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Grabbed by the Ghoulies Updated Impressions

Microsoft shows off a new version of Rare's upcoming Xbox game.

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Microsoft stopped by today to give us a look at a newer version of Grabbed by the Ghoulies, which is being developed by UK-based Rare. The action game, last seen at E3, puts you in the role of a boy named Cooper, who's off in search of his kidnapped girlfriend. As luck would have it, she's being held in an abnormally large house chock-full of spooky creatures. We got a look at a variety of levels in the game, which gave us a better idea of what to expect from it.

While the game features a pretty basic old-school beat-'em-up mechanic that's easy to pick up, there's a bit more to it. You'll have roughly 100 different rooms to go through. Clearing a room will start out simple enough in the early parts of the game--you'll usually just have to take out all the enemies in a room--but the challenge will gradually ramp up. You'll find that the frenetic running around and beating of up random foes that served you so well at the start of the game doesn't go so far with later foes. The game does a fine job of forcing you to use your mind to suss out the best way to get through a room.

The most efficient way to play the game is to use your enemies and the objects in the environment to your advantage. Grabbed by the Ghoulies will feature more than 100 weapons for you to use, although Rare's definition of weapons is pretty free and easy. You'll find that weapons in the game include everything from soda can guns to stacks of hamburgers you can fling at your opponents. You'll also find larger, single-use items such as couches or dumpsters that you can whip around to do serious damage to your opponents. You'll also be able to use noninteractive objects in the environment to your advantage when confronted by a horde of foes. For example, it's far easier to deal with a horde of unruly skeletons from the other side of a dining table than when they're right in your face, especially if you're pelting them with burgers. While the skeletons will make their way around the table in hopes of smacking you around, you'll at least have a few moments of hassle-free damage-dealing, which becomes very useful as you progress.

Once you get the hang of the game you'll even be able to make your enemies do some work for you. So far we've seen three ways to make your enemies useful. One level contained some skeletons with smiley faces above them, which is a tip that you can use them to your advantage. If you're able to have a normal enemy hit them with an attack, they'll go postal and start beating up any nearby foe. In another level we were able to see one foe's attack injure several others by positioning a group of enemies in between Cooper and a barrel-throwing pirate. The barrels doled out a healthy bit of punishment to all the foes on their way to hit Cooper, which worked out nicely. Finally, you'll find a pickup in the game called "traitor fever," which turns enemies against each other for a brief period of time. A slightly trickier way to deal with foes is by using what should be a life-threatening gameplay element to your advantage. As mentioned, you'll eventually come to rooms that will be more challenging to clear, with a variety of requirements to fulfill. In some cases you'll find rooms that require you to attack your foes using only weapons or to not take a hit while defeating your foes. If you happen to blow these requirements, the Grim Reaper will show up to give you the finger of death, which basically means you die the moment the undead one touches you. While this is obviously not a good thing, it's also not the worst thing in the world. If you happen to run around an enemy-filled room with the Grim Reaper behind you, any foe he touches will be instantly taken out.

You won't have to rely on the aforementioned techniques exclusively to get through the game though. If taunting death isn't quite your thing, you'll find about 20 pickups in the game that you can use as well. While the good news is that most of them are very useful, the bad news is that there are some not-so-good ones in the mix too, which forces you to stay on your toes. You'll find standard health icons to boost Cooper's life meter; invisibility icons, which are especially useful when dealing with enemies; mini-Coopers, which summon a pint-sized version of Cooper to beat the hell out of your enemies' ankles; and speed-up and slow-down icons for both Cooper and his foes, which are mixed blessings depending on the situation.

While it sounds like the odds are fairly evened out by the pickups and the options you have, you shouldn't get too confident--this is a Rare game after all, and you can expect some nasty surprises in your adventures. The rudest surprises come in two varieties of "shocks." Scary shocks are scary moments that appear at random in the game. A red area will spread across the screen, and if you manage to avoid it you'll be fine. If you're hit by it, you'll temporarily lose control of Cooper, which makes things difficult when you're surrounded by enemies. The second shock is the "superscary shock," which gives you the option of avoiding the loss of control by matching a set of button presses that flash onscreen. If you manage to get it right, you'll avoid losing control and health; if you fail, you'll be one unhappy camper.

Based on what we've seen so far, Grabbed by the Ghoulies is looking to be good fun. We're a bit disappointed to see that it doesn't have any multiplayer support, but any game that has a level featuring vampire chickens is clearly doing something right. Grabbed by the Ghoulies is currently slated to ship this fall. We'll have more on the game in the coming weeks.

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