Ghoul Patrol is a game I’d never heard of until last week. It’s a sequel to the classic Zombies Ate My Neighbours by LucasArts. I’ve not played Zombies much, but enough to know it’s a breezey arcade style co-op game that’s a lot of fun. It’s also quite expensive to pick up second hand. Ghoul Patrol isn’t, so I thought I’d try it out (on an emulator) and maybe get it as a nice stop-gap for Zombies proper. or maybe even instead of - it’s a sequel, it could be better. A hidden gem, even!
I’m really glad I tried before buying, because it’s a near perfect example of how bad a sequel can be when handled by a different developer. Ghoul Patrol is made by JVC, they just licensed the assets of Zombies from Lucas. Instead of zombies, you’re fighting monsters and demons, starting in a library. There’s a whole cut-scene at the front of the game to show what summoned them (the stupid player characters) which is totally unnecessary. Right from the off, the game feels wrong. There are new sprites for Julie and Zeke, which aren’t too bad, but the movement speed for them is atrocious. It’s like walking through treacle. For a game that’s all about quick reactions and moving and shooting, sluggish controls are unforgivable.
But everything else is bad too. The level design is ridiculously confusing, even on the first stage. Zombies had complex maps, filled with secrets and short-cuts, but it at least eases you in. The first stage on Zombies can be done in about three minutes with no fuss. I spent fifteen on Ghoul Patrol’s opening, schlepping around its maze of dead ends and infinitely spawning enemies. You get the Zombies style shout-outs of “save me” and “over here”, but they’re completely useless, as they’re usually coming through a wall, giving you no suggestion of how to actually get to the civilian and they’re often just coming out of nowhere, indicating nothing. When I finally got through saving them all, the game repeatedly told me to “exit”. Ok, fine. In Zombies, an exit opens up next to you. In Ghoul Patrol, it doesn’t. And I have no idea what you’re meant to do or where you’re meant to go, because they removed the mini map and I’d got sick of muddling around the stage by then.
The weapons are really lame too. By default you have a crossbow. Nice horror movie cliche, should be fun. But it’s almost literally useless. It takes about four shots to kill even the weakest enemy with it. The default weapons in Zombies (I want to say they were water pistols?) were at least powerful enough to use as a last resort. Here you’re better off just trudging away, or using the dash-slide ability. It doesn’t do any damage, but it’s the only way to move with any real speed and essential for getting past the endless areas of flying books blocking your way, that you can’t shoot. But of course, the enemies are placed so you’re usually dash-sliding straight into something else.
The whole thing’s a total mess and I can see why it’s been quietly brushed aside from history, while Zombies is largely lauded.