Reviewed by Mr. Bill and Lela
Way back in 1992, back in the days before the Internet as we know it, or walkthroughs, Sierra-Online released a diabolical little puzzle-adventure game called Gobliiins, created by Pierre Gilhodes, the mad genius behind the French gaming company, Coktel Vision. It starred 3 little imps or goblins who acted like the Three Stooges; it was set in a world that looked like it was straight out of The Far Side cartoons; and it had absolutely mind-numbing puzzles. It was a game that the whole family could play, and it was an instant hit. So it was quickly followed by Gobliins 2 in 1993, Goblins 3 in 1994 (the number of i's in the title told you how many goblins were in the game), and then, in 1995, the "piece de resistance", Woodruff & the Schnibble (not really a goblins game per se, but the same kind of idea, only with much more elaborate puzzles and even more insanity... see our screenshot of the asylum from that game).
You had to pay for your hints in those days, and you could only get them, one at a time, by mail or by phone... most people didn't even own a modem. And these games were unapologetically hard, with some puzzles that could take you hours, sometimes days, to solve (not everybody's cup of tea). Nevertheless, they became cult classics, with legions of fans worldwide who loved the challenge.
But it's been 15 years since the last game was published, and when Sierra finally did go belly up, Gobliiins fans everywhere lost all hope of ever seeing another game. Or so we thought. Obviously we underestimated both the artistic drive and the resourcefulness of the games' creator, Pierre Gilhodes. Because "he's ba-a-a-ck!" with a brand new publisher and a brand new 3D Gobliiins game. And thankfully, this new one includes all of the good things that the original had, only in this game you can't die.
The story, as always, is very simple. King Balduron has gone over the edge, completely bonkers, because Riri, his beloved and spoiled pet aardvark (which looks suspiciously like a weird little puppy dog) has gone missing. So the famous goblins are called in to find him, and they must figure their way through and out of many fantastic places in order to do so.
It is a third person, cartoon-style, 3D, point & click game, with a relatively small inventory, automatic subtitles (necessary, since very few people speak goblinese), and a familiar, very easy to use interface. You just point and left click to move, and double click to run. A right click brings up your inventory, and you left click on something to use it. Everything functions very smoothly, and we had no technical problems of any kind.
It is set up to keep track of the progress of several different players. You type in a User Name at the beginning, and then you just select that name and hit Resume Game the next time you play. There is no manual Save option. Instead, the game automatically saves for you after you complete each section. Plus (as in the old days), it also gives you your own personal password to write down that allows you to return to that section should you want to repeat it later, or need to find something there.
The game looks as if you'd suddenly stepped into a delightful children's animated storybook. You find yourself in a brightly colored and very imaginative surreal fantasy world that is absolutely filled with bizarre (but harmless) creatures and characters. You visit one location in it at a time (like one page in a storybook), and you go to all sorts of strange places... castles and dungeons, islands and fields, a giant playroom, a train station, a spaceport and another planet, even inside a living comic book (our favorite). And while at each place, you'll meet and interact with a veritable cornucopia of charming, unbelievable characters, everything from aliens with migraines to singing foolweeds, from a train named 'Vern the Worm' who wears a red hat, to a monster who eats only lettuce and is called (of course) 'Saladini'. The game is addictive, and part of the attraction is that you can't wait to see what may be coming next.
It's a lighthearted game, filled with sight gags and slapstick humor, with all of the appropriate sounds, but no human voices (hence the subtitles). And the music is lovely, a surprisingly good series of short original pieces by Tonton Didou, perfect playing unobtrusively in the background as you try to solve a puzzle.
You play as one of the 3 goblins, changing from one to another depending on what you need to do, because they all have different skills and abilities. Tchoup, the leader, is the only one who can talk to other characters, or pick up and use items (he carries the inventory). Stucco is strong and has "a mean right hook": use him when you need to hit something or climb a rope. Perluis is a magician: he's the go-to guy for raising all sorts of things. They are best friends, they laugh at each other's mistakes, and go everywhere together. And you must learn to use all of them, sharing tasks, to solve the puzzles. You change from one to another by left clicking on the new guy. But you can also cycle through them all, fast, when you need to, by simply hitting the space bar. It comes in handy when you want each of them to go do something different, all at the same time.
What are the famous Gobliiins puzzles like? Well, the concept is simple, really. On your quest to find Riri, each location (or level) takes up only one full screen. It's just one page of the story. The idea is to figure out how to get out of that screen and get to the next location (or level)... often easier said than done. In other words, the entire scene is just one big multi-step puzzle, or problem to be solved.
There are 15 of these levels, plus a Bonus level late in the game that you can access only if you have found a gold tooth in each of the first 13 levels (don't miss it, it's great... the goblins get to meet the Creator). They start off fairly easy. In fact the first 3 levels are designed to be tutorials, to introduce you to the goblins and their abilities one at a time, and ease you into how to get things done. Indeed a walkthrough for the first 2 levels is included in the manual, along with a few other helpful hints. But don't get complacent with the easiness of the early levels, because they do get harder and harder as you go along, and you may soon find yourself spending hours on one, and finally running to the walkthrough in desperation, like we wound up doing.
And then, of course, you feel really dumb, because they are all very easy once you know what to do, and take only a minute or two to complete. They are all just inventory, object, and logic puzzles. There are no mazes, sound puzzles or sliders, and there are only a few short and easy timed actions. You can't die, and you are not penalized for mistakes, so you can repeat something as often as necessary. They are not impossible. You just have to learn to think creatively, like a goblin would think, or maybe a child. The game is rated, believe it or not, for ages 3 and up. So perhaps the reason why the Gobliiins games seems so difficult to us adults is that we've all forgotten how to think like children (or how to play games without a walkthrough, for that matter).
It is a challenging, addictive, and completely immersive game that you can play in bite-size chunks, an hour or two at a time. It was perfect for us when we needed something to take our minds off things during an especially rough period we were going through. If you like wacky, off-the-wall puzzle adventure games, where anything is possible (and even probable), then you'll enjoy Gobliiins 4.
© August 2009 Mr. Bill and Lela
Designed by Pierre Gilhodes; developed (2009) by Pierre Gilhodes and Société Pollene; co-produced by Snowball Studios and Snowberry Connection; and published in Western Europe by Kalypso Media UK Ltd..
Rated: E for Everyone (3+)
Minimum System Requirements:
PC: 1 GHz Pentium 4 / Athlon Processor; Windows / XP (SP 2) / Vista; 512 MB RAM; 4X DVD-ROM Drive; DirectX 9.0c Compatible 3D Graphics Card; DirectX Compatible Sound Card; 900 MB of Free Hard Drive Space; DirectX 9.0c; Mouse, Keyboard, Speakers
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