Friday, 1 March 2019

Gobliiins - No Lemmings Here

By Ilmari

Rumors of this being a Lemmings clone were highly exaggerated.

When I wrote in the intro post that Gobliiins had been compared with Lemmings, I didn't expect to raise so much controversy and even many skeptical glances - could anyone ever have confused these two games? Luckily, some commenters did admit they had always thought the two to be similar. Even more to the point, I checked some period reviews of Gobliiins and found lines like these

In a doff of the hat to Psygnosis' Lemmings... (CU Amiga 29)
Gobliiins... will certainly appeal to fans of the now legendary Lemmings games (Amiga Format 38) 
Of course, these were lines from Amiga magazines - notorious for making reviews based on mere conjectures - so it was no surprise that I could find no resemblance to Lemmings in Gobliins. I mean, let’s take some essential features of Lemmings:
  • Lemmings are not individuals. You can assign specific tasks to them, but it’s completely indifferent which of the hundred and one rodents gets a certain job.
  • The puzzles in a Lemmings game are physical - building a bridge, digging through an obstacle etc. You are definitely not picking up inventory items and trying to figure out how to use them.
Neither of these features applies to Gobliiins. Firstly, we do not have three scores and plus goblins, but only three of them (hence the three Is on the title). They have names (Hooter, Dwayne and BoBo, according to the manual) and each one of them has his own specific trait: Hooter knows how to do magic, BoBo can both climb a rope and hit things, while Dwayne can carry one item at a time and use it. Secondly… well, this should be obvious by now. BoBo’s skills are closest to a physical puzzle, but doing magic and using inventory items just isn’t what Lemmings is about.

The closest similarity with Lemmings is that each screen of the game forms a sort of level, and getting through one level rewards you with a password, with which you can begin directly at the beginning of the next level (password is also determined by health bar following the overall constitution of your goblins, so up to now I have had to play most of the levels twice, just to get my goblins through it intact). This is somewhat confusing, because it is not always clear what I should try to do to get to the next level.

Let’s illustrate this with the first level. The house you can see on the picture belongs, presumably, to the wizard Niak I am trying to meet. The obvious goal would be to get inside the house, so I naturally concentrated my efforts on that front, usually with bad results.

This is what happens if I try to spell my way in

After a few failed attempts I just tried using the goblins everywhere. Finally, when BoBo hit the right pillar on the gate, one of the horns of the gargoyle dropped on the ground. Just to show that I had achieved something important the goblins jumped up and down couple of times.

Next question was what to do with the horn. Blowing it just irritated the wizard, who dislikes loud noises. In fact, the solution was to let Hooter cast a spell on the horn, which then turned into a pickaxe. Picking up the pickaxe completed the level.

You are probably asking what sort of goal this was. Well, looking at the manual made everything somewhat more sensible. You see, the wizard wants payment and there’s a diamond mine next to his house, so of course you’d want a pickaxe. It’s just not very clear storywise, if you don’t check the manual thoroughly - especially as it’s not obvious, what Hooter’s spell would do to horn.

The second level has an obvious problem to solve: you see that we need to get to the left side of the screen to dig with the pickaxe, but a broken bridge stops us. The only even remotely interesting things on the screen otherwise are the four apples. The apples can’t be picked and hitting an apple just destroys it.

Or worse, a goblin is destroyed, if you hit the leftmost apple

Violence wasn’t the solution, but magic was. If I let Hooter do his thing on the fruit, they grew to enormous size. Then, hitting the apple didn’t destroy it, but merely dropped it from the tree. One of the three apples had a scary worm in it, but other fruits I could drop to the hole on the bridge. After that, it was just a matter of using pickaxe on the wall.

And not your fist

The next level didn’t really deserve that name - we are back on the front yard of wizard’s house and all we need to do is to hold out a diamond we had just found.

You’d think the wizard would now be listening to us, since he just saw the diamond, but no, he is far more interested in a book.

10 CAPs for the best suggestion on what book has captivated wizard's attention

I should clearly get on the table and the only means to it are the two flesh-eating plants. BoBo was the only one with the climbing skill, but before he could do it, Hooter had to spell one of the plants to make it a bit higher. Now, this wasn’t the final solution, since BoBo did not have the knack to carry the diamond to wizard - and hitting the man wasn’t the solution.

Getting his comeuppance

There was this obvious big book on the small table, but BoBo wouldn’t go there, because the other flesh-eating plant was blocking his way. It took me a while to get what I was supposed to do, and at least part of the reason was due to finicky controls. The solution lied on the table on the left, with the two small pots on it. Getting a goblin to walk up or down that ladder was difficult, and as I later found out, if Dwayne picked one of the pots and left the diamond in its stead (remember he can carry only one item at time), he had difficulties in getting the diamond back from the table (in other words, the hotspot for the diamond had vanished somewhere). Finally I had to just leave the diamond somewhere on the floor, before getting the pot I required.

So, what was in the pots?

This wasn’t the one I needed

The other one contained a fly, which I could feed to the second plant. After getting fed, the plant let BoBo walk beside it, and he was able to punch the big book down. Dwayne then used the book as stairs to get on the table and gave the diamond to the wizard. The wizard opened up the grate that led to underground caverns and gave the goblins a mission to gather some magic items.

This seems like a good place to call it a day. Although my tone might have been a bit critical, I am still enjoying the game, despite the little quirks. It has been somewhat similar experience to Putt-Putt in that behind every click there seems to be a silly animation waiting. And the slapstick humour is bringing smile to my face more often than not.

Session time: 2 h 25 min


  1. I'm guessing he's reading The Hobbit - the story of an enigmatic wizard who helps a group of smaller people as they start out on their quest.

    Having the levels start with your health (or lack thereof) from the previous level strikes me as a bit of a dick move in a game that seems like it can only be beaten through trial-and-error.

    1. Ah, a good one!

      I agree that the health bar just complicates things needlessly, as it essentially punishes exploration. I am glad that the levels haven't been that long so that playing them twice over doesn't tale that much time.

  2. Yeah, the health bar was the mechanic I was talking about in my comment on the intro post. It's not an insurmountable issue, but I can't think of anything it really adds to the gameplay other than fake longevity. Maybe it's there so you know which actions are incorrect so you don't keep trying something that's a dead-end? I dunno.

    Now that I'm thinking about it, there was an early 90's DOS game called The Humans that was kind of a cross between Lemmings and this game, where each screen had a certain number of humans on it that you'd have to pick up and use tools in order to complete a level, but the humans themselves controlled more like an adventure game like this one than Lemmings did. Dunno if that has anything to do with reviewers drawing connections between Gobliiins and Lemmings, but there were certainly games at the time that had elements of both, so maybe therein lies the confusion?

    1. Instadeath would work in most cases as well as the health bar.

      The name of the game might also be part of the confusion. I mean, most of the Lemmings clones of the time had names like Hamsters or Aardvarks, and Gobliiins follows the pattern.

  3. And my spoilery guess for the book he's reading? "Ibbqbb Znqr Fvzcyr sbe Sha naq Cebsvg"

  4. From what I've seen, and what I remember of the time, I think the same -- the game isn't peaking my interest much, but I do like the graphics and the idea of slapstick humor. Definitely looks a lot cuter than the crude graphics of Lemmings, as I remember...

  5. Red dressed peasants doing the work of a high and mighty governor? That's Mao's little red book he's reading!