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May 15, 2011 / jwaxo

Gobliins 2 (Crashing)

The games never specified WHAT a Goblin was. I always assumed they were the only people able to say more than one thing.

I’m sure that everyone has a story about when a computer crashing ruined their life. You know, lost work, corrupted files, etc. However, for someone trying to enjoy a computer game, there’s nothing really worse than a computer crash. Actually, I take that back: there is one thing worse than a crash, and that is a reoccuring crash. This, in particular, is what brings us to today’s topic: Gobliins II: the Prince Buffoon.

Gobliiins, and the Goblins series, is what I think of when someone says “Sierra point-and-click adventure.” Not King’s Quest, or Space Quest, or any other “Quest” named game. This is actually kind of misleading, because the makers of Gobliiins weren’t even owned by Sierra until the third Gobliiins game (titled Goblins Quest 3, with the “quest” added to try to tie it in with their other, more popular games).

It’s kind of a difficult series to explain. For one thing, there’s the deal with all of the Is. The first game had three, the second game had two, and the third game only had one, making its spelling of the word “goblin” not-very-unique. Ostensibly, this was to mirror how many “goblins” you could control: in the first game you controlled three, in the second two, and the third you controlled one main goblin alone and occasionally sidekicks.

Then there’s the problem of how to classify them. Wikipedia calls them “puzzle adventure games”, which makes sense: there’s always an overarching story, and the gameplay mostly focuses on puzzles solved around the various screens. The problem is, games that it’s nearly identical to, Monkey Island and the like, aren’t classified as “puzzle adventure” games, and are instead the more generic “point-and-click adventures”. So it’s really a matter of debate and you probably don’t care.

Oh, sorry, I tend to get worked up about these things.

Basically, gameplay went like this: you’d be presented with a colorful, character-filled environment. The story thus far would have given you a specific goal to reach in that area (“free the Prince from the bubble”, “wake up the giant”, “craft chess pieces and win the game”) and you’d work your way to that goal by controlling your goblins–solving smaller puzzles, gaining items that will be used in other puzzles, etc. The first game was arguably the most difficult: each goblin had one very specific skill, and you couldn’t control more than one at a time. Then there was the problem with the health meter.

See, the main thing with the Gobliiins games was how funny they were. And they were seriously funny, at least for a kid my age. Heads got smacked, characters got thrown, cannons shot goblins into spikes. All slapstick, all funny. The problem is, the funny things only happened if you did a puzzle wrong, and if you did a puzzle wrong you also lost a chunk of your health meter, which very rarely got filled back up and would stick with you throughout the entire game.

Luckily, later games got rid of this mechanic, as well as adding pretty hilarious dialog. It was an all-around improvement.

Yes, old lady, hit that purple guy with that sausage! No repercussions!

Gobliiins was a big hit with my family. All of us played it a bit, at one time or another, and would share various solutions and such if one of us managed to solve a level while the others were busy. It was a family thing. Later, we stumbled upon a copy of Gobliins 2, and I happily installed it and played it away, even though most of my family had lost interest by then. Still not sure if anyone but my brother and I managed to beat the first game.

Gobliins 2 was everything I’d hoped for and more. You could save and didn’t have to use the archaic password system, you didn’t have to worry about the health level, and you didn’t just get to move both goblins at the same time, but were required to have them work together! Plus, like I said, the script was pretty darn funny, with mild-mannered Fingus often getting taken advantage of by his naivety, and the rude, brash, and purple Winkle being kind of an outright jerk.

Until I reached the point where I couldn’t play anymore.

It was an obvious puzzle, if you could even call it that. I had to get both Winkle and Fingus to the other side of a room. In between them and my goal was a cymbal-banging monkey. I would send the quick-witted Winkle past the monkey, no problemo: he would duck out of the way of the smashing symbols and wink at the camera (that lovable rogue). But if I went Fingus through, poor, trusting Fingus, he would react too slowly and his head would get smashed flat by the cymbals.

At least, theoretically.

Instead, with agonizing slowness, the cymbals would smash together as an ear-wrenching screech flooded from the computer’s speakers, at last coming to rest just as Fingus’ head reached the width of a single pixel, then staying and stuttering there as the cry of a thousand banshees filled the computer room.

Make it stop make it stop make it stop!

It’s not that I was unfamiliar with crashing. It was just a relatively new concept, having your computer do anything but shut down if something went wrong. I still remember one time, playing SimCity 2000 at my best friend’s house, when it continued to crash, over and over again. The word “crash” was new to me then, even: I knew to no longer call it “breaking” or “acting funny,” but to use the specific terminology, and I made sure to tell him and his mom over and over what my dad called it when programs did that. I’m still somewhat embarrassed by my annoyingly know-it-allness of that day.

But Gobliins was something new altogether. Instead of just closing all of the new windows popping up, we couldn’t do anything but leave it and pray that it would pop out of the stuck situation it was; DOS games are pretty horrible to troubleshoot in that way. We looked on the hallowed internet for a solution and only found instructions to send Fingus through the monkey. I asked friends, my dad’s coworkers, anyone who would lend an ear. There were no suggestions.

Years later we got a new computer or reinstalled Windows or something and I, on a bored Saturday, reinstalled Gobliins 2, knowing that I would have to stop as soon as I got to that stupid monkey room.

I held my breath as Fingus walked past the monkey.

And laughed when his head was smashed into a pancake that looked vaguely like a submarine.

I guess the bottom line is that crashes are annoying and you can’t do anything about them sometimes, especially when you’re seven.

We call it crashing! Get it? Because it’s like a car that’s stopped working!

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