The Addams Family

addams family usa box The Addams Family NES Nintendo Review ScreenshotDeveloper: Ocean
Publisher: Ocean

Released: January 1992
US Cartridge ID: NES-6Z-USA

Players:  1
Genre: Action-Adventure
Supported Peripherals: Controller

ROM Size: 2 megabit
Mapper: MMC1 (128k PRG, 128k CHR)

Requires Flash10

Unlike Fester’s Quest, Sunsoft’s 1989 NES game based on The Addams Family television show, Ocean’s platformer was based around the 1991 theatrical reimagining of the revered 60’s series. It features all of the film’s main characters in a plot that diverges significantly from its inspiration: the family lawyer, Tully Alford, has evicted the Addams family from their mansion in a scheme to steal their vast riches. The family has since been kidnapped, and it is relying on Gomez to save the house, the family fortune, and their lives from Alford Addams Family The USA 003 256x224 The Addams Family NES Nintendo Review Screenshotbefore it’s too late.

Exploring his former home and  grounds, it is readily apparent that the Addams’ bizarre decorating sense  is for more than just show. Nearly every object and fixture in the house seems intent on killing Gomez before he can successfully complete his quest, but many can be taken care of by jumping on top of them (à la Super Mario Bros.). While dispatching (or avoiding) his murderous belongings, he must also free his loved ones from their predicaments by seeking them out and aiding them, usually by way of solving puzzles. Finally, Gomez must collect all of the money he finds in the mansion, since the door behind which Morticia and Tully lie is attached to a scale that operates the lock, and the lock won’t disengage unless Gomez has $1,000,000 in hand when he reaches it.

Much like in Maniac Mansion, the house provides an excellent backdrop for a puzzle-oriented game, providing a sense of freeform nonlinearity to the player by disguising that Gomez’s actions do indeed have to follow a logical progression in order to advance (for example, if doesn’t visit the crypt first to get the key, he won’t be able to open the front Addams Family The USA 013 256x224 The Addams Family NES Nintendo Review Screenshotdoor). The puzzles are well laid out, and those that aren’t spelled out by the family members are typically logical and easy to figure out: for instance, Gomez will find blue, hypothermic Wednesday trapped in the freezer. She will instantly thaw if he brings her to the furnace, and provide Gomez the key to the attic door in thanks. For any puzzles that might prove too difficult for the player, the instruction manual provides hints for the objectives in  all of the mansion’s areas. This does, however, significantly reduce the game’s challenge, so some caution should be exercised in referring to this resource.

The majority of issues with The Addams Family stem from its platforming action. Though he walks slowly, Gomez’s controls are solid, acting similarly to those used in Super Mario Bros. 3. While this itself is a good thing, the quality of the control setup is effectively countered by the faulty sprite collision detection – Gomez will constantly be damaged by enemies that he is trying to kill. More times than not, though Gomez appears to jump directly on top of an enemy’s head, he will fall through the enemy, causing him to lose a fair amount of his life gauge. This is also holds true for platform jumping. Though Gomez will often appear to have landed on the edge of a platform, he will often fall through it (usually Addams Family The USA 087 256x224 The Addams Family NES Nintendo Review Screenshotstraight into another enemy or a trap that will kill him instantly).

These issues are exacerbated by some extremely punishing level designs, most notably the roof. Once Granny has fixed the fog machine, Gomez can collect the final ingredient for Pugsley’s shrinking potion. In order to get to the fog machine, however, Gomez has to cross the roof of the mansion while avoiding falling tiles. Rather than just slightly hurting Gomez, being hit by a roofing tile will knock him off the roof into the garden. To collect the fog, he’ll be forced to make his way back through the house to the roof to try again. It seems as if the developers knew this was an issue, since the manual recommends that the “Thing” invincibility power be saved to be used to make it through this area. Other issues include deadly objects that fall on Gomez the instant he enters a room with no warning (swords, chandeliers, etc), unmarked doors that lead to instant death situations (usually by dropping Gomez into a pit of spikes), and a complete lack of a grace period once he has been hit (if Gomez comes into contact with an enemy, his life bar will begin depleting, and will continue to do so until he moves out of the way or dies).

The graphics in The Addams Family do a good job of evoking a similar atmosphere to the movie, providing creepy, colorful backdrops with bizarre, humorously designed enemies. Addams Family The USA 128 256x224 The Addams Family NES Nintendo Review ScreenshotEach area has a very distinctive appearance, and most rooms have unique enemies to further sell the environment (a couple dances above the floor in the ballroom, skeletons lurk in the crypt, etc). The close-up character portraits of the family members during conversations are dire, to the extent that they unintentionally underscore the game’s sense of humor. The sound is good, but repetitive. An excellent arrangement of the show’s theme song loops endlessly throughout most of the game, with a dungeon theme occasionally taking its place in certain areas (the crypt, the freezer, the furnace).

Because of its open structure and item-puzzle oriented game play, The Addams Family‘s style of play is reminiscent of Metroid or Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, but it unfortunately lacks the polish that makes those games so worthwhile. Though an excellent setup and a great cast of characters are provided, questionable design choices and weak programming undermine most of the game’s merit. The Addams Family has a ton personality and charm, but like Gomez and Morticia, it’ll likely scare away most players before they can ever really acquaint themselves.

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Ocean, 1/1992
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