I was born in the mid 80s, and while I love that decade and some of the media that came out during that time, if I’m honest, the 90s are more familiar. The early years I vividly remember all start with 199x, and wow do I have nostalgia for that time period. We had tons of great consoles (like the Genesis), games, cartoons, toys, movies and every conceivable cross promotion between them. This era is what created the Gargoyles TV series and ultimately the game for the Sega Genesis. Gargoyles (Giant Bomb|Wikipedia) was released in 1995, which means it was a fairly late release for the Genesis – its successor the Sega Saturn had just released the week before. Gargoyles is an action platformer – a genre that was over saturated at that time and at first glance it appears to be a typical licensed game cash in on a property. Thankfully, while not perfect, this game does not fall into that all too common trap.
You play the game as Goliath, leader of the gargoyles. The year is 968 AD and vikings are attacking your castle – you’ve got to defend it. That’s the basis for the story, and in between levels you are given some additional story bits – but it’s far from a complicated narrative. Basic gameplay has you running, climbing, and killing enemies with your claws (you only have one attack as far as I can tell). Here is where some ugliness crops up – this game is HARD. Really hard. And there are no saves, limited continues, and no password system. I couldn’t even beat the first level. The controls can be a bit strange at times, but the real difficulty is in the levels themselves – you have a ton of enemies thrown at you and you don’t take many hits before you die. There is a nice checkpoint system that actually feels like a modern game, but that is the only reprieve from the oppressive difficulty.
Sound was good overall – the music was fitting and sounded good coming from the Genesis (confession time: I had a Genesis growing up and I’m one of those weirdos that actually likes the way it sounds). Sound effects were also good. There was a sound test in the options menu, which is always something I love.
Graphics are good and remind me of Aladdin. Animations were fluid and backgrounds scrolled as you would expect. I have no complaints with the graphics at all, but they didn’t blow me away either.
Overall, Gargoyles is a game that brings me back to my childhood, but it is unfortunately way too difficult for it’s own good.
Verdict: Back on the shelf.
Author’s note: Source code for this game can be found on the original programmer’s personal site here: http://shrigley.com/. I think this is fantastic and it is a good way to not only preserve the game, but teach budding programmers (or experienced ones) what it takes to make a game for the Genesis.
Images courtesy of Giant Bomb