Grabbed by the Ghoulies

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Grabbed by the Ghoulies
Grabbed by the Ghoulies US cover.jpg
Developer(s) Rare, Ltd.
Publisher Microsoft Game Studios
Release date(s) April 24, 2004 (JP)
October 21, 2003 (NA)
November 21, 2003 (EU)
Genre(s) Action-adventure, beat 'em up
Rating(s) ESRB: Everyone
Console(s) Xbox

Grabbed by the Ghoulies is a beat 'em up video game released on the Xbox in late 2003. It is the first Rare game to be released on an Xbox console, following the Microsoft acquisition in 2002. Grabbed by the Ghoulies was solely developed by Rare and was published by Microsoft.

Grabbed by the Ghoulies was also released on the Xbox 360 as a downloadable Xbox Originals title on February 16, 2009, at a price of 1200 Microsoft Points. The Xbox Originals version of the game is exactly the same as the original retail version, aside from a minor graphical glitch which causes certain smoke effects in the game to have a thin line through them.[1] The game was also released on the Rare Replay compilation for Xbox One, where it was remastered to run natively on Xbox One, increasing its resolution and framerate relative to the original Xbox release.[2]

Grabbed by the Ghoulies had a largely similar development team to that of Banjo-Kazooie. Many cameos regarding Banjo-Kazooie series (and even Rare as a company and its earlier software titles) were featured in the game itself.


The game's story begins with Cooper and his girlfriend Amber walking through a forest late at night, having taken a wrong turn and lost the way to their destination. A storm begins brewing and they begin to search for shelter. The two come upon a large, creepy mansion known as Ghoulhaven Hall, and Amber suggests they stay there for the night to get out of the rain. As she does, they are spotted by Baron von Ghoul, the owner of the mansion, from his bedroom window, muttering to himself "That's right, my pretties. Come in and say hello!" However, Cooper nervously disagrees and suggests that they instead continue on to the nearest town, Ghoulsville-in-the-Gloom, as places like Ghoulhaven Hall are "always full of creeps...or worse." This comment insults the baron, who then has some of his Ghoulies kidnap Amber, forcing Cooper to enter the house and rescue her. Upon entering, he meets Crivens, the kindly old butler of Ghoulhaven, who helps him learn how to deal with the Ghoulies throughout the mansion so that he can rescue his girlfriend and get out.


Grabbed by the Ghoulies plays like a standard beat 'em up game. Cooper is locked in various rooms filled with Ghoulies, the game's main enemies, and the player must defeat them to proceed to the next room. Cooper has a limited amount of health, and if he is killed by the Ghoulies, the player must start the room over. However, the player is also generally given certain "Challenges" with specific requirements that must be fulfilled in each room. For example, in one room it may be required to defeat a certain number of Ghoulies, in another it may be required to only defeat a certain type of Ghouly, while leaving the rest alone, and in another it may be required to defeat all Ghoulies in a room under a time limit. If the player fails or breaks the rules of these challenges, The Reaper will be summoned and will kill Cooper if he touches him, forcing the player to begin the room over. In addition, in many of the rooms, Baron von Ghoul will fool with Cooper's health bar; giving him 5 hit points in one room and 20 in another, for example. Cooper can use many of the objects in the mansion to his advantage, using chairs, paintings, and even food items as weapons against the Ghoulies. Many of the helpful staff at Ghoulhaven will also give Cooper weapons to use, such as a soda pop shooter or a large water gun. There are other dangers which may impede Cooper's progress, such as shocks, which are unexpected events (such as a phone ringing out of nowhere) which manifest themselves as manically laughing red spheres. If Cooper is caught in one, he will become spooked and will walk more slowly, be unable to attack, and take double damage. There are also Super Scary Shocks, which happen when Cooper is directly scared by special types of Ghoulies. During a Super Scary Shock, the player must press buttons indicated on screen. If the player is successful, Cooper merely shrugs it off. However, if they are unsuccessful, he loses ten hit points from the scare.

Another element of the game are the collectibles. There are Soupswill's Super Soups laying around many of the rooms. These items have different effects, such as allowing Cooper to knock down all Ghoulies in one blow, or even complete a Challenge instantly upon touching the soup. There is also one Bonus Book hidden in each pass through a room (100 Bonus Books in total). Every five Bonus Books collected earns a more difficult Bonus Challenge, which in turn unlock things such as conceptual artwork when completed.


  • Cooper: Cooper, the game's protagonist, is a teenage boy who must brave the horrors of Ghoulhaven Hall to rescue his girlfriend.
  • Amber: Cooper's girlfriend, a self-willed woman. She is kidnapped by the Ghoulies after Cooper offends the wrong person...
  • Baron Von Ghoul: The insane owner of the manor and leader of the Ghoulies. He makes a habit out of kidnapping children, who can be found tied-up throughout the mansion.
  • Crivens: Crivens is the feeble old butler of Ghoulhaven. He tries to help Cooper at any time he needs it.
  • Ma Soupswill: A strange chef who, for some reason, leaves little tastes of her stew around Ghoulhaven.
  • Mr. Ribs: Ma Soupswill's cooking assistant, Mr. Ribs is a skeleton and the only kind Ghoulie in the manor.
  • Fiddlesworth Dunfiddlin: Fiddlesworth is the kindly yet bumbling groundskeeper of Ghoulhaven Hall.
  • Babs Buffbrass: Barbara (Babs for short) is the cranky cleaning lady of Ghoulhaven Hall. She hates it when any kind of mess is made in the mansion.
  • Dr. Krackpot: A mad scientist who briefly turns Amber into a revolting ogre.


The Ghoulies are the enemies that Cooper encounters in Ghoulhaven Hall. They consist of various paranormal entities such as ghosts, vampires, and monsters. They are separated in a few different categories:

Super Scary Shock Ghoulies

These Ghoulies only appear to cause a Super Scary Shock to the player character, although Ghoulie Amber can also cause one when first seen.

Scare Ghoulies

These Ghoulies only appear to cause the player character a Scare, although some normal Ghoulies, like Jessie & Clyde can also cause a Scare.

Standard Ghoulies

Other Ghoulies


Grabbed by the Ghoulies began as simply a name. According to the game's Tepid Seat, various Rare employees were talking one day and "someone mentioned being 'grabbed by the goolies'" and they thought it sounded like "a great name for a game."

The game's development spanned just about three years, originating as a large, non-linear platform game for the Nintendo GameCube,[3] and being moved to the Xbox after Microsoft's buyout of Rare. However, a simpler design and simpler concept were adopted due to the Microsoft buyout and increasing time constraints.[4] After Microsoft's purchase of Rare, the studio re-affirmed their "simple design" of the game so that players would be able to easily adapt and devote less commitment to it.[5] In a retrospective interview, Mayles stated that the change from GameCube to Xbox was difficult and required a lot of changes as Grabbed by the Ghoulies was "an original game that started life as a Nintendo product".[6]

According to Mayles, Grabbed by the Ghoulies was not inspired by Rare's similar-themed Atic Atac. The cel-shaded art style and design of the characters in Grabbed by the Ghoulies were inspired by Hanna-Barbera cartoons,[6] and the various character personalities were based both on historical figures and people from Mayles' childhood. Antagonist Baron von Ghoul was "a mix" of the Red Baron and British aristocracy, whereas supportive characters, such as Ma Soupswill, were loosely based on staff from a school.[6] Mayles considered the conversion of the game to the Xbox to be one of the hardest challenges during development, as Rare had less than a year to finish the game after its conversion.

During the development of the game, some of the more risqué things in the game were cut out in order to maintain an "E" rating with the ESRB. Some of Fiddlesworth's interjections were cut; for example, "measure my marrow!", "rub my radish!", "choke my chicken!" and "sow my seeds!" Additionally, the name of a town near Ghoulhaven Hall was changed from "Neede-in-the-Nuts" to "Ghoulsville-in-the-Gloom." Neede-in-the-Nuts was to be the subtitle and main location of a possible sequel to Ghoulies. Had the sequel happened, it would have been different and far more "open-world," rather than following the linear style of Ghoulies. Members of the team have stated that if the game sells well on Xbox Originals, they would love to make a sequel.


The music of Grabbed by the Ghoulies was composed by Grant Kirkhope, who was also the main composer of the Banjo-Kazooie series.


Upon its release, Grabbed by the Ghoulies sold poorly, and the game had no advertising to promote it. The poor sales of Grabbed by the Ghoulies was referenced a few times in Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, most notably in the level Banjoland, where several unsold copies appear in the giant trash can, filled up to the brim. The low sales of the game has been acknowledged on Rare's Scribes.

Critical reception to Grabbed by the Ghoulies was average upon release, although it has also since been regarded negatively; for example, appearing on Game Informer magazine's "The Wrong Kind of Scary: Worst Horror Games Ever" list. The game currently has a 66/100 on review aggregate website Metacritic and a 70% on aggregate website GameRankings. Many were also confused about Grabbed by the Ghoulies's simplistic design, controls, and lack of level and music variety which previous Rare titles were renowned for. The criticisms and low sales appeared to have a lasting impact on Rare, who has not managed to return to their former critical and commercial success.

  • IGN: 7.0/10
  • GameSpot: 6.5/10
  • GameSpy: 2/5
  • 1UP: C+
  • TeamXbox: 7.6/10



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