Have You Played… The Gobliiins Series?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

I daren’t revisit for fear they’ve aged appallingly, but I shall always love these French-made point’n’click adventures for their naming structure. The first game was Gobliiins, the second was Gobliins 2, the third Goblins 3. The number of Is also referred to diminishing number of playable characters. In this age of Thie4s and 2 Fast 2 Furiouses, I feel we can learn something from that back-to-front art.

As for the games themselves, they come from that very particular point in time when imperial phase Lucasarts could only put out so many adventures each year, and thus there was lingering thirst for others. It was the Gobliins games that came my way instead of the Sierra ones (although they did end up publishing the third), and I was yet young enough that their largely slapstick-related comedy seemed hilarious rather than stupid. This is why I daren’t look now.

Yet I remember, with warmth, that the three games had very different tones, making efforts to not be simply more of the same. The first, with its three protagonists, had a relatively traditional quest structure. The second, with two, was much more of an odd-couple comedy.

The third, with one, aimed to be existential and maudlin (though still slapstick). I remember thinking Goblins seemed so much more grown-up, and its lonely, shape-shifting hero something of a tormented figure. Looking at screenshots and videos now, perhaps I was seeing things that weren’t there. It seems like as much an explosion of free-association ideas as the others were. Perhaps it’s just the point in my life that I played it, on the cusp of adolescence, self-doubt and a sense of outsiderness creeping in for the first time.

And that’s why I’ll never go back, even though the pull of nostalgia grows stronger the older I get. I prefer to keep on believing that Goblins III was a game that spoke to me, rather than risk the reality that it was just one more 90% lateral thinking puzzle game full of wacky characters.


  1. yusefsmith says:

    I have recently played through the third outing and can confirm that the game has aged dreadfully. There was in particular one puzzle that doesnt seem to be playable due to processor speed changes. in fact it is there in the picture

    However the humor and style are fantastic and I really enjoyed up to that point.

  2. Laurentius says:

    I love Goblins3. It’s still fantastic, music is great , graphics is charming, puzzles are fun. Played it not long ago, tons of fun.

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    gsvelto says:

    I also replayed the three of them recently and they haven’t really aged well. They’re still absolutely hilarious, and the overall design was innovative and very refreshing compared to the verbs-based adventures. You can see that they were toying with novel ideas at the time; trying stuff that hadn’t been tried before.

    However they can also be frustrating as hell because of that. There’s timed sequences that you can fail by clicking a fraction of a second too early or too late, forcing you to repeat a minute long sequence over and over until you get it right. There’s puzzles which aren’t really puzzles, they’re totally absurd and you have almost no way of figuring them out without trying the use-everything-on-everything-else approach. The interface is also surprisingly unresponsive at time which makes solving some puzzles even harder (did I do the wrong thing or was the click not recorded?).

    • yusefsmith says:

      The timed sequence in the King’s court there, was impassible for me maybe due to the processor and timing used.

  4. Xzi says:

    YES! These were some of the first games I ever played on DOS. I was roughly six years old. Obviously I don’t remember too much about them, but I do remember the humor being pretty spot-on, especially for my age.

  5. basilisk says:

    Oh, I adored these. So very quirky and charming, in their cartoonish offbeat kind of way. I’m quite sure the first one must be a pain to play today, because it always was; adding a health meter and punishing players for trying anything except the correct solution was downright cruel in a game like this. The other two were better designed, but still rely far too much on moon logic. And indeed, the third one is actually trying to say something meaningful about the struggle to figure out your own identity, which even sort of works despite the wrapping.

    Too bad the spiritual sequel, Woodruff and the Schnibble of Azimuth, dialled the wackiness to eleven and is basically unplayable without a walkthrough. A rather ignoble end to the series.

    • yusefsmith says:

      I actually beat Schnibble without a walkthrough, because it was one of our only games, and the only one with voice acting at the time. It wasn’t so very bad until close to the end (damn numeric keypads) and there was only a couple walking dead failure states.

  6. innokenti says:

    Gobliins 2 I think actually still stands up quite well. There is a flow to the screen’s puzzles that remains do-able and entertaining. I don’t think the other two have aged quite as well…

  7. geldonyetich says:

    I think I beat Goblins 3 for the PC back in the day. It was one quirky point-and-click adventure. Kind of reminds me of GROW Games: it’s not so much the puzzles that were worthwhile, it was a game about finding the quirky animations.

  8. Doubler says:

    We had Goblins 3 when I was a kid, but nobody in my family ever got very far. One week I was stuck at home, very sick, with a high fever. In that week I finally managed to play the game from start to finish. I was quite proud of the fact.

    I can also relate to the sentiment in the second-to-last paragraph. My twelve or so year old self was quite impressed with the way it had these apparently conflicting dualistic themes everywhere getting awkwardly pulled together, only to end up better for it. I don’t really want to replay it for fear of shattering this perception.

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    zapatapon says:

    Played the whole series with my kids recently. It’s ok with a walkthrough — some of the puzzles are so abtruse that it’s insufferable otherwise (especially the ones where a precise timing is involved). My kids loved it mainly for the slapstick animations, the colorful world, and the completely loony and inconsistent plot.

    So… Playing it with young kids can be fun even today. Otherwise, I would not recommend it. As for the third game having an existential streak… yeah, the best move is, definitely, to leave those precious memories intact and not try revisiting them, however strong nostalgia may be.

  10. Infinitron says:

    And then there was Woodruff.

    • Stirbelwurm says:

      Yes! Woodruff is the first thing that came to mind after seeing that picture. But that’s mostly because I only played that game and not Goblins. But just from the description here, they seem to be pretty similar games

  11. Risingson says:

    1 has the stupid design decision of the life bars, but they are very charming games. I still love the graphics.

    Their influence is everywhere. Machinarium being one of the most recent examples.

  12. Jackablade says:

    I loved Goblin’s Quest 3, as my copy was apparently officially labelled. It was rather sweet behind the amusing absurdity and had some gorgeous music. I still do the Goblin victory hand gesture on occasion when I manage to pull off something vaguely impressive in real life.

    All three are available as a package on Good Old Games if you do feel the desire to take another look. I grabbed it a while back and found that I didn’t really have the patience to deal with the puzzles any more. That said I kinda felt the same way about trying to go back to Grim Fandango which is another that I loved when I was younger, so mileage may vary and whatnot.

    I think the silly animations still hold plenty of appeal though

  13. DrMcCoy says:

    Not just Gobliiins, but all Coktel Vision are really weird and strange and really…French. I love all of them. (Disclaimer: I reverse engineered many of them for the ScummVM projects.)

    Not only has Sierra published the third Goblins game, they had outright bought Coktel Vision (the French studio who created all of these games) at that point. They let Coktel Vision be mostly independent, though, so that’s why their games stayed so French.

    Frankly, I still think a major point for Sierra buying Coktel Vision was the video format VMD, which then turns up in many Sierra games, like Gabriel Knight 2. It was, however, developed by Coktel Vision, and there’s even an earlier, similar video format, IMD, in earlier Coktel Vision games like Ween: The Prophecy (and also Goblins 3).

  14. Shakes999 says:

    Yes. Goblins 2 heavily. Also that game is fucking impossible. Thou after reading these comments, at least I know now my computer may have been working against me.

    That god damn level with the bubbles and you have to launch the pin (?) up to your partner at just the right moment to free that dipshits prince. The literal last puzzle of the level. My brother and sister tried for hours and just could not get the timing right. Ended up abandoning the game.

    Fast forward to last year. Decided to give it another try. No the puzzles don’t hold up well, on a side note. Got all the way back to that same part. Still couldn’t get it. Went on YouTube. Mimicked the timing EXACTLY from the video. Just would not work. I’m convinced the video I watched was just a mirage and that no one has ever passed that part either. Makes me mad just thinking about it.