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Almost every item you collect in Ghouls 'n' Ghosts gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling. New suits of magic armour that have been enchanted with ancient, pyrotechnic magic. New and useful weapons that let you hit otherwise unreachable enemies without risking your modesty by getting to within touching distance. Each one is proper gaming awesome.
And then there's this:
Above: There it is. A blue-flamed torch that must surely be magical in a pyrotchnically amazing kind of way
It's not amazing at all. In all honestly, it's an insult. This is the pixelised equivalent of going into battle with your Johnson in your hand. It's rubbish. Not only does it have a range of about two centimetres (if the wind's blowing favourably), it sounds lame too. Pfffft. A bit like flatulence, only less fun.
Above: It's embarassing. Not that you're in your pants, but that you have to fight the demon hoards with this
Why is it there? Perhaps to point out that everything that glitters is not gold. That you should look before you leap. That you should probably listen to all those other old proverbs grandpa Cundy bestowed upon you. Or maybe just to secretly sing 'ha-ha' every time you greedily snaffle everything you find inside a treasure chest.
Excellent game, this. Full of tremendously well-researched references to B-movie lore, such as the blobs that can be frozen with fire extinguisher and the ultra-confusing Invasion of the Bodysnatchers level. But amidst the blobs and clones that look just like your character, pick-ups are everywhere. Some of these include tasty-looking power-up potions that either fill your health completely, speed up your movement or turn you into an invincible monster for a while.
All good. But then there's this little glass receptacle. Look at it, sitting there all enigmatically with only a question mark for a face. Come on, little fella, don't be shy...
Above: Ah, mystery potion of mystery, how mysterious are thee? Very mysterious you be
And that's the killer. It looks so innocent - what harm can it do? It can be anything from triggering the aforementioned monster transformation (awesome) or healing you fully (also awesome), through to... turning you into a zombie. Ah. If this happens, you don't get to have control of your character any more, instead being forced to watch yourself go after the very neighbors you're supposed to be saving. And when you're meant to be saving the cheerleaders (which would surely save the world, right Hiro?), that's just not good enough.
Above: Live cheerleaders with pom poms are better than dead cheerleaders with no pom poms. Fact
But let's be honest here. We're human beings. We cannot resist the temptation of mystery item. Like those game shows where you can trade $10,000 dollars for the contents of a mystery box, which almost always turns out to contain a set of toenail clippings. Curiosity didn't kill the cat, it killed its stupid owner. But still we reason, irrationally, that we have to find out just in case it's actually the best surprise the world has ever known.
Must find out! Must find out! Oh, it's made us dead.