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Addams Family, The Review

Developer: Ocean Publisher: Ocean
Release Date: 1991 Also On: Master System

I really liked this movie when it came out, though it wasn’t necessarily true to the television show and perhaps not even close to the original cartoons by Charles Addams. Anyway, after the movie it was destined that someone out there was going to program a game following the plot. Sure enough, Ocean decided to create something for NES and SMS fans (as well as a few other systems), though right now I’m focusing on the former. Movie games tended to be general bombs in the 8-Bit era, clearly used as a marketing tool and nothing more in most cases. Take for instance The Last Action Hero, one of the most atrocious, unplayable titles ever, not to mention ridiculous. However, now and then programmers came up with something good. The Addams Family doesn’t really fit in this category totally, it’s more in the middle, but it has a certain charm to it that makes it worth a look.

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Graphically, this version is way inferior to its SMS counterpart, and judging by other games for the NES programmed at this time, it’s clear to me much more could have been done. The colors are very drab and it seems a palette of perhaps no more than five colors have been used overall; green, black, orange, brown and white. Seems to be about it, which is quite weak. Oh yeah, through blue in there. The detail isn’t the best either and hardly any usage of the NES’ abilities have been totally used. Some characters and little additions to the backgrounds are absolute messes that should have just been avoided. Some of the family portraits, for example, are nearly unrecognizable. The animations are sometimes very choppy as well, such as Gomez, who has this really odd gait that makes it look like he can’t bend his elbows or knees. He looks like a puppet in some respects, albeit a very frightening one that wasn’t finished, definitely didn’t like the way that looked. Overall, the graphics work, they just needed a lot of work. It almost feels like the programmers were pressed for time and just had to throw it out there. The comparisons between this and the SMS version are so striking one wonders if this was not the case since the same company put them together.

To further complicate matters, The Addams Family has some very irritating music. Of course, expect the classic theme from the show and movie, but unfortunately although expected, you get to unexpectedly here it endlessly for almost the entire game. Here and there a different theme is used, but for the bulk of the action you’ll here the same track over and over and over and over into infinite. Can’t say that didn’t get annoying. In addition, this version is pretty devoid of sound effects. You have a sound when you jump and another when you land on enemies, but other than those that’s about all you’re going to hear. There are a few others, of course I’m exaggerating, but the point is that The Addams Family is pretty devoid of sound. Even more taxing is the absolutely horrendous sound they chose to program whenever Gomez gets hit by something he can’t touch. Heavenly god get ready to be annoyed. It’s this high-pitched, whistle-like tweet that sounds like someone blowing into one of those bird flutes for a split second. When you happen to get hit repeatedly or are in a position where it continues for a short period of time, it sounds like someone pressing a button to make the sound over and over very quickly with this unsettling break in-between. Wow, how many times did I want to kill this game for that one, grating effect? I give them props for programming the main theme well, but considering how much better the NES can perform in the sound category I wish they worked a little harder on this aspect.

And now the gameplay. The Addams Family, as you may have already guessed, is not without its problems, which I’ll get to in a minute, but overall the arrangement of the action is entertaining. There are just some details that may deter younger or less patient gamers. First off, you play as Gomez Addams. You have three lives to start and three continues, but you can collect extra lives here and there. Essentially, this game is a platformer, but Gomez has no ability to attack other than jumping on top of enemies, which sometimes doesn’t work because certain enemies are more of obstacles than something you’re trying to kill. What you have going on here is that Morticia has been kidnapped, as well as the rest of the family, and it’s up to Gomez to locate them using various tools you have to find along the way. Getting a certain family member will enable you to access other areas or use different items you previously couldn’t use. In addition, to access the final area where you fight the confused Uncle Fester, you have to collect at least one million dollars, which is scattered around the family estate. This forces you to search even harder and discover almost all of the games secrets in order to win, so nice job with that aspect. So a pretty fun concept, but let’s see how it works out.

The Addams Family is pretty hard to start, so that’s my first gripe with it. Younger or less experienced gamers will need some time to learn how everything works and the way its programmed doesn’t make it that much better. Once you get into it, though, you’ll find it pretty enjoyable. The idea of searching around and figuring out puzzles while playing a platformer is always interesting. However, the game does have the problem of some pretty shoddy, highly questionable collision detection, which is the main difficulty in learning how to play it, along with the controls. Sometimes Gomez will just ever so lightly touch the stupdiest thing and your life bar goes way down before you get a chance to move, if you can. Other times they were very lazy with the programming, as in the freezer stage, where during one segment you have to jump up in these opening in the ceiling to avoid snowballs. Push a little too much to the right or left and Gomez goes through the wall to get slightly stuck and hit several times by one of them. The Addams Family abounds with such issues, especially areas when things hit you but are programmed to fall or what not immediately when you enter the room, making it impossible to avoid them. Once you get the hang of it, it’s really not that bad, but this issue of needing to memorize some areas will definitely tax some brains. The only thing that took me awhile to get used to and caused the most difficulty are the controls, they’re responsive but very poorly implemented. Gomez does not jump nearly as much as it feels like he will and control of him on small platforms is all but impossible in some instances. Large gaps and jumps are equally annoying, required you to go way back and pressing the button at the very last moment before you fall into a pit. You’ll fall into several in some instances. In addition, the controls during the swimming segment are terrible, one of the worst instances of this kind of gameplay I’ve ever seen. Thankfully it doesn’t last very long. Anyway, overall I have to say this game is fun, but just a little too annoying when you first start playing it and this may cause some gamers to give up within a few tries.

The Addams Family isn’t the most creative game for its time, but they definitely did a good job of using the movie license and the plot without turning it into some of the drivel movie games were back in the 8-Bit era. The puzzle/platforming idea worked very well in this case. Everything was put together nicely in terms of what you have to do, the puzzles are interesting and fun to figure out, the usage of items adds another level to it, as well as the fact that you’re forced to find nearly every secret in order to complete it. Still, games such as The Goonies II came out years before this, so it’s not necessarily anything to get excited over. It’s the first and best Addams Family game for the NES, however, so it does have that going for it.

One of the things about The Addams Family, though, is that you may not have any reason to come back and play it after you beat it. The lack of a password feature requires you to play the entire thing at once, when utilizing something like this would have added depth and longer play. Once you figure out where everything is and what you need to do, the game could be completed in under twenty minutes by my estimate, so for this kind of game it’s not very long overall. The Goonies II, to use that example again, has a password feature and takes a heck of a long time to complete, and the entire process to get to the end is a lot of fun to go through again. The Addams Family really doesn’t have this aspect, unfortunately, and though I may play it again and I’m not really in a rush to do it.

In conclusion, I must say that The Addams Family can be a somewhat entertaining experience, and if you’re into games where you jump around attacking enemies while playing in a non-linear environment looking for things, you’ll probably look past its faults and play it through. However, if you’re looking for something you can just jump right into and enjoy this really isn’t the game for you. It takes a little too long to get used to the problems and even then you’re forced to play through the entire thing at once. You may find yourself getting so far, losing all your lives and then going back again to only get so far and thus it keeps going until you finish it. This is exactly what my experience was like, and I can see how it would definitely annoy some people enough that they’d want to forget about it entirely. It’s worth a look at least, but keep what I’ve said in mind.

Graphics: 5
Sound: 3.5
Gameplay: 6
Creativity: 4
Replay Value/Game Length: 3
Final: 4.3
Written by Stan Review Guide