Ghost’N Goblins: Gold Knights II Review

Originally starting life in the arcades nearly 25 years ago, the Ghosts’n Goblins series has become something of a right of passage for gamers. Those who grew up in the early 90’s battled a legion of monsters in Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts. Those in the early 00’s tackled the 3D experience Maximo: Ghosts to Glory. And those in the current iPhone generation? They get to fight the undead in the Gold Knights series.

A sequel to last year’s Ghosts’n Goblins: Gold Knights for the iPhone, Ghosts’n Goblins: Gold Knights II places players in the role of Sir Arthur once more as he does battle with a wide variety of undead creatures. Arthur can throw weapons ranging from lances and arrows to a magical blue fire, complete double jumps, and be defrocked down to his heart-shaped boxers once his health bar dwindles down to nothing. If you’ve ever played a classic 2D Ghosts’n Goblins platformer, the content should be instantly familiar.

That’s not to say Gold Knights II isn’t without a few unique twists. Players looking for a fresh style of gameplay can choose to play as Perceval, a sword-swinging knight who demands up-close combat rather than the ranged fighting players have grown accustomed to with Arthur. Perceval can take less damage but packs more of a punch, so playing through this adventure as this second character genuinely feels like a different experience.

 Gold Knights II

Gamers who might be worried about the legendary difficulty associated with the Ghosts’n Goblins franchise will be delighted to know that the difficulty here has been set with the casual player in mind. Capcom boasts in their iTunes description that Gold Knights II is “the most accessible GNG game yet!” and we’re inclined to agree – at least when it comes to difficulty. That’s not to say it’s a walk in the park, but it certainly doesn’t offer the same level of controller-throwing frustration that the series is known for. If it turns out you do find the challenge a little too daunting, the game offers a wealth of cheats that can be purchased via the in-app store that allow for things like infinite lives and triple jumps.

Platformers on the iPhone are notorious for botched directional controls and button layouts, and while Gold Knights II makes some improvements over the original Gold Knights in this regard, it still needs a little work. We love that you can move and position the buttons to anywhere on the screen that feels comfortable, and we like that they’ve gone with a full range analog control rather than a classic “d-pad,” but the real key to successful on-screen directional controls is allowing the player to scale the size. Those of us with big thumbs need something a little larger than the standard offering to really feel like we have total control over our character, and I’d assume the inverse is the same for those with tiny hands. The other option, of course, would be to do away with the specified directional controls completely and simply acknowledge our directional movements wherever they take place on the screen.

Despite these frustrations, the improvements over last year’s release are both noticed and appreciated.

 Gold Knights II

What we found most surprising about Gold Knights II was how, like its predecessor, the graphics still paled in comparison to Ultimate Ghosts’n Goblins – a portable game released for the PlayStation Portable more than four years earlier. While the two devices are as different as night and day in some respects, many developers – Capcom included – have proven that the iPhone has the potential to offer a visual presentation on par with the best that the PSP has to offer. Yet while Ultimate Ghosts’n Goblins offered a stylish 2.5D look that perfectly captured the spirit of the series, Gold Knights II comes across looking blocky and uncomfortable – like an early game from the PlayStation One era. Enemies look fantastic for the most part, but both the player-controlled characters and environments feel like something out of a high school design course. It’s not a pretty sight, and it’s grossly inconsistent when you see the love that was poured into the enemy designs.

The visuals may lack the polish of some of the series earlier entries, but the old school fun still remains for gamers looking for an on-the-go challenge. With a tighter control scheme and a step-up in visuals, the Gold Knights series could easily become the premiere retro franchise on the iPhone. Even without those changes, Gold Knights II offers enough nostalgia that a quick play through should warm the hearts of any Ghosts’n Goblins fan.