Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Game 22: The Addams Family

The Addams Family is one of my favorite movies, and even the TV show has a special place in my heart. It's all about a purposefully weird set of characters who nonetheless form a functional and supportive family.

In fact, I just rewatched the 1991 movie this Halloween, and it's great. The basic message of "be different!" is just as charming as it was 23 years ago. I also saw a hell of a lot of innuendo between Morticia and Gomez that I never noticed as a kid.

Good god, that clip.

Anyway, if the Addams Family value is "be yourself despite others", then this game certainly lives up to the Addams Family legacy. However, this game adds on a few values of its own, namely "make everyone hate you" and "be really terrible."

But first, the story:

Professional GIF making skills right here
So basically this the story of the movie - probably made to be a tie-in for the release of the movie, even. Not surprising, Sitcoms From the 60's aren't exactly a wellspring of inspiration for video games marketed primarily towards children.

Alright, let's get this show on the road. After the story I was dumped in front of the mansion as Gomez, or at least some sort of deformed Game Boy version of him. Obviously we're playing some sort of platformer here. Immediately I'm struck with the quality of the music...it's actually pretty good! Unfortunately every time Gomez jumps it makes this irritating bboooiiiIIINNG noise

Pictured here: A terrifying monster who used to be human. Also, a ghost.
Instead of going in the mansion, I just hoof it off the right side of the screen into a swamp. There, I am assaulted by birds and ghosts, which is a typical scenario for me in any case.

I should mention a few things here not obvious from the screenshot. Because I'm going to be tearing into the mechanics very heavily, I want to make sure we both understand the basics here.
  1. Gomez can throw knives, appropriate to his character. It depletes the little gauge below the score. This gauge can be replenished with potions. 
  2. He can also jump on some enemies, but it only stuns them temporarily, and only works on about 25% of the monsters in any case. It's very unclear which monsters can be jumped on and which ones will just hurt you
  3. Those hearts at the bottom left don't represent one health, they're actually more of a meter of health. That ghost, for instance, will take a little over half a heart.
  4. Gomez is invincible for a good 4 seconds after being hit, BUT he cannot throw knives OR jump on enemies in this state

And here's a tree
So the end result of all this is that a bunch of very stupid and frustrating things will happen all in a row. I get hit by a ghost or other nasty and lose health. The ghost continues to chase me because I can't throw knives while invincible. As soon as I'm NOT invincible, however, the ghost hits me AGAIN, therefore preventing me from throwing knives, etc.

Now the answer to this is to just run away from ghosts when I get it, but then I'm put in a situation where OTHER enemies are attacking from other angles that I cannot escape. The end result is that getting hit once typically results in getting hit three or four times in a row.


Well, in any case I fall into a pool of bubbling death thanks to a blind jump from a tree in the swamp, and start over right next to the manor. Screw it, let's just go inside, it has to be safer inside right?

Look at her eyes. Just look at them.
Right so the inside is actually a bit easier once you get the hang of jumping over bear traps and knifing ghosts. I'm rather liking this exploratory feeling to be honest - it's not just a series of stages but rather a little world to poke around in. A very miniature metroid.

I find myself climbing all the way to the top and end up in Wednesdays room, lovingly adorned with traffic signs. This is a nice callback to Wednesday's habit in the movie of taking stop signs from intersections to cause car accidents - very cute.

There's also a Toy Box helpfully labelled TOYS with a down arrow pointing towards it.

Also there's a bear trap. And I'm about to die.
I go over to the toy box and I'm sucked in (and presumably tinyfied) to fight evil toys. Always an exciting day in the Addams household, although I'm not sure what this has to do with real estate fraud.

Luckily for all of us, this stage is the most irritating so far. The ground often disappears under Gomez leaving just barely enough time to jump off, the enemies bounce off the walls in unpredictable patterns, and there are insta-death spikes everywhere.

Here's a particularly infuriating section:

Gomez was so ashamed he just left
So it looks like I might be able to jump OVER that wall in the center to get the potion, right? Right! It totally works, but the designers didn't want that so they put a tiiinnnny spike tip at the top that kills me instantly once I get over. Thanks.

The intended solution is to go allll the way to the right and then come back for those, but even that isn't necessary. Turns out I can jump high enough to just get it from below.

Well whatever, I have enough lives to get to the end if I'm careful. So I'm careful, and get to the boss, a giant teddy bear with an unwieldy flail. 2 lives left, let's use 'em wisely.

Love that he's sort of hovering there
I use my first life trying to find his weak point, which turns out to be throwing knives into its ass. Unfortunately, I don't have enough knives to kill it so I end up running out of ammo and killing myself instead. That's okay though! A new life means new knives.

Except I hit it with every. Single. Knife. And it still doesn't die.

So here's the trick: there's no trick. There's something else, somewhere in this game that allows you to kill that teddy bear. But there's no way to know that until after you get there, and once you're there you can't leave. So you have to waste all of your lives just to get out.

Good LORD.

Well I'm near quitting now but we're gonna try one more thing. The last resort.

Walking left
Alright so to the left is a graveyard, which is very straightforward: jump over graves and knife ghost. Okay. We can do this, yeah?

That pile of black dust is me
Welp. That's death so I suppose it's appropriate that he kills me with one hit, but holy crap.

Alright, be careful this time Clint, and we'll take out that pesky Death,

Humanity is spared from the cruel clutches of Thanatos thanks to Gomez Addams...but what was he doing in their graveyard ?
ALRIGHT AWESOME! I'm actually quite exhilarated for figuring something, anything out with this game. Turns out Death was holding Wednesday captive (...okay) and we've rescued her! Yeah!

I hope you can swim!!
Alright so now I can use a golf club in addition to knives. The golf club is a super strong attack that instantly kills enemies oh wait no it's not it doesn't do anything at all

I do think that Gomez has dislocated his shoulder though
You know what, I'd tell you what else I did but basically it just amounted to going somewhere and dying repeatedly.

I didn't hate this game despite all the vitriol I'm spewing at it. Sometimes it's fun to play a game that just...hates you. Doesn't want you to succeed, is broken and glitchy, just generally antagonistic. It makes any small successes feel like great victories over an unreasonable opponent.

"Just turn me off, okay? I need a nap"
But the design on this is unforgivable. Having to waste all your lives because you took a wrong turn? Getting stuck in the ceiling? Unkillable bosses and blind jumps and malicious spikes to offset bad level design?


It looks like this game was ported from the Amiga or SNES or something, so it's possible that there exists a good version of this game. But honestly, I doubt it. It looks like a rushed shoddy job by a team that didn't care that much about making a game that was good, just finishing a product.

Ah well, I guess I shouldn't complain too much. I just hate it when it seems like nobody cared at all about the game. It makes me sad.

Oh well, I'll just watch Gomez and Morticia make thinly veiled innuendo in the movie. That'll cheer me up.

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