, decent range and attack power but once I got the weapons I only used the bat to take out the vents on the school’s roof.

Towel – I personally never found this short range weapon of any use at all.

Deweytron – a long range gun. This is a very weak weapon but allows you enough distance to kill most full sized enemies without taking any damage.

Spinal Zap – kills most enemies in 1 or 2 hits but has no range meaning you are likely to get hit while using it. Still, this is the weapon that I used most.

Digestaray – shoots in an arc allowing you to hit the really short enemies. The enemies are very fast and if they get too close to you it is near impossible to get far enough away to use this weapon to kill them.

Sickle – short range, effective against the undead ghostly figures or plants enemies you encounter in a couple of rooms.

Sandwich – used to kill Frankenstein in the cafeteria.

Embalm Fluid – great for killing the slimes on the ground and a must have for rescuing your girlfriend after defeating the final boss.

Gamma Gun – Long range weapon much like the Deweytron but is almost as powerful as the Spinal Zap. By far the best weapon in the game.

As well as having a multitude of weapons to choose from you also have 3 pairs of shoes and a secret golden apple which reduces enemy damage by 50%:

Sneakers – regular old sneakers

Spring Shoes – allow you to jump much higher, the shoes make you taller meaning a larger hit box for enemies projectiles.

Suction Shoes – wear these to walk on the ceiling to avoid enemies or spike beds.

 

The goal of the game is to rescue your girlfriend and turn the school from Ghoul School into Cool School.  You start the game with 5 lives, if you lose a life you start in the room where you died which is very helpful.  But, if you lose all 5 lives you start back at the beginning of the game which means you have to find your way through the maze to the spot you died.  This happened to me 2 times while playing the game today and I then spent the next 10 minutes trying to figure out where to go again.

I wish I would have liked the game more but the inability to play it without a walkthrough or drawing your own map really decreased my pleasure.  There are several good tunes and the designers had fun with enemies and classrooms.  You fight a skeleton in the anatomy lab, a musical note in the music room, basketballs in the gym and a plant in the botany classroom.If you took out the navigation, made the game more linear with multiple levels and bosses or added in a map system I would have rated the game on the same level as Metroid.

The game isn’t hard, even the final boss is a piece of cake if you have the right weapon but because of the navigation issues it would have taken me 50+ hours to beat without a walkthrough.

Ghoul School.JPG

 

 

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