The Addams Family – NES
Platform: Nintendo Entertainment System
Release Date (NA): 1992
Developer: Ocean Software
Rating: 6.5 out of 10
I can’t be sure of what the world thought of this game since I was only 7 when it was released, but I do have fond childhood memories of playing The Addams Family and it’s still a game I love to boot up every now and then. Note that this title was ported to over half a dozen systems and gaming computers of its day, and roughly speaking the 8-bit and 16-bit versions differed considerably. The scope of this article is only intended to judge the merits and pitfalls of the NES version specifically.
The Addams Family may not be the best platformer ever to grace the NES, but it is far from the worst and is easily one of the most fun even if I do use the Game Genie 99% of the time. Here we find ourselves tromping through the Addams’ residence as Gomez in an attempt to reach his family members. Following the plot of the first film from the early 90’s, Fester has been brainwashed and the evil lawyer is holding Morticia for ransom, hoping to get his hands on the enourmous Addams fortune. As such, Gomez must traverse the grounds as well as each and every corner of his own mansion gathering up every last bit of cash for the weigh-in prior to the final confrontation.
One of the most noticeable traits is the sheer difficulty. In nearly every room and area there is a multitude of seemingly endless projectiles being launched from every conceivable orifice. Most actual enemies have discernible enough patterns to recognize, but there are a few surprisingly speedy adversaries which take a little ingenuity to defeat. There are also a few food items dotted around that restore Gomez’s health. At first it can be difficult to distinguish these pieces of cheese and whatnot from the various shapes of money, but it doesn’t much matter as there are only about 4 of these life-restoring items available in the entire game. To top it off, rescuing “Thing” grants Gomez temporary invincibility but he can only be activated 3 times and there is no way to re-attain this power-up. Added together these make for a fairly intense game with few breaks and few chances for error. As typical with most platformers the enemies will regenerate, an especially frustrating facet of gameplay as one is forced to re-search old ground to recover the Addams family fortune. So no, I have not a single qualm about digging out my Game Genie Updates books.
The mansion itself is gorgeous by 8-bit standards with plenty of room for open exploration. A lot of fun little extras hidden in the scenery are included as well, most pertaining to grabbing some quantity of cash without which the game cannot be completed. Some may find it frustrating that such necessities are hidden in plain sight, but perhaps my familiarity with the game causes me to overlook these sources of potential frustrations. Tasks such as jumping on the master bed, turning on the shower to fill the bucket to douse the fireplace with, the hidden cabinet in the attic, and of course the beginning of the end of the game with the manuscript opening a secret passage in the library all keep the challenges in the realm of possibility.
The jumping is one of the weaker aspects of The Addams Family and while generally serviceable, there are particular sections where some design flaws become evident. The most glaring difficulty appears in the freezer where Gomez is both sliding on the ice as well as needing to pull off those “last second” jumps. I still spend longer than I’d like on this section after years of completing the game. The looping MIDI of the Addams Family theme can get monotonous but I still think it ranks a notch above most other 8-bit music.
Perhaps my favorite aspect regarding the gameplay of this gem is the linear progression of events in a mostly non-linear environment. Some very embryotic RPG elements are present, such as rescuing the family members in order to gain certain items (and occasional information, such as the recipe for the shrinking potion) that must then be further manipulated to render increasing accessibility to the house and outside areas. Indeed there was no capacity for wasted space in 8-bit games, so nothing remains trivial. Except that one locked door…
The grand scope of The Addams Family keeps its flaws forgivable. If you’re like me and always wondered if you collected enough money out on the balcony, don’t worry, you did. If you still don’t have enough for the weigh in, you’re missing a secret room! The final battle with a confused Fester and bloodsucking lawyer comes complete with a time limit, and unfortunately there isn’t much of a pay off, but making your way through the riddles and puzzles herein is reward enough. With or without a Game Genie, this is no small feat.
Reviewed by The Cubist
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