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Grabbed by the Ghoulies

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Grabbed by the Ghoulies
European cover art
Developer(s) Rare
Publisher(s) Microsoft Game Studios
Designer(s) Gregg Mayles[1]
Programmer(s) Chris Sutherland[1]
Artist(s) Steve Mayles[1]
Ed Bryan[1]
Steven Hurst[1]
Chris Kyser[1]
Composer(s) Grant Kirkhope[1]
Platform(s) Xbox, Xbox One
  • NA: 21 October 2003[2] August 4, 2015
  • EU: 21 November 2003
Genre(s) Action-adventure, beat 'em up
Mode(s) Single-player

Grabbed by the Ghoulies is an action-adventure video game developed by Rare and published by Microsoft Studios exclusively for the Xbox. It was first released in North America in October 2003, and in Europe in November 2003. It was re-released worldwide on the Xbox 360 as a downloadable Xbox Live Originals title in February 2009, before being removed from the store in June 2015. However, it was later released as part of the compilation Rare Replay for Xbox One. The game follows a young boy, Cooper Chance, who sets out to rescue his girlfriend from a mansion haunted by supernatural creatures.

Having originally been in development for the GameCube, Grabbed by the Ghoulies was the first Rare game to be published by Microsoft after Rare was bought out from Nintendo. The game was met with mixed reviews upon release. Criticism was directed at the art style and gameplay, but the game's graphics were praised. Grabbed by the Ghoulies was nominated for the Console Family Game of the Year prize at the 2004 Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences Annual Interactive Achievement Awards.


A young boy named Cooper and his girlfriend, Amber, are seen searching frantically for civilisation after they take a wrong turn. They are caught in a storm and head to a nearby mansion to seek shelter. Once outside, Cooper checks his map, but is unaware that someone is watching. Baron von Ghoul, the game's main antagonist, looks down from his window and orders two gargoyles to retrieve Cooper and Amber. Amber is kidnapped by the gargoyles and is taken into the Ghouly Mansion, with Cooper in pursuit. Once inside the mansion, Cooper realises that Amber is nowhere to be seen in the Grand Hallway. Crivens, the mansion's butler, tells him to go to the archives where Amber is held. On the way, a huge group of boxing skeletons challenge Cooper to a boxing match, with Cooper emerging victorious. Upon reaching the archives, Cooper finds Amber being held hostage by a mad scientist named Dr. Krackpot. Krackpot then shoots Amber with his laser rifle and she transforms into a horrible creature.

Cooper runs for help and goes into the kitchen. Ma Soupswill, the cook, is delighted to help, but Cooper must retrieve three ingredients: Glowworms, a giant egg, and a sprig of dungweed. After retrieving the ingredients, Ma Soupswill creates a potion to reverse the effects on Amber. However, she unwittingly transforms Amber into an even more hideous monster, having added the wrong spice, and Amber attacks Cooper in anger. Cooper defeats the mutated Amber and Ma Soupswill arrives with the correct spice, finally transforming Amber back to herself. Afterward, Cooper and Amber attempt to escape the mansion but are stopped by Mr. Ribs (Ma Soupswill's assistant). He tells them to help free the other children who are imprisoned all over the mansion. Cooper seeks Crivens for help and tells him that only the Baron has the key to free them. To get to his room, Cooper must collect three pieces of a rhyme which opens the door to the Baron's room. Once there, a battle ensues, and Cooper emerges victorious.

Cooper allies with Mr. Ribs to free the imprisoned children before finally reaching the exit of the mansion. Once outside, imps knock Cooper and Mr. Ribs out, but Ma Soupswill arrives and defeats them. Cooper regains consciousness and he and Amber leave the mansion, but the household staff prefer to stay. As Cooper and Amber walk towards a small town, the Baron can be seen flying his plane towards it.


A still image from the game, showing Cooper about to engage in combat with ghouls

Grabbed by the Ghoulies is a 3D action-adventure game with platforming elements. Breaking with the style of previous Rare platformers, the gameplay is simple in design, utilising the premise of moving through areas of the game's mansion and completing the required beat 'em up challenges in each room.[3] Such challenges include eliminating all ghouls in a room, beating only a specified kind of ghoul while avoiding eliminating the rest or defeating a boss before the player-character, Cooper, can continue. All combat and melee attacks are manoeuvred by the control sticks, whereas the game's camera can be rotated by both triggers.[4] When the player fails a challenge or takes longer than a set time limit to complete one, the Grim Reaper chases after the player-character; the Reaper will rip out Cooper's soul if the character does not leave the room in time. Standard enemies in the game include zombies, mummies, imps, skeletons and zombie pirates. There are also various bosses that must be defeated in order to advance. Many objects in the game with which the character can interact—including chairs, knives, and axes—can be used as weapons.[4]

The game also features various Bonus Challenges. When Cooper collects five Rare books (there are 100 Rare books in total) during his adventure in Ghoulhaven Hall, a Bonus Challenge is unlocked. The main objective of the Bonus challenges is to revisit one of the rooms and perform a different task within it, such as defeating a number of enemies in a certain amount or time or surviving a duel with the Grim Reaper.[3] Upon completing a Bonus Challenge, the player is awarded with a bronze, silver, gold or platinum medal based on their performance.[5] For every platinum medal earned, a piece of the game's concept art is unlocked. If the player collects all 100 Rare books and earns gold or better on all 20 challenges, the player is given the option to reset the game with Amber unlocked as the new playable character in a 21st bonus challenge. Here Amber has 10 health in every level and there are no power ups. When the game is beaten this way the old E3 trailer for the game as well as a deleted cutscene are unlocked to view.[5] (Criven's Gives the Chair)

Development and release[edit]

Ghoulies was a less rocky road. We did a bit of work on a GameCube version and then over to the Xbox, and then literally I think we put our foot down.

Gregg Mayles in a interview with Retro Gamer[6]

The development of Grabbed by the Ghoulies began after the release of Conker's Bad Fur Day. The idea for the game began with the name[7] which comes from the slang term for being "grabbed by the testicles".[8] According to designer Gregg Mayles, the name of the game materialised after he overheard someone mention "being grabbed by the goolies", and thought that it would make a suitable name for an upcoming Rare game.[9] Before any details of the game were publicised, it was rumoured that Grabbed by the Ghoulies would be the subtitle to the next Conker the Squirrel game.[10] After Microsoft purchased Rare for £375 million in 2002, development of the game for the GameCube was delayed until Rare converted it to the Xbox console.[11]

Development of the game took under three years. It was originally conceived as a larger, non-linear open platform game for the GameCube.[12] However, a simpler design and simpler concept were adopted due to the Microsoft buyout and increasing time constraints.[9][13] After Microsoft's purchase of Rare, the studio re-affirmed their "simple design" of the game so that players would be able to easily adapt and devote less commitment to it.[6] In a retrospective interview, Mayles stated that the change from GameCube to Xbox was difficult and required a lot of changes as Grabbed by the Ghoulies was "an original game that started life as a Nintendo product".[9]

According to Mayles, Grabbed by the Ghoulies was not inspired by Rare's similar-themed Atic Atac.[6] The cel-shaded art style and design of the characters in Grabbed by the Ghoulies were inspired by Hanna-Barbera cartoons,[9] and the various character personalities were based both on historical figures and people from Mayles' childhood. Antagonist Baron von Ghoul was "a mix" of the Red Baron and British aristocracy, whereas supportive characters, such as Ma Soupswill, were loosely based on staff from a school.[9] Mayles considered the conversion of the game to the Xbox to be one of the hardest challenges during development, as Rare had less than a year to finish the game once it was converted.[9]

The game was revealed at E3 2003, with a playable demo being a mostly complete version of the game, albeit with a few levels missing.[14][15] Grabbed by the Ghoulies was released in North America on 21 October 2003,[2] in Europe on 21 November 2003 and in Japan on 29 April 2004,[16] becoming Rare's first game to be released under Microsoft. It was later re-released as an Xbox Originals game for the Xbox 360 on 16 February 2009, later being removed from the store on 16 June 2015.[17] At Microsoft's E3 2015 press conference, the compilation title Rare Replay was unveiled. Rare Replay has a selection of thirty games from Rare's lifetime game library, including Grabbed by the Ghoulies. The game was remastered to run natively on the Xbox One, increasing its resolution and framerate relative to the original Xbox release.[18]


Aggregate score
Aggregator Score
Metacritic 66/100[19]
Review scores
Publication Score C+[20]
Eurogamer 8/10[8]
Game Revolution C[21]

The game was met with mixed reviews from critics upon release. It holds an average score of 66/100 at Metacritic, based on an aggregate of 42 reviews.[19]

The graphics and animation were praised by critics. Kevin Gifford of 1UP stated that the cel-shaded graphics were "perfect" for the "spooky" theme of the game, and that the smooth animation resulted in the enemies appearing "endearing".[20] Ronan Jennings of Eurogamer was less impressed by the graphics, stating that the game "never blew him away" but always kept a high standard of creativity. However, Jennings did praise the animation and character designs.[8] Reviewers of Game Revolution gave praise to the game's visuals, comparing them to be sharper and clearer to the visuals of Banjo-Kazooie. However, they noted that the character designs still seemed "tied down to the past", being more suited to the Nintendo 64 than to the Xbox.[21]

The game was criticised for its simplistic gameplay and lack of innovation. Gifford noted that the game's "biggest problem" was its unchallenging gameplay, stating that it was "repetitive"; he compared it to gameplay of the 16-bit era.[20] Game Revolution stated that the gameplay appeared "interesting" at first, but grew tiresome the longer the game is played, despite its short length.[21] Jennings noted that the gameplay was not "groundbreaking" and similarly stated that the game relied heavily on "what is practically 16-bit gameplay".[8] The camera controls were another criticised aspect of the game, due to the control sticks being allocated for attack functions. Gifford labelled the "forced shunt" idea as a "terrible drag" which became troublesome during the latter half of the game.[20] Game Revolution's review also criticised the camera controls, stating that the use of triggers to rotate the camera was "on the clunky side".[21] Jennings, however, felt that the camera was "fine" and did not provide any obstruction.[8]

Grabbed by the Ghoulies was nominated for the Console Family Game of the Year[22] and Outstanding Achievement in Original Music Composition at the 2004 Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences Annual Interactive Achievement Awards.[23] The awards were given to SCE London Studio's EyeToy: Play and Electronic Arts' The Sims: Bustin' Out, respectively.[22] In 2008, Game Informer listed it among the worst horror games of all time.[24]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Grabbed by the Ghoulies (2003) Xbox credits". MobyGames. Retrieved 2 July 2016. 
  2. ^ a b "Grabbed by the Ghoulies - IGN overview". IGN. Retrieved 17 August 2015. 
  3. ^ a b "TV Spot trailer". Game Trailers. Defy Media. 12 January 2004. Retrieved 5 August 2015. 
  4. ^ a b "Grabbed by the Ghoulies E3 2K3 Trailer". Game Trailers. Defy Media. 12 January 2004. Retrieved 5 August 2015. 
  5. ^ a b "Grabbed by the Ghoulies Challenges Guide". Rare Gamer. Retrieved 17 August 2015. 
  6. ^ a b c "A Rare Glimpse". Retro Gamer. No. 84. December 2010. p. 38. 
  7. ^ Carlsxon, Ale (18 July 2014). "Rare’s Problem Is Not Microsoft". Hardcore Gamer. Retrieved 5 August 2015. 
  8. ^ a b c d e Jennings, Ronan (12 November 2003). "Eurogamer review". Eurogamer. Retrieved 5 August 2015. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f "Rare: The Tepid Seat". Rareware. March 2004. Archived from the original on 11 May 2005. Retrieved 17 August 2015. 
  10. ^ Tramwell, David (28 February 2001). "Rare grabs more names for Conker". Nintendo World Report. Retrieved 5 August 2015. 
  11. ^ Totilo, Stephen (25 May 2010). "Why Insomniac's Move Is No PlayStation Panic". Kotaku. Retrieved 5 August 2015. 
  12. ^ Towell, Justin (October 22, 2015). "Why Rare's supposedly worst, least popular game is actually my favourite". GamesRadar. Retrieved October 22, 2015. 
  13. ^ Lobb, Ken (11 August 2003). "Grabbed by the Ghoulies interview". IGN. Retrieved 5 August 2015. 
  14. ^ "GameSpot interview with Grabbed by the Ghoulies (E3 2003)". GameSpot via YouTube. Retrieved 5 August 2015. 
  15. ^ Reed, Kristen (20 May 2003). "E3 2003: Grabbed by the Ghoulies". Eurogamer. Retrieved 5 August 2015. 
  16. ^ "Grabbed by the Ghoulies - Japan release and FAQ". IGN. Retrieved 17 August 2015. 
  17. ^ Orry, James. "Grabbed by the Ghoulies joins Xbox Originals". Video gamer. Retrieved 19 August 2015. 
  18. ^ "Rare discussing Rare Replay and more". ICXM. 24 June 2015. Retrieved 5 August 2015. 
  19. ^ a b "Grabbed by the Ghoulies". Metacritic. Retrieved 2013-04-02. 
  20. ^ a b c d Gifford, Kevin. "Grabbed by the Ghoulies review". 1UP. Retrieved 5 August 2015. 
  21. ^ a b c d "Grabbed by the Ghoulies - Game Revolution review". Game Revolution. Crave Online. 10 October 2003. Retrieved 5 August 2015. 
  22. ^ a b "7th Annual Interactive Achievement Awards". The Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences. Archived from the original on 29 October 2007. Retrieved 5 August 2015. 
  23. ^ "7th Annual Interactive Achievement Awards and Nominations". The Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences. Archived from the original on 29 October 2007. Retrieved 5 August 2015. 
  24. ^ "The Wrong Kind of Scary: Worst Horror Games Ever", Game Informer (186), p. 121, October 2008, retrieved May 10, 2011 

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