Lately, I’ve been doing something I usually avoid at all costs - remembering my past. I don’t think I could endure the mocking if I revealed the dreadful bands I’ve been listening to in an attempt to understand whatever it was that dumb, teenage me once saw in them, but what I will be talking about over the coming weeks is a few of the games I grew up with. I’ve just spent today with Sid Meier’s Colonization, for instance, a retrospective of which I’ll post soon (short answer: best Good Friday ever). One I’m genuinely very worried about revisiting, however, is the Gobliiins series. Which, some fourteen years on from the last game, it turns out there's an upcoming fourth instalment of.
I honestly can’t remember how these French point’n’click adventure oddities made their way onto my mum’s 486 SX, but they were some of the few games my father shared my interest in - I have fondish memories of the pair of us clustered around the keyboard, bringing our not considerable combined wits to bear on solving its challenges. While superficially part of the early 90s army of adventures games spearheaded by Monkey Island, Coktel Vison’s three-game series was a lot heavier on the conundrums – almost to the point of being room escape games, a series of one or two-screen levels essentially comprising a single run-on puzzle. Story and dialogue were backgrounded about as far as they’d go, and logic made way for wilful surreality and slapstick humour. Their major shtick was controlling two or three characters at once, each of whom tended to interact with objects and the environment in a specific way suited to their character – dumb thumpy guy or unpredictable magicks wizardy guy, for instance. Oh, and it was often bonkers-hard.
I didn’t play much of the first Gobliiins - the cast were a little bland, and the unnecessary use of health bars was sadistic in the extreme - but Gobliins 2 and Goblins 3 (the reducing ‘i’s, denoting the size of the playable cast, are a gimmick I still approve of) were regular fixtures on my PC for a couple of years. It was my self-indulgent use of that triple i in a recent post title that caused reader Pod to refresh his own Gobliiins memory, clocking a mention on its Wikipedia page for an upcoming fourth game. So I embarked on a brief info-hunt for more details. Somewhat disappointingly, it isn’t called Goblns 4, but rather we’re all the way back to Gobliiins 4, and the return of the first game's key characters, who’d been absent during the first two sequels. One of the original Coktel team, artist Pierre Gilhodes, returns as the main driving force, apparently now also on writing duties.
It’s out later this year, and frankly I’m a little nervous about whether the cutesy-weird art approach will work in these more cynical climes. There isn’t an English website, but running the French one through Google’s language droid reveals “the puzzles are not difficult, but many. A child of 8 will take between an hour and two hours to arrive at the end of each level.” So, the famous difficulty is apparently gone, and now it’s a kids’ game. But then, I was a kid when I played it. Perhaps I can be childlike again.
Here’s a French trailer, which very much suggests the same breed of humour as the originals:
I rather fear I may be too old/jaded to laugh at this manner of screaming and pratfalls, but the screen involving the gobbos capering around a giant, multi-panelled comic page has a gentle promise of mad genius to it. I’ll be keeping an idle eye on this one, anyway, and endeavouring to dig up some info on the English version and its distributors – as well as continuing to deliberate over whether replaying Gobliins 2 is a really, really bad idea. I don't particularly want to destroy my pleasant memories of it.