Ultimate Ghosts and Goblins is one of those games that people will either love or hate. Consequently, it makes reviewing it difficult because you’re always going to have people who claim you got it wrong. The gameplay is a throwback to the 8-bit era and the presentation takes full advantage of the PSP’s technical abilities. So Ultimate Ghosts and Goblins should be a winner then, right; another game to add to the PSP’s ever-increasing line-up of quality titles? It’s not.
Ultimate Ghosts and Goblins takes advantage of everything that made the 8-bit era great. It also includes relics that should have left behind with the NES. It’s not just about difficulty; Ghosts and Goblins was always a hard game. It’s about how the game is difficult. It’s always been annoying that Sir Arthur cannot move and shoot at the same time, but that’s not really the issue here. It’s frustrating, but it’s a mechanic that you can learn to work with.
What is unforgivable, however, is that Arthur obeys the laws of physics. Physics are all the rage, really, aren’t they? I mean, Half-Life 2 was heralded for its physics engine. But Ultimate Ghosts and Goblins is proof that sometimes you want to be able to break the laws of physics in your escapism, especially if your game design requires it.
Lost? It’s simple; Arthur cannot alter the course of his trajectory once in motion. It makes sense; try jumping and then moving forward at the peek of your jump. You can’t do it, can you? Physics. But it’s not necessarily a good thing in Ultimate Ghosts and Goblins. Not only has the ability to defy physics become oddly natural since Super Mario Bros. and Sonic The Hedgehog, but the level design in Ultimate Ghosts and Goblins combined with the ‘realistic’ jumping means that there are many ‘leaps of faith’ required. And falling down a bottomless pit because you couldn’t see it or plan for its presence is never fun; especially when you have to start the level from the beginning.
Yes, it’s harsh. Even in the ‘Novice’ difficulty, the game is ridiculously punishing. You’ll get a plethora of lives, and they’ll all be gone by the end of the second level. The enemies are toned down, but they still come hard and fast and they’ll constantly cause you to fall into lakes and pits. In the first level, ghostly hands will hold you down while enemies attack and a little later on will have flying things latching onto you, causing your ability to jump to become even more worthless. It’s nothing short of frustrating.
The ‘Ultimate’ difficulty is going to be responsible for a few broken PSPs. The enemies are faster, lives are limited, and when you die you have to restart the level from the beginning. And because each level has a strict time limit, you can’t take your time. It’s not just hard; it’s not just punishing; it’s torturous. Only the masochistic are going to find any kind of pleasure in this game. Even if you do manage to survive, the chances are you forgot to collect the super-special items, and you’ll be forced to go through it all over again until you do. The only redeeming feature about Ultimate Ghosts and Goblins is that it shows a sliver of mercy and provides infinite continues.
If you’re some kind of masochist, or if you’re some kind of cyborg who finds games like Ikaruga easy, you’ll probably want to look at getting Ultimate Ghosts and Goblins. But unless you want to torture yourself with one of the most frustrating games in living memory, you’ll want to skip this one. If you’re looking for a throwback to the 8-bit era, you should look into Capcom’s other reborn classic, Mega Man Powered Up. There’s far more to enjoy there than there is here. This one is for diehards of the series. Not even the boxer shorts can save it.