A grave situation has arisen. In fact the people in the graves have risen too. A bunch of inter-dimensional nasties, who go by the epithet of the 'Evil Ones', have returned to Earth and are commanding the armies of Ghouls and Ghosts. The first part of their cunning plan involves the kidnapping of Princess Hus, girlfriend of that knight for a day, Arthur.
Arthur is someone you may have met before, way back when people like Strider weren't even a blip on their programmer's monitor. He starred in that early Elite classic Ghosts 'n' Goblins, where he hacked, slashed and generally killed as many supernatural beasties as he could lay his sword on. That battle was against the 'Evil Ones'too, so this time it's for keeps.
Ghouls is a straight sequel, the gameplay and the plot remaining almost identical to Ghosts with just a few new ideas and tricks being brought into play. Arthur has to cross a horizontally-scrolling landscape within a set time limit, throwing weapons in front and above to clear his path of spectral beasties. Monsters rise out of unmarked graves, mutant plants spit seeded death and every now and again an ultra-big super-ghost ambles on the scene. Dodge, shoot and move are your only options, as you cross bridges, castle battlements and cornfields.
As a player, there aren't many courses of action to choose from - but the right one has to taken at the right moment, or you're in big trouble. Moved by simple joystick commands Arthur runs, jumps and ducks. All you have to do is learn the landscape and it's a cakewalk. Once you know where a bridge collapses, a vulture lives or ghosts emerge, life becomes a whole lot easier.
There are five different levels for you to conquer, each featuring a number of restart points. Level One starts you in field hot on the trail of the Evil Ones'castle. Ghosts are pouring out of the ground and all you've got is a sword - well, thousands of them actually - to defend yourself. Luckily you're clad in shiny new armour that can take one direct hit from a baddie before it disappears, leaving you in boxer shorts. Embarrassment will be the least of your worries, though, when a horde of blood-sucking turtles are breathing down your neck...
Occasionally the undead you make dead leave you a little pressie in the form of points scoring, extra armour or a more heavy-duty weapon: throwing axes, deadly frisbees and short range magic grenades are but a few. The landscapes determine the best strategies. Castle sections require a lot of ladder-climbing which has to be timed perfectly, open ground involving more pit-jumping and running over hillsides and buildings.
That's all there is to the game - which in many ways is its strength. Essentially a simple concept, it seeks to attract you through the trickiness factor - sheer volume of opponents. The graphics reflected this in the original game - bold and straightforward, artistry sacrificed for accessibility. Ghouls is a sequel which follows in much the same vein, with basic sprites and strong, straightforward backdrops. Yet even Ghosts looked a sparse and unsophisticated in its day, and with Ghouls it's doubly the case. The graphics look as if they were drawn out three years ago.
Yet with an intentionally quirky theme tune to help things along, Ghouls almost works, being both addictive and fun to play. The poor graphics do, however, put paid to any long-term appeal. The selection of weapons and 'second chance armour' take the game that much further - but not far enough.