Sawbuck Gamer

Goblin Catcher

Gotta Catch ’Em All

Goblin Catcher, a sort of primordial Zelda, shows how simple an engaging game can be.

By Cory Casciato • November 29, 2012

Sawbuck Gamer is our daily review of a free or cheap ($10 or less) game.

Games don’t have to be big, complex, and deep to be engaging. Take Tetris—with just a few simple geometric shapes, some simulated gravity, and a goal of simplistic pattern-making, it became one of the greatest games of all time. Goblin Catcher is not one of the greatest games of all time, but it is an object lesson in how simple a good game can be.

Start in the middle of the screen, use the arrow keys to move around, catch the goblins, avoid the bad guys, grab an occasional power up. It all takes place on one essentially featureless screen. No level progression, no environmental obstacles, and no surprises. What you see is what you get. It’s pure and straightforward—a video game boiled down to its essence.

Goblin Catcher looks a lot like an Atari 2600 port of The Legend Of Zelda, thanks to some obviously “borrowed” art. In fact, if Zelda had been back-ported to the old Atari machine, I’d be willing to bet it would have played a lot like this, too. Back in those days, it might have been a modest hit. Today, it’s a modestly entertaining way to kill a half hour.

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  • Brainstrain

    Fun soundtrack. Nice little diversion.

  • PaganPoet

    It was kind of adorable for about five minutes.

  • BarbleBapkins

    I don’t know where else to put this, but the latest Humble Bundle contains about five THQ games, with the minimum payment for the bonus game, Saints Row 3, being a paltry 6ish dollars currently.

    Of the games in the pack, I’ve only played Metro 2033, and although I haven’t finished it, it is a very atmospheric and interesting game. Its attention to setting and character reminds me a bit of Half-Life 2, but much more depressing.  It and the rest have gotten a decent amount of critical praise, so definitely worth looking into.

    • Spacemonkey Mafia

      It’s a pretty audacious bundle, to be sure.  Sadly there’s nothing on there that I haven’t played that compels me to much, but I almost want to buy it on principle.

    • Girard

       Wow, the cheapskate in me is excited that some AAA expensive titles are in a pay-what-you-want bundle… but that same part of me is oddly disappointed that I don’t actually want any of those games…

      Folks can still participate in the Amnesia Fortnight Humble Bundle, too! This one is totally, totally up my alley.

  • Aurora Boreanaz

    This can’t be as good as the Skrillexelda game the AVC is talking about…

    • BarbleBapkins

      I was going to make a joke on that article about how he looks like a Twili from Twilight Princess, but I didn’t think it would play over there. So I’ll make it here:

      He looks like a Twili from Twilight Princess.

      • GaryX

        Totally would’ve played.

        • BarbleBapkins

           I am a master of my craft.

  • GaryX

    Did you guys see MoMA is going to have a video games exhibit? How cool!

    • Girard

      Not just an exhibit, but actually adding several games to their permanent collection! It’s a big deal, and sounds like it’s more thoughtful and edifying to the medium than that cursory show the Smithsonian put up last summer.

      • GaryX

        Right, meant to note that! Thanks! The collection looks good too. A solid diversity of titles that are pretty legit landmarks in the design of games. It seems like whoever’s behind this “gets it.”

        Also, I should probably thank MoMA now for adding a little more legitimacy to the paper on architecture and video games I’m writing.

        • Girard

          Paola Antonelli also organized/curated MoMA’s great “Talk to Me” show a while back. I’m personally more of a ‘fine arts’ guy than a ‘design’ guy in my sensibilities, but I’m glad that there’s someone in any department of such a lauded cultural institution who obviously has a respect for games and other digital forms of expression.

  • Girard

    I may have shared it here before, but the closing of this review reminded me of this genuine, cool, 2600 de-make of  Super Mario Bros:

  • yifu490