Well, it’s week 3 and I’m already starting to be overwhelmed by the enormity of my undertaking. Some of these games will mostly be a walk in the park: play it for 15 minutes and get my sense of it and move on. But next week, I have five, count ’em five, Advanced Dungeons and Dragons games that will likely try my patience like nothing else. Also, I know I’m going to run into whole stretches of children’s games…I’m starting to regret my alphabetic approach. How long should I play them to count as being reviewable? I guess it’s fluid and I’m not trying to torture myself: if I don’t enjoy it, I don’t have to keep going. I know my safe word.
One note I wanted to make: some of these games may be out of alphabetical order in a strict sense. I am following the progression of ROMS already loaded onto my PowerPak, which may or may not be accurately spelled with all the commas in the right places for the “A” or “The” games. This is already happening, as one of these games reviewed today should come before the other. I’m going with it anyway.
This week, I delve into two back to back Addams Family games but first another title I’ve never heard of before:
Abadox (which if you say it wrong comes off like Forrest Gump) is a side-scrolling shooter…no wait vertical-scrolling, but not in the way you expect… no wait back to side-scrolling SHMUP (shoot ’em up, not my term) which was made in Japan but snatched up by Milton Bradley to release in the US in 1990, probably trying to get some of that sweet, sweet Lifeforce cash. I doubt it worked out. This game is unforgiving as any I’ve played. The music is actually decent, and no wonder given that it’s by the composer of Contra: Kiyohiro Sada. This game is a bit of a milestone for me in these reviews, as I actually played the entire game. You’ll notice right away I didn’t say beat, and that is namely because despite my best efforts, I made it to the 1st level boss numerous times and died numerous times. The game rewarded me by starting over at the very beginning, and I realized very quickly I wasn’t going to get a keen sense of things without some help. I was about to employ the use of the Game Genie abilities my cart has built-in, but instead I found out there’s actually an embedded cheat code for this game and it’s not the standard konami code. It actually makes you completely impervious to anything, so you never die. To my credit, perhaps, I still played as if there were real stakes, just to make it more exciting for me. I realized that my woes would have run very deep if I had even ventured a few levels into this very odd shooter. The difficulty was incredible. Oh and why odd do you ask? Mainly because it takes place, no joke, in an alien intestine. The levels look a bit like the spaghetti and meatballs you get from a can. Among the enemies were: disembodied eyes, skulls with brains, tentacled monsters that slowed you down and even arms jutting out the side for the added creepy vibe. When there’s blood on your main title screen, let’s just say it sets the stage. All in the all, the game probably took me about 20 minutes to beat with the assistance. In that time, I got to see all kinds of crazy level designs, eventually getting to a more metallic, robotic framework, but I couldn’t tell you why. I think I saved a bubble girl at the end? Spoilers? By the way, I will be definitely visiting YouTube to see someone beat that final “GTFOtheSHIPbeforeitEXPLODES” section without dying because I was laughing out loud at the sheer insanity of that amount of dodging required. I’m not sure I would come back to this with how brutal it is, but there is a level skip cheat as well, in case you want to see the variety without wimping out (like me). Also, it has a really sweet ending credits track, check it out here. Try it!
Movie tie-in game? Check. Well, actually it’s based on the cartoon,but close enough. Creepy pixel representation of side character in his own game? Check. Level music? Nah. The Addams Family Pugsley’s Scavenger Hunt, a not-so-thrilling port of a SNES title, feels rushed, thrown-together and bland. Most of the backgrounds were solid color. One level, I swear, was made out of Lincoln Logs. You play as Pugsley and have to go around stomping enemies (your only move, and it strangely works underwater too) trying to rescue the family members from nefarious things. The manual was very helpful in describing what’s happening: “Each door from the Hall Of Stairs will lead, ultimately, to one of the Big Bad Guys, and therefore a major award…” It seems that a bunch of bad guys capturing your family in your house and you going around rescuing them equals scavenger hunt. I’ll buy it: plot isn’t very important in these titles. The controls handled fairly well, as if all the code in 1993 for these things were tried and true, and they just had to copy/paste it in, and voilá: a game. When I mentioned there was no level music, I meant it. I thought maybe I was having another issue with a ROM, but no. YouTube playthroughs confirmed there was nothing of the sort during the stages, just a title screen ditty that left me wanting. The game was separated into rooms, starting you outside the house to gather up some candy and hearts (though the max you could have was 2, at first). Everything from the noise when something hits you, the random up-ticks in difficulty, and the hit-boxes being a little off made this game annoying. Sometimes, after you died, you would be put you right on top of a heart, even though you start with full hearts: so useful! Having checkpoints at many of the increments during the level was helpful, but overall the gameplay was dull as a post. This was getting to be an end-of-life title for the NES: 2 years into the SNES being the new hotness. Nintendo only made games for the original box till 1994. I have a feeling that they decided to tack this version on after a few business meetings determined they could expand their profits by making it available on as many systems as possible. This kind of rushed treatment is a sad reality in many of these marketing tie-ins. My parents also were very susceptible to these, because it’s things they recognized and a quality movie meant a quality game or toy, right? Right? Avoid it!
And just when you thought it was over, on we go to another Addams’ Family game: The Addams Family. It will be a little while before we run into another one (namely Fester’s Quest) but it’s by the same developer as the last game, so you can imagine where this is going. It’s another game that has a better version in its 16-bit sibling, which is no surprise. This one was actually released in tandem with the first movie back in 1991 and fares a bit better than Pugsley’s. This time, you are Gomez and you a going throughout the mansion to save your family…wait. Yes, it’s the same plot, though apparently I guess it’s not a scavenger hunt when you’re not a kid anymore; sorry, Mr. Addams. There’s actually level music here, though it basically consists of two songs, but still, an improvement. The overall graphical work also is quite better: Background and characters all come off more polished, but the main gameplay mechanic still remains: jump and stomp your enemies. I still have a tough time recommending this game, however, it still seems like not a whole lot of thought was put into the level design. I’m not very familiar with Ocean, but so far the first 2 titles I’ve played haven’t really impressed. It was at once easy and hard with an odd system for your health bar, namely enemies and elements could wreck your health over and over in a small amount of time. Hearts this time meant lives instead of how many hits you could take. Controls again were serviceable, if not inspired. This one didn’t have the luxury of starting sections over at checkpoints like the previous (or latter, chronologically), so I was frustrated quickly, especially when it came to jumping or as I did often: jumping into pits. There was a bit of exploring to find keys to open passageways which was something of an addition but didn’t really elevate this to any new level for me. It is interesting to see just how far we’ve come with complexity and just how short these games used to be if you knew what you were doing. Most of the games I’ve played could be finished in a mere 20-30 minutes. It was the difficulty that made you come back for more, because learning how to survive long enough to get through them added so many hours to what was really a short overall game. Now that infinite continues are the norm, you can see how large these teams of developers must grow in order to create enough content for each of these experiences. Some of this was just a limitation of the space on the cart, but shorter games was more likely a holdover from the arcade era. The game doesn’t need to be long, just hard enough to keep the goals frustratingly out of reach to keep the quarters flowing. Avoid it!