When I think of adventure games, especially those with a focus on some heavy puzzling, I always think of the Goblins series. Rarely has one game delivered such a huge amount of demanding puzzles. The greatness of Goblins doesn't end with its difficulty level, though. The series was always a complete package, featuring amazing graphics and memorable soundtracks. Now, the king of puzzlers is back to challenge us one more time.
Just as quickly as the series appeared, it went off the radar back in 1993 and no one heard of it again, up until the year 2004, when Pierre Gilhodes officially announced the sequel. The wait was not over yet, as the years passed and the official website remained unchanged, without so much as a trace of an update. I remember writing about Gobliiins 4 back in 2007 - Back then I started to fear that Gobliiins 4 would be one of those unfortunate titles that end their lives in the fires of development hell.
I tried to keep positive, seeing as many classic franchises got resurrected. After all, who would ever expect to see a new Sam & Max or Simon the Sorcerer title in the age of console gaming and a precious few adventures? So finally, in the year 2009 I got what I have been waiting for, after no more and no less than sixteen years. Gobliiins 4 was here.
As the number of i's in the title and the cover art suggest, once again we'll take control of three goblins, and thanks to the unique abilities of each and every one of them, we'll venture through puzzle filled rooms. Gobliiins 4, much like its predecessors, doesn't send you running from location to location. Each level is a single room, and once all of the puzzles in it are solved, you can move on and continue your journey to the next one.
The story is as simple as can be. You, a goblin detective named Tchoup, get a letter from King Badigoince, instructing you to find your two friends and get your rear-ends to the castle - pronto. Being a faithful subject, Tchoup wastes no time and embarks on a search for Stucco and Perluis. Each of the characters has his own level and to gather a full party, you'll need to complete a number of chores made into puzzles. After that, it's off to the castle and so the story starts.
It's not the most exciting of plits, but Goblins games were never about the story. In fact, first three games didn't even have proper dialogs. All you could expect from the game was a few lines of text per level and that was that. When you saw a sleeping giant blocking your way, you couldn't just wake him up and ask him what he wants - the game wanted you to figure it out on your own, and that made Goblins so much tougher and more entertaining.
When compared to its prequels, puzzles in Gobliiins 4 have been noticeably toned down. While I could spend hours on end in a single room in any of the first three games, when playing the newest title in the series, I have no bigger problems with completing a level in just under one hour. Believe me, the difference in difficulty is huge, considering I could be figuring out a single stage from, let's say Goblins 3, for days.
Back in the day games were tough, and that's a fact. Sometimes I felt as if developers didn't really care whether or not a normal thinking person could actually complete a given title. Goblins series was one of the toughest adventures around, but that was in the early nineties. I'm guessing the developers didn't want to punish those, who bought a $20 game and just wanted to have some fun, rather than pull their hair out and scream in frustration.
Puzzling and game-play aside, it's hard to overlook the fact that Gobliiins 4 doesn't really look like a game published in 2009, or 2004 for that matter - It's more of a blast from the past, with a fistful of indie spice. From what I can tell, the development team consisted of only few people, so one ought to think of Gobliiins 4 as a labor of love rather than your regular, commercial product.
Truth be told, I don't mind the outdated look one bit. If anything, it contributes to the quirky feel that's always been a part of Goblins. All of the backgrounds are pre-rendered, with 3D models layered over them - much like in well known Alone in the Dark or Resident Evil. The goblin models aren't as detailed as those seen in Telltale Games' productions, but their animation is fluent and there are enough physical gags hidden throughout the game to keep you smiling from start to finish.
With the visual aspect of the game covered, let's talk a bit about the music. Sadly, the original artist, Charles Callet, doesn't return to compose the score, but his successor, Didier Sallustro aka Tonton Didou does a fine job as well. Some of the tunes sound like remixes of the old AdLib score from previous games, which earns the soundtrack a plus in my books. Overall the music is enjoyable, although it does tend to stop after a while, leaving only the ambience and sound effects. The only improvement I'd like to see in the sound department are the correctly handled loops - The rest is just great and I have absolutely no complaints.
Gobliiins 4 wouldn't be a proper sequel if it didn't feature the peculiar goblin speech. Back in early nineties digitized speech was a rare sight, so first three games used this funny sounding "goobly-boop" talk, similar to what Rare used in their Banjo Kazooie games. It sounds a bit different this time around, more like snippets of normal speech played backwards, but it's adorable nonetheless. And yes, adorable is a proper word to describe this phenomenon.
So, with sound described, we're ready to wrap this entry up, right? Wrong. The excitement of Gobliiins 4 doesn't end with the cover title. The developers were kind enough to include all of the three DOS games and that's the reason why you see these old-school screenshots. That's right - Thanks to ScummVM, we get to re-live and re-play first three games of the series. I know there are many of those, who never heard of Goblins, and the inclusion of previous games makes Gobliiins 4 a must have.
Gobliiins, Gobliins 2: The Prince Buffoon and Goblins 3 aka Goblins Quest 3 are all present and flawlessly emulated. As you may or may not know, each of these games got two releases, one being a regular floppy and another being a CD version with enhanced soundtrack. All of the classic games present on the Gobliiins 4 disc are the CD versions and this creates a small problem.
The way Goblins games were built didn't allow multiple soundtrack, so it was either the CD tracks or AdLib music. This means that those who got a floppy version were missing out on CD music and vice versa. To make matters worse, both the CD and floppy soundtracks are entirely different. So, in other words, buying Gobliiins 4, you are stuck with the CD soundtracks for Goblins 1 to 3. It's a shame really, since the AdLib soundtrack is generally considered to be superior to the CD one, which was often limited to ambience. Having CD quality environment sounds might have been impressive back in the early nineties, but anyone in their right mind would pick the AdLib music any day.
Another thing worth noting is that when you run one of the classic games, they're being started via a batch file. A ScummVM command is executed and you're being taken directly into the game. Old Goblins were originally DOS games and they're pretty low-res, but when you start the ones you get with Gobliiins 4, you might notice that the pixels are filtered and smoothened. This is because the batch files contain the following command: -ghq2x. Remove it, and you'll get the original pixly look. And remember that there's a separate batch file for each game.
The Gobliiins 4 version I bought is a so called MULTI3 edition, which means it uses three languages - in this case Polish, Czech and Hungarian. When poking around in the classic Goblins resources, I came across a small irregularity. Since the DOS games got localized, the intro.stk files present in Gobliins 2 and Goblins 3 filders are different than those from the '92 and '93 originals. Aside from obvious differences due to translation, additional 22 bytes were added to the file header, which made it impossible to unpack the file using ScummVM tools.
I have reported this on ScummVM boards and thanks to one of the developers, DrMcCoy this small error has already been fixed, so if you feel like playing around with the resources, grab the latest SVN build of ScummVM tools. Since I'm on the technical side of things, it's worth to mention that Gobliiins 4 doesn't use any kind of protection against copying other than the CD check. If you're anything like me, you hate being forced to have the game disc present in the drive at all times and that's why I created a small patch that takes care of this problem. You'll find download links at the bottom of the page.
It is important that you understand this patch was not created to circumvent the copy protection, as there isn't any. You might just as well run a copy, as long as the disc is present in the drive. The patch overwrites four bytes in the launcher app to override the check and that's it. You can keep your precious disc inside the box and enjoy the game on all of your computers. We're living in a world where most people own a desktop computer as well as a laptop, so do we really need the game to ask us for the disc? No.
Since the original Goblins are emulated through ScummVM, you can easily take those games with you anywhere you go if you own a smartphone, PSP, Nintendo DS or any other portable platform that ScummVM has been ported to. So grab your flash cart and give it a try. This of course means you have to buy Gobliiins 4, but if you want to be among the people I respect and admire, you'll get this game anyway.
● - Gobliiins 4 No-CD Patch @ GameCopyWorld.com
● - Gobliiins 4 No-CD Patch @ MultiUpload.com
- 「『 Adventure hats on! 』」
- 「『 The Big PlayStation 2 Save Backup Operation 』」