Developed in the nineties by French developer Coktel Vision, the Gobliiins adventure games were already a trio of niche oddities. Now the trilogy’s made it to Android and, with its bizarre art, strange sound design, and maddening puzzles, it remains undeniably unique. But some dated gameplay and straight-up nonsensicality may turn modern gamers off. Worse, the touch screen controls aren’t quite up to snuff and a bug makes the second game unfinishable.
All three Gobliiins games bank on the player going with their weird flow. You have quests to conquer, but the particulars of how to do so aren’t spelled out. The saving grace of the first game is you’re confined to one screen at a time, so even if the solution is something as insane as spraying a severed foot with deodorant, getting a dragon to roast it for you, and then feeding it to a living torture device, all the components for success are present. What’s unfortunate is the first Gobliiins is saddled with a health bar that drops each time you do something wrong until you’re forced to retry the screen from the beginning.
Luckily, the health bar was abandoned for Gobliins 2 and, where before there were only a handful of cut scenes featuring voiceover, in-game dialogue was added, providing the player with more context. The environments expand some and are composed of two or three screens at one time, but the removal of penalties makes reaching solutions more plausible. Still, there’s no denying you might never think of obtaining an egg by making one goblin hold a chicken by the neck while the other smashes it over the head with a sausage.
Goblins 3 is by far the best of the bunch. The joy of it lies in how unafraid it is to vary up its gameplay as it tosses the player into one wildly creative scenario after the other. Early on, protagonist Blount drinks a potion that makes him bigger than a castle. On the very next screen, he’s shrunk down so small he’s climbing around on giant patrons in a restaurant. After being bitten, Blount occasionally turns into a werewolf with a different personality and different abilities. You even get to play as a bug crawling around in a guy’s beard!
These games were developed close to one another so the presentation stays relatively consistent. The graphics look a bit archaic, but they still possess a style unlike anything else. Each bug-eyed character is uniquely designed and the environments are colorful and insane, ranging from a floating island with a huge, meditating statue to a psychedelic mushroom world. The first two games look similar, but Goblins 3 is much more detailed and features inset portraits of characters when they speak. All three games are full of wonderful animations, making the series feel like a playable cartoon. Characters rarely speak to tell you whether you’ve done something correctly or not, so instead they communicate by performing backflips of joy or poking at the sides of their heads in anger.
The sound design is like nothing you’ve ever heard and is both wonderful and potentially obnoxious. Everything makes funky noises you’d never expect; even picking up an item sounds odd. Everyone you encounter speaks in their own brand of gibberish, which you’ll either find endearing or intolerable. In the second and third games, this gibberish gets translated to English by voice actors who are competent, but also cartoonish and over the top.
The music is, surprise, strange but produced with real instruments and sounds great. There are really are only a few tracks in the first game and, unfortunately, they get reused for the second, but they’re very memorable, e.g., a funny-spooky one featuring rhythmic sneezing. The third game has a lot more tracks and they’re all awesome, though short, and while each area gets its own song, there are also four songs that repeat randomly throughout. You’ll hear these a lot.
All three games are, in concept, very simple to control. Touch a character and then touch the thing you want him to interact with. This port introduces buttons along the sides for opening the inventory as well as character-switching (though I found the latter unreliable and typically just tapped the character himself). There is the problem of objects being too small or too near each other, forcing you to tap about furiously before activating the correct thing. A bigger problem is that Gobliiins relies a lot on timing. Many puzzles are based on having characters perform actions simultaneously and doing this is unquestionably more fluid and precise with a mouse.
The greatest issue with this port, however, is that Gobliins 2 is unwinnable (at least on a Galaxy Nexus). It’s been rendered impossible to open your inventory with one goblin while the other is in the midst of performing an action. You need to do this to solve certain puzzles and you’ll come across one such puzzle only six screens in.
Welcome additions are a hint system that nudges you in the right direction at first, and then spoils puzzles completely as you read on (at times a necessity with this series). There’s also a new button that highlights all the interactable hotspots on any screen, which is hugely useful, except there’s the occasional object that goes unmarked, which is more detrimental than having no hotspots at all.
Gobliiins Trilogy is worthwhile because you simply haven’t played anything like it. The graphics, sound, and gameplay are utterly, uniquely bizarre, sometimes to its detriment. However, the more obvious problem here is that Gobliins 2 is unfinishable. Additionally, all three games control far better with a mouse. Basically, this trilogy on Android is only getting any recommendation from me because Goblins 3 is a (flawed) masterpiece that remains essentially intact. But you can get these games on GOG.com for only $3 more and, well, you should.
A weird, but undeniably unique series of games marred by some old puzzle and gameplay design. Also, the second game is broken. Still worth it just for Goblins 3, but you’re better off just playing these on a computer.