Gargoyle’s Quest II follows up on its Gameboy predecessor by largely playing it safe. It is a very similar game, albeit presented in color and on a larger screen, and to a degree it suffers from a lack of ambition.
The original Gargoyle’s Quest made excellent use of its small screen with slow-paced, precise platforming. Oddly, the NES sequel has a lot of problems with forcing you to make blind jumps, most frequently in a downward direction. Avoiding enemy attacks was difficult on Gameboy due to a lack of room to maneuver, while here the attacks tend to be faster. The result is a similar necessity for planning and skill, but the difficulty feels cheaper on the NES.
The good news is, Gargoyle’s Quest still has excellent gameplay. It remains largely unchanged, with the major exception being the platform-creating Magic Tornado weapon. It’s given to you relatively early, but the fact that it arcs upward and you can’t rise while hovering keeps it from being a game-breaking ability. Instead, you’ll find yourself switching weapons tactically, trying to maximize your advantage.
Magic Tornado aside, Gargoyle’s Quest II consists of a series of stages you need to traverse, all filled with highly vertical platforming and nasty traps. The random encounters from the original are gone, and you now move much more quickly on the world map, leaving the well-designed stages as the primary focus of the game. You receive ability upgrades at regular intervals, leading to a highly satisfying progression loop. The game does suffer slightly from the problem with other games of its ilk, in that the hardest stages tend to be towards the beginning of the game when you’re lacking some abilities and maneuverability.
The bottom line is, if you liked Gargoyle’s Quest, this is more of that, and it’s a lot of fun. The game is pretty short by NES standards, and fairly hard to find, but if it’s available it’s worth checking out.