Debuting roughly one thousand years ago in 1978, the Magnavox Odyssey 2 (also known as the Philips Videopac) is a console that I know very little about. I've never played one, and I've only ever seen one behind glass in a museum, so don't come to me for all your hot Odyssey 2 news and facts. However, I was looking through some game covers the other day and one Odyssey 2 title in particular leapt out at me and latched on to my brain. I was smitten, and I thought to myself "I wonder if there are any other good examples of Odyssey 2 box art?" It turns out that yes, yes there are, and in this article I will be sharing a few of them with you. I hope you like neon colours and strange pliable men.


(images from mobygames, gamefaqs and videopac.org)

This masterpiece is the cover that served as the catalyst for this article. How could anyone fail to be entranced by the image of a blue gorilla with soulful eyes who's imagining the final moments of the ape revolution, when the brightly coloured and highly evolved simians chase the last human into the CyberGrids and reduce him to atomic dust?
It's almost always the case that the addition of an exclamation mark to a title is a pointless piece of frippery designed to feign excitement, but in the case of Monkeyshines! the exclamation mark is a vital and well-earned component of the name. I'd be excited too, if I'd nailed the creation of computerized monkeys! Sure, the increasing number of exclamation marks after each bit of blurb does suggest that the developer has cracked under the strain of implementing the computerized monkeys, but the title itself definitely deserves an exclamation mark. My only disappointment with this cover is that there was no banner falling falling behind me or confetti cannons going off to celebrate the fact that this is the one millionth time I've seen the "go ape!" pun in monkey-related media.

War of Nerves

You might think that a gorilla with other, smaller, computerized gorillas living in his brain would be the pinnacle of how weird these covers can get, and you might be right... but there's no drop-off in madness, either. Take War of Nerves, for example, where a spaceman is turned to stone by the tentacles of a killer robot that looks like it was built only to kill and scream, and scream, and scream. The box claims the robots are armed with stun-guns, and while you'd certainly be stunned to come under this kind of assault, there's no way this isn't fatal. That is not a robot designed with even one line of mercy in its coding. The big egg that makes up the rear of its body is a receptacle for your crushed hopes and also your crushed bones, but at least when you're being shoved into the robots mouth you get a merciful respite from the screaming as your body temporarily blocks its airway.


The high-tech theme continues with UFO!, and the designers of that UFO were so excited about how cool it would be to build a space station shaped like an atom that they didn't give any thought as to how ship are going to dock with it without smashing into an errant electron. I like that the ship's main computer is apparently only marginally more powerful than an Odyssey 2 itself, but the very best thing about this cover is that there's a die hanging above the windscreen - but because this is the future, it's a futuristic polyhedral die. I bet this guy has a bumper sticker that says "My Other Starship's an X-Wing," too.

Alien Invaders - Plus!

A lot of retro game cover art is an attempt by an artist to capture what's going on in the game in a way that looks appealing and not like a bunch of blocky shapes moving around, and this cover is no different, but I can't help but appreciate the amount of effort that went into transforming this basic Space Invaders clone into an interstellar conflict of breathtaking magnitude. What's great about it is that all the recognisable elements of Space Invaders are there - the player's tank, the defensive blocks, the waves of regimented enemies - but everything's taking place beneath the baleful gaze of a monster made of snakes with a giant mouth at its core. The monster appears to be carrying the Emerald City of Oz on its back. I don't think I've ever wanted to play a clone of Space Invaders more in my life.

Power Lords

The madness continues with the cover of Power Lords, a joyous riot of colour where each new look reveals a previously unseen nugget of wonder, like the circuit board pattern on the volcano or the tiny crab-robot that appears to be hanging from the main character's gun. Speaking of the main character, whose name is Lord Adam Power, he is wearing one of the most distressingly ugly superhero costumes I think I have ever seen. I say I think, because superhero costume design is only rivalled by public transport seat upholstery in terms of ugliness, so I might have seen a worse outfit and promptly shut it out of my mind. I think part of the problem is that it's orange, and orange is not a very heroic colour. I can't think of many heroes who wear orange. Oh, there's Aquaman, I suppose. Yeah, everybody's favourite, Aquaman.
If Power Lords seems familiar to you, that might be because it was based on a toy line of the same name, which also got a short-lived comic book series courtesy of DC. I've never played the game or read the comics, and I never will. I couldn't handle the disappointment if they didn't feature a dragon with the head of a cobra flying out of a cyber-volcano.

Bacara! / Las Vegas Blackjack!

It's to be expected that the sci-fi and fantasy themed games have pretty wild covers, but even the more sedate genres are given the full psychedelic treatment. For instance, here's a card game with a cover ripped straight from an alternate version of 2001: A Space Odyssey where HAL spent less time trying to kill astronauts and more time playing FreeCell.

Hockey! / Soccer!

Even something as simple as team sports gets the Lite-Brite makeover, so kudos to Magnavox for picking a theme - that theme being "pictures you'd get as an unwanted carnival prize" - and sticking with it. As something of a connoisseur and collector of hideous football shirts, I can assure you that the soccer player's kit is in, ooh, at least the top two hundred worst ever football shirts. If you think that's too low, I'll just say there was once an American team that wore a shirt with honest-to-god leather tassels on it. Also, this footballer's shirt appears to be based on the North Korean flag, although that's probably the most normal thing about this image.

Type and Tell

"It's fun"? Are you telling me it's fun, or trying to convince me? Because I'm not convinced. Maybe if I could see this space wizard's face I could use his expression to gauge his level of enjoyment and set my expectations accordingly, but I can't. All I can see are his hands, and his rings, which tell me that as well as being a sorcerer he probably runs a dodgy used car dealership on the side.

Showdown in 2100 AD

Now this one is just cool, although it's a shame for them that they couldn't get the rights to Westworld that they so clearly wanted. Still, I personally think that a black void dotted with alien pyramids in a much more engaging arena for robotic gunfight than a recreation of the Old West. Everyone's always having gunfights in the Old West, but when was the last time you saw a duel on the Crystal Plains of J'Hax-Duraan, huh? Those J'Hax-Duraanians are always fighting with the Soulstones of Keth or the Dissociation Ray, so it's nice to see them getting back to good old shootin' irons.


In Europe, the Odyssey 2 was known as the Videopac, (and also received an upgraded version called the Videopac +,) and while the unified look of the Odyssey 2 packaging was dropped the Videopac covers still have a pleasingly amateur look to them. For instance, here is a former samurai sitting down for a game of checkers, mournfully remembering the distant days of his martial prowess, sadness etched into his face as he laments the inexorable passage of time.

The Mousing Cat

Of course, we all remember the beloved cartoon favourites Tim and Gerry, don't we? Tim the cat is always trying to catch and eat Gerry the mouse, and Gerry is such a dick to Tim that we end up rooting for the cat because after all, he's only doing what comes naturally. Well, if you were always on Tim's side then The Mousing Cat is the game for you, because you the whole point is to trap the mouse and then eat it. There's even a brief scene of the cat devouring the mouse piece-by-piece. It's pretty brutal.


I think it's fair to say that the Videopac covers are generally less, erm, visually arresting then the Odyssey 2 ones. Then again, how could you illustrate a game about sending morse code messages - yes, really - and have it look interesting? I dunno, maybe have a soldier in a trench frantically tapping out a message to HQ while shells rain down around him? Yeah, that's actually much more interesting than this guy, who appears to be some kind of Royal Navy middle-management type sending messages with all the urgency of someone checking a receipt to make sure the cashier's given them the right change. Obviously I missed my calling as an artist for videogames about archaic communication methods. If any Odyssey 2 hobbyists out there decide to create the ultimate semaphore simulator, give me a call.

Depthcharge / Marksman

"It those damn submarines' fault, I'm telling you! They come over here and steal our underwater jobs, we should send them all back where... there's a submarine behind me right now, isn't there?"

Catch the Ball / Noughts and Crosses

You can't look through any old computer's back catalogue without seeing at least a few clowns. They've mostly been eradicated from modern gaming, but in the Eighties and Nineties game developers were still labouring under the delusion that clowns were something any right-minded person would want to see. Fortunately, this clown is one of the less horrifying members of his kind. The clownification process is still in its early stages, so you can still see the human he once was even though his feet are grotesquely elongated and his head is starting to resemble a fleshy peanut with a face painted on. Oh, and he can dislocate his right wrist at will. Give it another few weeks and his skin will be bleached completely white, his gloves will have fused with his hands and inflated to three times their normal size and his every waking moment will be haunted by the gnawing need to make balloon animals out of fresh human skin. Still, it's impressive that he managed to tie a knot in a pillow so he could use it as a bow tie.

Jumping Acrobats

"Raaar, I'm a tiger! I'm gonna pounce on you!"
"C'mon, Steve, not this shit again. I'm trying to work."

Pick Axe Pete!

Back to the Odyssey 2 covers for Pick Axe Pete, and he's one heck of a man. A giant of a man, if that mine cart at the bottom of the cover is any indication of scale. Pick Axe Pete roams the wild frontier, smashing through mountains with this trusty pickaxe and taking the gold he finds back to his nest. There's something a little off-putting about Pick Axe Pete, you know. I think it's because he looks like he's made entirely from marshmallows. A giant, fluffy prospector who hoards gold and says "consarnit!"in a voice that's far more high-pitched and reedy than you might expect.

P. T. Barnum's Acrobats!

More marshmallow-y men in P.T. Barnum's Acrobats, a game that is apparently an extremely convoluted way for a man to pop some balloons. The big top looks to be packed, so we can assume the audience wasn't told that they'd be seeing two men on a see-saw popping balloons before they paid to get in. Don't judge the acrobats too harshly, though. These balloons contain the unearthly spores that clowns use to propagate their foul kind, and the acrobats must eliminate as many as they can before the balloons float over a populated area. The people in the Big Top are collateral damage. Their sacrifice will not be forgotten.


I wasn't going to include this cover, because at first glance it appears to be a run-of-the-mill picture of a knight attacking a castle with siege weaponry, aside from the usual "black velvet painting" effect. Then I looked closer and realised the image was much more complex than that. For starters, the knight appears to be wearing medieval armour but carrying a Roman battle standard. Okay, fair enough, maybe historical re-enactment was invented earlier than I imagined. Then I examined the catapult itself more closely and realised it's actually a castle, with tiny people manning it. Unless they're not tiny people and the knight in charge is fifty feet tall. Yeah, I think I prefer that analysis. A gargantuan suit of armour has enslaved the people of this half Dark Ages / half Roman Empire civilization and is using them as slaves for his own crusade. Or all the people are the same size and the main knight is just standing closer to the viewer. It is hard to tell, but we can agree that this catapult is very big and will do an excellent job of demolishing Sleeping Beauty's castle over there.

Killer Bees

Another captivating cover that draws you in but still leaves you with unanswered questions, questions like "why do these insects look nothing like bees, bee's aren't exactly hard to draw?" and "why are there so many R2-D2s wandering around?" and "what did those R2-D2s do that provoked these bees into a murderous frenzy?" The answer to that last question is probably that R2-D2 kept trying to steal their honey and whistling sassily at the bees when they complained. I love it when a videogame makes you think, you know? My favourite thing about this cover, however, is that the French title translates to "The Infernal Hive," which is just a great title and far superior to "Killer Bees." Bees that kill are just fundamentally less interesting than bees that kill but are also emissaries of Satan.


Finally for today, here's the cover for Nightmare. Isn't it precious? Let's just assume that the ghost is coming in for a hug. Sometimes ghosts need hugs too. Maybe it's the ghost that had the nightmare, huh? A harrowing dream about being chased by Eighties comic actors wielding nuclear-powered weapons, the poor thing. I hope it's some consolation to him that this is my favourite of all the Odyssey 2 and Videopac covers. It probably isn't. It's unlikely to take the sting out of being dead, anyway.



I held out for about five months, but in the end I couldn't wait any longer. I just had to write about a spooky videogame, Halloween season be damned. All the games I've covered since last October have been resolutely non-macabre - Street Fighter EX Plus Alpha doesn't count because was merely horrifically bad - so today's game will hopefully scratch my sinister itch. It's Eighting / Raizing and Namco's 1999 arcade lightgun shooter Ghoul Panic!

Known as Oh! Bakyuuun in Japan, I presume the title Ghoul Panic was only chosen because Ghost Panic was already taken. There are no corpse-eating, graveyard-dwelling ghouls in this game, but there are most certainly ghosts. Lots and lots of ghosts. Enough ghosts to cause a panic? I'd say so, because while the ghosts themselves aren't very menacing there are so many of them that you can't help but wonder about the horrific event that took place to cause their restless spirits to all linger in one place.

Our heroes are Kevin and Lisa, who have been turned into cat people. Cons: rejected by society as a freak of nature, spaying and neutering. Pros: you can film yourself doing adorable things and upload the footage to Youtube for fame and profit.

The cat-kids grab their guns and head off to the haunted house, secure in their conviction that if there's one thing that can reverse a curse, it's a hail of hot lead. To achieve their goal, a trio of shadowy figures must be defeated. They're not shadowy enough, clearly. I can tell they're a vampire with his tongue sticking out, a witch carrying a toilet plunger and a Frankenstein wearing a ball gag despite them being silhouetted.

Here are the rules of the haunted house: don't shoot your fellow cats, bomb ghosts or ghosts of the wrong colour. Don't shoot what you're not supposed to shoot. Most importantly of all, don't by the boss's attack. Wait, what? Never mind, it's too late now. I've already hit start and been whisked to the difficulty selection screen.

I think I'll take a quick run through Practice mode. It's been a while since I shot a ghost, I need to find out whether busting still makes me feel good. As you can see, there are also Medium and Advanced modes which offer the full Ghoul Panic experience, unlike the Practise mode which ends after you defeat the first boss. Anyway, I can't start with the Advanced mode. It's difficult, you see. It says so right there.

Look at that ghost. Just look at that adorable little bastard. I don't want to shoot him! You've really messed up here, developers of Ghoul Panic. I don't want to line his lungs with lead, I want to fill his heart with song.
In case you haven't noticed (or have never played them before) Ghoul Panic is very much just Namco's Point Blank series of target shooters given a ghostly twist - a spiritual successor of sorts that replaces Point Blank's mascots Dr. Dan and Dr. Don with a pair of colourful anime cats. As with the Point Blank series, Ghoul Panic doesn't feature the long stages of most lightgun games but is instead a series of very short mini-stages of varying types and complexity. Some of them, like this first stage, are as simple as shooting as many ghosts as possible within the time limit, while others feature gimmicks such as shooting two ghosts of matching colours or getting as high a score as possible with limited ammunition.

The actual shooting action, at least for the moment, is very straightforward. Point your gun at the ghosts and pull the trigger, if you can bring yourself to take these marshmallowy sweethearts out. The way I got through it was by looking at it this way: what am I going to do, kill them?
As you'd imagine, the first stage of Practise mode, this is a very gentle introduction. You've got plenty of time, unlimited ammunition (and no need to reload) and the ghosts are all out in the open, swanning around as though they own the place. Which I suppose they do. They're tenants, at the very least.

Stage one complete and Lisa jumps for joy in all her polygonal glory. The whole game is made of polygonal models that look very PS1-ish, which is no surprise when you consider that Ghoul Panic is running on Namco's System 12 arcade board, an enhancement of the earlier System 11 board which was itself basically a Playstation in an arcade cabinet.

Once you've cleared the intro stage, Ghoul Panic settles into a regular pattern of offering four stages that you can tackle in any order. Once you've tried - although not necessarily beaten - all four, the boss appears. Beat the boss and there's another four stages, and so on until you clear the game. My options here appear to be ghosts holding cats hostage, the ghosts of farts knocking books off a shelf, the ghosts' tasteless recreation of the attack on Pearl Harbour and Some Ghosts Hanging Around In A Room. I'll get to them all, but let's start at the top-left.

In this stage, a trick floor rotates and you must shoot the ghosts that are hitching a ride on the spinning beams. I'll be honest, this is definitely one of Ghoul Panic's less interesting events. The preview screen promised the added complication of cats you shouldn't shoot, but they're reserved for higher difficulties and so you're left to wait for the ghost to slowly rotate into place before picking them off. Next!

The bookcase stage is a speed-shooting challenge, with a fast trigger finger required to blast enough books to meet your quota. Simple enough, although it does raise the issue that these books - which the mission screen specifically refers to as "book ghosts" - appear to have ghosts inside them. Okay, so maybe they're ghosts that took the form of books or wrapped themselves in a protective cocoon of binding and paper, and my gun has knocked them loose. I can understand that. But then it gets even weirder, because these ghosts have halos and are floating towards heaven, as though getting shot has somehow absolved them of all their sins and allowed them to join the celestial choir. Someone at Namco needs to have a good long think about the religious world-view they're espousing in this, a goofy arcade game about shooting ghosts.

This stage is both much more sedate and much less doctrinally challenging. A few ghost planes fly by, and you've got a limited amount of bullets to bring them down with. Don't worry, they're not the most acrobatic fliers in the world, you shouldn't have trouble operating as an anti-aircraft emplacement.

The fourth stage really is just "ghosts in a room." The room goes dark sometimes, but only between waves of ghosts so it's hardly a hindrance. Shoot the ghosts while admiring the Ecco the Dolphin fanart they've got hanging over the bed to progress. Okay, that's not totally accurate. You don't have to admire the dolphin picture to progress. Maybe your family were killed by dolphins. Ghoul Panic isn't cruel enough to punish you if this is the case.

"Face Off With The Boss," it says, and while we'd all like to sit around watching a classic Nicolas Cage / John Travolta movie in the company of Big Boss' mentor, the reality is sadly nothing more than a fight against Frankie, Ghoul Panic's first boss.

Frankie is a baby Frankenstein on a pogo stick. That's right, a mad scientist sewed a bunch of dead babies together and holy hell this is messed up. Frankie was even brought to life in a crib, because his creator obviously spent a lot of time pondering what he could do that would really set him apart from all the others who have blasphemously tampered in God's domain.
Anyway, Frankie bounces around as people on pogo sticks tend to do, only without falling over and hurting himself in a You've Been Framed-worthy moment of comedy. Instead it's up to you to supply the hurt by shooting Frankie as quickly as possibly.

After a while, he transforms into a regular, giant-sized Frankenstein, which made me feel a little better about Frankie's whole "stitched together from children" thing... although now I can't help but noticed that his weak spot is his bandaged navel, as though it's still sore from having his umbilical cord recently snipped.
Large Frankie loses the pogo stick but gains the ability to throw stone blocks at the player, although the blocks are easily destroyed and don't really up Frankie's combat effectiveness any. Keep plugging away at his midriff and he'll be defeated in no time.

Once Frankie is dealt with, Practise mode is over and you can enter your initials in the high-score table. That's one good thing about running VGJunk: I finally have a satisfying set of initials to use in these situation. I don't have a middle name so using my real initials leaves an unwelcome gap, and there are some games that won't let you use ASS or SEX so it's nice to finally have a decent back-up plan if and when my immaturity is denied.
To show you the rest of Ghoul Panic I'll have to move on to the harder difficulties, although I won't be showing off every single minigame there is. It would take forever, for starters, and because the games you get are random I'll never even know if I've captured them all. Instead, here are a few of the more memorable moments from my time spent playing Ghoul Panic.

Here's one of the stages that tests your visual acuity, asking you to shoot the ghost that matches the colour of the one at the top of the screen. I feel the brown ghost really drew the short straw with this one, condemned to an eternity of people making jokes like "are you okay? because you look like shit!" at his expense.

Here is the bomb ghost, one of the things you are not supposed to shoot. That's easy enough in this stage, where one ghost appears at a time and travels between two of the doors in this Escher-inspired room, but later on the bomb ghost will start getting in the way and generally being a pain in the arse.

In each set of four stages, there's one stage that will reward you with a Holy Stone (Meow,) fresh from the Land Without Punctuation, if you clear it. A mysterious artefact, the holy stones possess a secret power that will come into effect later on. For now, simply insert the holy stone into your convenient holy stone carrying case and continue with your adventure.

Determined to get more use out of the pivoting floor in the attic - look, they paid to have it installed so they might as make the most of it, all right? - the ghosts set up a balancing game. Shoot the ghosts in roughly even numbers on the left and right side, otherwise the board becomes weighed down unevenly, swings too far and the lantern ghosts slide and fall off the screen before you can add their deaths to your tally. To their credit, the ghosts are so unflinchingly cheerful that no matter what happens they keep on smiling, happy to be showing off their stacking skills.

This isn't an especially interesting game, the goal of which is to score as many points as possible with just five bullets, but I'd like to draw your attention to my Robin Hood level of skill in placing my first shot bang in the centre of the target. It was, as I'm sure you've guessed, all downhill from there. The ghost's smile suggests he knew it would turn out this way.

The second boss is Vladie, a vampire matador who fires bats from his cape, which seems like a dumb move for a vampire because by the time the bats have finished with me I'm basically going to be leftovers. It wasn't until the second time I fought Vladie that I realised this is very similar to the Magician fight from House of the Dead, if the Magician was less committed to the whole "killing the player" thing.

Here we see the power of the holy stones: if you've picked one up before you enter the boss battle, the stone flashes and removes a chunk of the boss' health before the fight even begins. This doesn't necessarily make things easier, because the bosses aren't that difficult even with full health, but it means less time spent pulling the trigger and that can only be a good thing for your poor index finger.

After taking enough damage, Vladie transforms into a horrible little bat-creature. It's a smarter move than Frankie's transformation because he's a smaller target now, but the switch from vampire matador to "villain's sidekick in a knock-off Disney sequel" is definitely a downgrade. At least he keeps his monocle.

The aim of this game is to shoot the malicious icicle ghosts before they can land pointy-end down on the defenceless cat. This task would be much easier if the cat would stay bloody still, but instead it wanders around under the icicles. After a while I began to suspect that the cat actually wanted the worst brain freeze imaginable, and was rather making a mockery of my attempts to save it. I mean, I managed to save the cat but what good does that do in the long run if the cat doesn't want to save itself?

If I was reluctant to shoot the ghosts, these skeletons pushed me to the very brink of non-participation. They're just so gosh-darned charming, scooting across the screen in a cavalcade of  wacky antics. Normally the phrase "cavalcade of wacky antics" would be enough to make my blood run cold, but because it's being performed by low-poly models of the long dead I'm okay with. They moonwalk, they do high-kicking Broadway routines, and some of the skeletons even dribble a football across the screen doing little tricks. How am I supposed to shoot Undead Ronaldinho, huh? My heart's not made of stone. As always with lightgun games, the basic point-and-shoot gameplay is mostly the same as its contemporaries. It's theme and setting that set game in the genre apart, and in this regard Ghoul Panic is doing a good job of making me glad I took the time to play it.

One ghost, one bullet, one chance. The tagline for a non-existent film that I desperately wish was real, but also a description of this minigame. The ghost is small and far away, which is normally how you'd want a ghost to be, but in this instance the hand-jitters from the dozen or so cups of coffee it takes to keep me going during an average day meant that picking off this spectre with one shot was by far the most difficult objective in the game.

Not much to say about the actual gameplay in this mission - shoot the flame ghosts before they can burn the ropes and condemn the cat to an agonising death - but I wanted to mention it because the artist has captured a look of real madness in the faces of these fiery spirits. Like, "wake up and find twenty-foot tall statue of the Chuckle Brothers carved from lard on your front lawn" kind of madness.

There's a mission where you have to avoid being kissed. I have been in training for this mission my entire life.

Probably the most complex challenge is this pseudo-dungeon crawler, a maze of square rooms that hide abducted cats and, yes, plenty of ghosts. You even get a map to guide you through the maze, and you can pick your direction of travel by shooting the corresponding door. It's a fun little diversion from the usual stages, with there even being an element of choice depending on what kind of ghost encounters you feel most comfortable with. The "battles" are either against a group of wandering ghosts or one big ghost that splits into several smaller ghosts as you shoot it, and because they're represented by different icons on the map you can pick your battles accordingly. Would this concept hold up if spun out into a fully-featured lightgun RPG? I'm not sure, but it's definitely something I'd like to try, so if you know of any such games then let me know.

Do not attempt to remove fleas from your cat by shooting them. It does not work. Or, erm, so I've heard.

Eventually you'll face Witchina, the instigator of the troubles at the haunted house. Given her outfit, I'm going to assume "Witchina" is a portmanteau of "witch" and "ballerina." To make Witchina give up, shoot the end of her magic wand / broomstick. I'd have thought shooting her in the face would have been more effective - it certainly worked on Vladie - but I guess Namco decided that'd be a bit much for what is a pretty cutesy game.

As with the other bosses, Witchina flies around fairly sedately, sometimes pausing to throw a projectile or summon a ghost. I don't know if I was just shooting them too fast, he said in the least impressive boast ever, but the ghosts never seemed to do anything. The balls of lightning, sure, they'll drain your health if you don't get rid of them quickly enough, but the ghosts seemed to be little more than spectators. As such, it's not difficult to chip away at Witchina's broom and secure victory, especially if you managed to collect the holy stone.

Witchina's plans lay in tatters, her march towards world conquest brought to a halt by one pink cat with a gun. That's definitely a sign her plan wasn't very good to begin with. I'm not sure how having a house full of ghosts is step one on a course that leads to dominion over mankind anyway. Maybe she was building an army of ghost soldiers, but as this entire game has been an exhibition of how ghosts can be killed by bullets it's probably a good job we stopped her now and saved her from future embarrassment.
Much more interesting is that Witchina cries about how you've defeated her "brother and father," presumably referring to Frankie and Vladie. Then Witchina calls for her mother.

Ah. I really hope that Vladie and Mama Mia (the name that the game provides for her) adopted their children, because otherwise the vampire and this gargantuan dragon-monster engaged in coitus at some point and that's not really something anyone should be thinking about. You can't help thinking about it now, though, can you? About how it would look like a mosquito trying to suck blood from an elephant's arse? Yeah.

Mama Mia is a fun mixture of the charming and the grotesque, with her ability to swim through lava and launch horrible leeches from her back at odds with the patterns on her scales making it look as though she's wearing a dress and a pearl necklace. She's got a wider range of attacks than the other bosses, although the only one that you really need to watch out for is her flamethrower breath, which you can knock her out of by shooting her in the face. See, I knew that would come in handy again sooner or later.

With Mama Mia dead, the kidnapped cats stream out of the mansion, except for the ones that have icicles stabbed through their skulls or fell into the house's furnace or mysteriously died after being infested by fleas that left bite-marks the size of bullet holes.

And there go all the ghosts. Goodbye, ghosts. You weren't such a bad lot, really. Mischievous, yes, and with a worrying tendency towards animal cruelty, but you were in the thrall of a family of horror movie monsters so I'll cut you some slack. I wish you luck on your voyage towards your heavenly reward. Let's just hope God is more of a dog person.

It turns out that all the cats, not just our heroes, were transformed people, and now the curse is lifted they can regain their human forms. I like that there's one unsupervised baby at the front, crawling to freedom at about twenty miles per hour. Won't somebody think of the children? Especially when that child is going to need a prodigious amount of therapy to get over being turned into a cat and harassed by ghosts.

That's what you normally look like, is it, Kevin? Yikes. I think you maybe should have stayed as a cat.

Ghoul Panic draws to a close as Witchina offers some parting words and one final polygonal panty shot - thanks for that, Namco - before flying off into the night sky.
Well, that was fun. It's difficult to be really specific about the quality of Ghoul Panic, because I'm obviously playing it via emulation and not on a genuine arcade cabinet, and unlike with lightgun games such as Alien 3: The Gun or Terminator 2 I've never played it out in the wild, as it were. Still, assuming the guns work correctly then I can get enough of an idea to say that Ghoul Panic is worth half an hour of anyone's time. The missions are varied enough to stay interesting while offering about as many different types of challenge as is possible without breaking away entirely from the "point and shoot" core of the lightgun experience. It's the setting, the aesthetic of cartoon spookfulness, that's the big draw for me. The various ghosts and monsters are all utterly endearing, and as the low-poly PS1 era look seems to be back in fashion as a visual trend then this is a good place to get your fill of that particular style.

It's not perfect, of course, and there are some things I would tweak. The more interesting games only seem to show up on the higher difficulties, but the rewards for playing through the Advanced course are... well, there aren't any, really. The bosses have a few new attacks and are a different colour, but that's about it. I was really expecting there to be some change to the ending but no, it's still just cats and ghosts flying out of a mansion. The boss battles themselves could do with being a bit more interesting, too, and they feel very much like generic lightgun game boss fights when contrasted against the more inventive minigames. These are minor quibbles, though, and Ghoul Panic is an enjoyable blaster that should help to satiate my Halloween urges for a couple of months. I hope it does, anyway. I don't want to wake up one morning wearing a werewolf costume and surrounded by smashed pumpkins and VHS copies of Evil Dead II. Not for a third time.

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