Goblins 2 is, quite unsurprisingly, a sequel to Goblins, only this time there is only two of the cheeky wee scamps, instead of the three that were in the original. You are put in control of Fingus and Winkle who, I imagine, are a fairly representative cross section of the state that goblin youth culture is up to nowadays. Fingus is a polite and conscientious young lad and is the sort of mythical cave dweller that you could leave at home looking after the kids while you pop out to the movies, secure in the knowledge that he will entertain them with stories of far-off lands before popping them in bed.
He is also round and pinky, so is far more pleasing to the eye than Winkle, his partner, who is purple, pointy and altogether different kettle of fish.
Leave Winkle baby-sitting and there are chances you will return home to find the remains of a raucous party littering your living room, the toilet blocked with your best duvet, and your children missing with only HP sauce stains on their cots to indicate their bewildering fate. Winkle is rude and pushy, but as many telephone salesmen and foreign language students in bus queues could tell you, this frequently is the only way to get anything accomplished.
Together, Fingus and Winkle form the crack assault team chosen by Modemus the wise man to rescue the king’s son from the
clutches of the evil demon Amoniak. Personally when confronted with a huge castle guarded by monsters and harbouring a demon I’d have probably gone for a team of ninjas, or maybe get a squadron of B-52 bombers to waste the entire area while I crossed my fingers and hoped that when the dust settle there would be substantially more of the king’s son left than a small red stain on the rubble. These are the logical choices, but logic does not play much of a role in this game, and apart from that no one except me would want to play a game called ‘Goblins 2 – Ninja Death Force’ or ‘B-52 Strike Team Goblins’.
Anyway, the king authorises this unlikely choice of rescuers and the game starts with the two troglodytic tearaways arriving in a village neighbouring the castle. Along with three other locations, the village forms the first section of the game, and contains all the clues and objects needed to get past an unfriendly giant and onwards to the castle.
Teamwork is all important, and to complete the puzzles you need to work out which task is suited to the temperament of each goblin. Being mouse-driven, all the moving around and picking up is easily accomplished with a click or two, and a hidden menu across the top of the screen contains options such as saving, skipping locations and Jokers, which give you a few clues when you are really stuck. There is a rather pointless ‘object exchange’ option which allows you to swap objects between the two goblins. Why not just have a joint inventory? It is a small smooth out of the gameplay, which, at certain points, really does need some smoothing.
Much of Goblins 2 is pure slapstick, and bits of it are funny enough to make you laugh out loud. It is real Tex Avery stuff, with dogs chomping down on fingers being followed by comical youch’es and the soundtrack adds greatly to the cartoon atmosphere. The characters speak in a sort of squeaky babble that I’d imagine is goblinspeak, and you get subtitles so you know what is going on. The introduction sequence where Modemus fills you in on the story is classic, with comical timing worthy of Wile E Coyote, and this high standard of graphics and humour is kept up throughout the game.
Here comes the down side. For a start there is the way that any object you can highlight on the screen is somehow relevant. I know that his is a much-used convention in games, but it means that within a minute of entering a new location you have got a rough idea of what to do. Let us see now, dog, giant, chicken, pot-hole, it will make some sense in a few seconds. But that is another thing, sometimes it does not make sense at all. Take this (purely hypothetical) situation: you have got a stone, a bottle and a salami in your possession and need to beat up a chicken. What would you use? That is right, only the sausage works, even though either of the others would logically be good for a bit of poultry abuse.
The most annoying part of the game, though, is getting Winkle and Fingus to work together. Clicking on objects starts to be an inexact science in situations requiring perfect timing. For all my attempts I could not get Fingus to light a match before Winkle threw the bomb, and smacking the (hypothetical) chicken while Winkle held it took a few tries. Seeing as these interactive bits are the only elements of gameplay other than walking around, it is a shame that they are so fiddly, as they expose the mechanics of the game to the player when you should be immersed in all this cartoon fun.
These points are a shame really, for this deserves to be a truly great game, and I dare say that those of you into adventure games with a sense of humour will get a greater kick out of this than I did. The points I have raised may seem small, but it is still enough to stop me giving this a colossal score. Sorry Fingus. Sorry Winkle.