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Grabbed by the Ghoulies

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Grabbed by the Ghoulies
European cover art
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]
Composer(s)Grant Kirkhope[1]
  • NA: 21 October 2003
  • EU: 21 November 2003
  • JP: 29 April 2004
Genre(s)Action-adventure, beat 'em up

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.


Cooper and his girlfriend Amber are looking for shelter from a storm when they come across Ghoulhaven mansion that is owned by Baron Von Ghoul and his many ghoulies. When Cooper calls him "a creep" Von Ghoul kidnaps Amber in retaliation. Cooper chases after Amber only to be surrounded by imps. The butler Crivens assists Cooper throughout the manor in order for him to find Amber. After many sudden disappearances from both a swinging fireplace and a trapdoor, Cooper finally finds Amber. However, before the two of them can escape, the mad scientist Dr. Krackpot appears and shoots a laser beam at Amber transforming her into a hideous ghoulie. Cooper goes to the cook Ma Soupswill for a cure. Soupswill quests Cooper to collect three ingredients she's missing to finish the recipe. Along the way he meets more of the inhabitants of the mansion including Fiddlesworth Dunfiddlin, the mansion's grounds keeper, Mr. Ribs, Ma Soupswill assistant, and Barbara Buffbrass, the cleaning lady. Once Cooper collects all the ingredients, Soupswill gives him a jar of the cure to give to Amber. When Cooper pours the cure on Amber, Ma Soupswill is shown to have mixed up one of the ingredients resulting in Amber transforming into a bigger, and now hostile ghoulie. Cooper defeats her, but Amber overpowers Cooper. Fortunately, Ma Soupswill arrives in time and gives Amber the correct cure transforming her back to normal.

Cooper and Amber run towards the exit of the mansion, but are stopped by Mr. Ribs. Mr. Ribs begs Cooper to help other kids imprisoned throughout the manor escape with him. Cooper goes to see Crivens to find a way to free the kids. Crivens tells Cooper that Von Ghoul has the key and that the door to his quarters where he's located is locked by a powerful spell. Crivens says the only way to break the spell is to find three pieces of a riddle scattered throughout the mansion and read it at the door. Cooper collects the three pieces and confronts Baron Von Ghoul, but finds that Crivens is already in his quarters seemingly attacking him. Crivens collects the key from Von Ghoul and proceeds to hand it to Cooper, but then attacks Cooper. Crivens takes off his disguise and is actually Baron Von Ghoul the whole time. Cooper and Von Ghoul fight and Cooper eventually defeats him and collects the key from him. Cooper then follows Mr. Ribs throughout the mansion and races against the mansion to free all ten kids from their prison.

If Cooper fails to free all ten kids then the game cuts to Cooper and Amber in the front of house with all of the friendly inhabitants of Ghoulhaven mansion congratulate Cooper. Cooper and Amber then walk off to a nearby village where Baron Von Ghoul follows behind them in his makeshift plane.

If Cooper succeeds in freeing all ten kids then an extra part of the game is unlocked. Cooper and Mr. Ribs free the last kid when they're ambushed from behind by imps. Cooper is knocked unconscious and Mr. Ribs is decapitated with only his head left untouched. Before the imps can feast on them Ma Soupswill fights back the imps. Cooper regains consciousness and is given the same congratulations as shown if he didn't free all the kids.


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

Grabbed by the Ghoulies is a 3D action-adventure game that unlike other Rare games (which heavily uses platforming) uses beat-'em-up elements. Breaking with the style of previous Rare platformers, the gameplay is simple in design, utilizing the premise of moving through areas of the game's mansion and completing the required beat 'em up challenges in each room.[2] Such challenges include eliminating all ghoulies in a room, beating only a specified kind of ghoulies while avoiding eliminating the rest or finding a key hidden inside a ghoulie before the player-character, Cooper, can continue. All combat and melee attacks are maneuvered by the control sticks, whereas the game's camera can be rotated by both triggers.[3] Most of the objects in the mansion are destructible with the chance of finding power-ups in some of them. The power-ups come can both be good and bad from being drained to only one health to instantly completing a challenge. When the player fails a challenge or takes longer than a set time limit to complete one, rather than immediately restarting the room, the Grim Reaper will chase after Cooper; the Reaper will instantly kill Cooper if he's touched and the player will have to restart the room over, but the Reaper can also be used to the player's advantage as the Reaper will also kill any ghoulie that is touched by him. Standard enemies in the game include zombies, mummies, imps, skeletons and zombie pirates. Many objects in the game with which the character can interact—including chairs, knives, and axes—can be used as weapons.[3]

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.[2] Upon completing a Bonus Challenge, the player is awarded with either no trophy, or a bronze, silver, gold or platinum trophy based on their performance.[4] 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, another challenge is unlocked where the player has to play the entire game again with Amber with slight gameplay changes. Amber has 10 health in every level and there are no power-ups. When the challenge is beaten the old E3 trailer for the game as well as a deleted cutscene are unlocked to view.[4]

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 an interview with Retro Gamer[5]

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,[6] which is a pun on "goolies", a British slang term for "testicles".[7] 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.[8] 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.[9] 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.[10]

Development of the game took under three years. It was originally conceived as a larger, non-linear open platform game for the GameCube.[11] However, a simpler design and simpler concept were adopted due to the Microsoft buyout and increasing time constraints.[8][12] 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.[5] 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".[8]

According to Mayles, Grabbed by the Ghoulies was not inspired by Rare's similar-themed Atic Atac.[5] The cel-shaded art style and design of the characters in Grabbed by the Ghoulies were inspired by Hanna-Barbera cartoons,[8] 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.[8] 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.[8]

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.[13][14] Grabbed by the Ghoulies was released in North America on 21 October 2003,[15] 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] Grabbed by the Ghoulies was one of the first original Xbox games to be compatible with Xbox One via backwards compatibility.


Aggregate score
Review scores
Game RevolutionC[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.[7] 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".[7] 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.[7]

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 "Grabbed by the Ghoulies (2003) Xbox credits". MobyGames. Archived from the original on 22 July 2016. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
  2. ^ a b "TV Spot trailer". Game Trailers. Defy Media. 12 January 2004. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 5 August 2015.
  3. ^ a b "Grabbed by the Ghoulies E3 2K3 Trailer". Game Trailers. Defy Media. 12 January 2004. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 5 August 2015.
  4. ^ a b "Grabbed by the Ghoulies Challenges Guide". Rare Gamer. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 17 August 2015.
  5. ^ a b c "A Rare Glimpse". Retro Gamer. No. 84. December 2010. p. 38.
  6. ^ Carlsxon, Ale (18 July 2014). "Rare's Problem Is Not Microsoft". Hardcore Gamer. Archived from the original on 22 January 2016. Retrieved 5 August 2015.
  7. ^ a b c d e Jennings, Ronan (12 November 2003). "Eurogamer review". Eurogamer. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 5 August 2015.
  8. ^ a b c d e f "Rare: The Tepid Seat". Rareware. March 2004. Archived from the original on 11 May 2006. Retrieved 17 August 2015.
  9. ^ Tramwell, David (28 February 2001). "Rare grabs more names for Conker". Nintendo World Report. Archived from the original on 3 October 2015. Retrieved 5 August 2015.
  10. ^ Totilo, Stephen (25 May 2010). "Why Insomniac's Move Is No PlayStation Panic". Kotaku. Archived from the original on 3 September 2015. Retrieved 5 August 2015.
  11. ^ Towell, Justin (October 22, 2015). "Why Rare's supposedly worst, least popular game is actually my favourite". GamesRadar. Archived from the original on January 22, 2016. Retrieved October 22, 2015.
  12. ^ Lobb, Ken (11 August 2003). "Grabbed by the Ghoulies interview". IGN. Retrieved 5 August 2015.
  13. ^ "GameSpot interview with Grabbed by the Ghoulies (E3 2003)". GameSpot via YouTube. Archived from the original on 25 March 2016. Retrieved 5 August 2015.
  14. ^ Reed, Kristen (20 May 2003). "E3 2003: Grabbed by the Ghoulies". Eurogamer. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 5 August 2015.
  15. ^ "Grabbed by the Ghoulies - IGN overview". IGN. Retrieved 17 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. Archived from the original on 17 October 2015. Retrieved 19 August 2015.
  18. ^ "Rare discussing Rare Replay and more". ICXM. 24 June 2015. Archived from the original on 22 August 2015. Retrieved 5 August 2015.
  19. ^ a b "Grabbed by the Ghoulies". Metacritic. Archived from the original on 2012-04-26. Retrieved 2013-04-02.
  20. ^ a b c d Gifford, Kevin. "Grabbed by the Ghoulies review". 1UP. Archived from the original on 8 June 2016. Retrieved 5 August 2015.
  21. ^ a b c d "Grabbed by the Ghoulies - Game Revolution review". Game Revolution. Crave Online. 10 October 2003. Archived from the original on 8 September 2015. 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, archived from the original on May 27, 2011, retrieved May 10, 2011

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