Ghoul Patrol
  • Genre:
    • Shoot 'Em Up
  • Platform:
    • SNES
  • Developers:
    • LucasArts
    • Motion Pixel
  • Publishers:
    • JVC
    • JP Victor Entertainment
  • Released:
    • US November 1994
    • UK 1994
    • JP 05/26/1995
Score: 75%

This review was published on 07/25/2017.

Ghoul Patrol is a video game developed by LucasArts and Motion Pixel for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and Super Famicom. It was originally released in North America in November 1994, Europe in 1994, and Japan on May 26, 1995. JVC published the game in North America and Europe, while Victor Entertainment published it in Japan. Despite the title not indicating it, this game is the direct sequel to Zombies Ate My Neighbors, which was originally released for the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis in 1993. Zombies Ate My Neighbors was developed solely by LucasArts, but Ghoul Patrol's development was partially outsourced to Motion Pixel, a relatively unknown developer from Malaysia. LucasArts did the art and design while Motion Pixel worked on the programming and level layouts. Anyway, Zombies Ate My Neighbors is a beloved cult classic, but not many people know of its sequel, Ghoul Patrol. There's a perfectly reasonable reason for that: the sequel isn't nearly as good as the original.

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The two teenaged protagonists from Zombies Ate My Neighbors, Zeke and Julie, return in Ghoul Patrol for another ghoulish adventure. This time, the tale begins with our heroes electing to go to a historical exhibition at a mysterious library. The exhibition is exhibiting the ghosts and demons of the dark ages via statues and other inanimate displays. While viewing exhibits at the exhibit, Zeke and Julie discover a dusty old tome that came out of a treasure chest all on its own. The teenaged duo then read the book, which told them to say "it is ghosts and demons time" in reverse. Immediately after the two uttered the phrase in reverse, a real demon popped out of the book! This demonic entity declared that it'll conquer all of time with the aid of its many minions. Now Zeke and Julie must form the titular Ghoul Patrol and go back in time to defeat all the ghoulish fiends.

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Like the last game, action in Ghoul Patrol is viewed from an overhead perspective. You still control either Zeke or Julie by using the d-pad to smoothly walk in eight directions and the Y button to attack with the currently held weapon. Ghoul Patrol makes some changes to the controls, though. For one, you can now actually jump at almost any time by pressing the B button, enabling you to get on top of some objects like furniture. Previously, jumping could only be done with the aid of a trampoline. It's also now possible to do a baseball slide across the ground for a sudden boost of speed. Speaking of speed, holding the Y button while moving will eventually make you run, and you go faster the longer the button is held. The new abilities are sort of neat, but the controls are rather sluggish and unresponsive this time around. Also, you now use items by pressing the select button, which doesn't feel quite right.

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As with the previous game, you'll find additional weapons and items on your ghoulish journey. The currently held weapon is swapped by pressing the A button and items are switched around via the L and R buttons. Unlike the previous game, your default weapon is now a crossbow with unlimited ammunition, so you'll always have a means to defend yourself. All other weapons still have limited ammo, though. At any rate, Zombies Ate My Neighbors had a unique set of weapons in the form of water guns, fire extinguishers, popsicles, and countless other wacky things. On the other hand, Ghoul Patrol elects to go with more conventional stuff, like various guns of alien origin. The switch to more conventional weaponry makes Ghoul Patrol feel more generic than its predecessor. There are also substantially fewer weapons in this game, and they're not nearly as useful. Besides the crossbow, there's a machine gun, a laser rifle, a homing pistol, and a portable mortar. Hitting anything with the mortar is rather difficult, and all the other weapons aren't much better than the basic crossbow. In other words, the weapons in this game suck.

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Once again, your main objective in Ghoul Patrol is to rescue victims. Like before, you walk into victims to rescue them and successfully saving all the ones in the current level causes an exit to appear, taking you to the next level where you repeat the process. The game starts you out with ten victims to save per level, but every time an enemy murders a victim in the current level, you'll have fewer victims to save in the next level. That may sound like a good thing, but it's actually bad, because you lose if all ten victims die. You also lose if you die, obviously. All of this is as it was in the previous game, but there are a few changes. Most of the changes are bad for reasons I'll delve into later, but there's at least one that's good. The good change is that the amount of surviving victims will be restocked back to ten after every world, resulting in a far more forgiving experience.

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Now for all the bad changes, the first of which is how exits work. Instead of exit doors appearing right next to you after saving the last victim, an exit portal appears in a predetermined spot somewhere else in the level. This is annoying, because you'll often have to backtrack to a previous area just to leave the level. Secondly, you no longer have a radar system that shows where the victims are located, making it much harder to find them. You do get hints as to their general whereabouts via speech bubbles that constantly pop up from the four corners of the screen, but not only is this not a suitable substitute, it's also quite bothersome. The speech bubbles end up working against you by being distracting, and the blasted things won't stop until you've rescued everyone in the current level. Not like that will be of any solace, though, because they'll just come back in the next level.

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Unlike the original, levels are now grouped into worlds with different themes. These worlds will not only take you to different parts of the globe, but different time periods, as well. You begin in an urban environment set in contemporary times like in the first game, but soon find yourself facing skeleton samurais in feudal Japan, wicked pirates in the Caribbean, and ghostly knights in medieval Europe. The victims also change to match the world's theme, like how you'll be saving geishas in the Japanese world. There are actual bosses now, too, but they're nothing more than big damage sponges that fly around the arena while shooting projectiles everywhere. They are visually impressive, though, as is the rest of the game. There's still a password system to retain your progress, but you likely won't need it given how short the game is. While Zombies Ate My Neighbors was perhaps a bit too long for its own good, Ghoul Patrol is a bit too short. The original game had over 40 levels, but Ghoul Patrol only has about 17. That's not to say that the levels in Ghoul Patrol are bad, though. There just needs to be more of them.

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While not bad by any means, Ghoul Patrol just doesn't measure up to Zombies Ate My Neighbors. The original might have been too long, but the sequel is way too short. Additionally, the unique elements of Zombies Ate My Neighbors have been replaced with more generic stuff in Ghoul Patrol. Even the title is more generic. The marvelous weapon system from the previous game also gets massively downgraded in Ghoul Patrol, drastically reducing the number of weapons and their usefulness. Having said all that, Ghoul Patrol is far from a bad game. It still provides some measure of entertainment value, especially when two people play it cooperatively.

Word Count: 1,322

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