Released: September 1989
US Cartridge ID: NES-WL-USA
Genre: Action Adventure
Supported Peripherals: Controller
ROM Size: 1 megabit
Mapper: ANROM (128k PRG)
Published a year after the release of the massively popular, groundbreaking 1988 Robert Zemeckis film Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, the NES game bearing the same title loosely applies the skeletal framework of the movie’s plot for an interesting take on the action adventure genre.
Roger is a huge movie star for Maroon Cartoon studios, and absolutely adores his gorgeous wife, Jessica. When the head of the studio suspects that she’s not being faithful, he hires private detective Eddie Valiant to check things out. Upon seeing Eddie’s photographic evidence of her infidelity, a distraught Roger runs away. The man in the photo, Toontown owner Marvin Acme, is found dead soon after Roger’s sudden disappearance. Judge Doom of the Toontown court, following his investigation fingers Roger as the prime suspect. Baby Herman, Roger’s costar, then claims that Acme left Toontown to the toons, but the will is missing. Roger seeks out Eddie in the hopes of proving his own innocence and clearing his good name, and in return pledges his assistance to Valiant’s efforts to save Toontown from certain destruction by industrial tycoons.
As the game begins, Eddie (controlled by the player) is accompanied by Roger in Valiant’s office. Wandering the streets of 1940s Los Angeles, Eddie must speak to people and search buildings for necessary items and clues, all while avoiding Judge Doom’s weasels, speeding cars, and other hazards. The friendly yellow taxi, Benny, provides his services once the whistle that summons him has been found, serving to make travel both safer and faster. Upon learning the password and gaining entry to the “Ink & Paint Club,” Jessica intimates where some of the missing will can be found, and also supplies a phone number where, if called on a real phone, gave hints on how to advance in the game (after the game hotline’s deactivation, a phone-sex service infamously took over the number). Following this meeting, Eddie and Roger must search Toontown and the wilds surrounding LA, frantically searching for the four pieces of the will.
Because the locations of the items necessary to complete the adventure are randomized each game, there is a lot of potential replayability. The game looks fantastic, with the (nonhuman) characters being instantly recognizable onscreen. The environments look good, and even though they tend to become repetitive after awhile, the fluorescent colors and amusing sprites easily keep the player entertained. The music is well put together and is infinitely hummable, and the sound effects don’t detract from the action.
The controls take some getting used to, and are difficult to figure out without the instruction manual. Cycling through items or punchlines (when Roger is caught by the weasels) requires holding the Select button and pushing the appropriate directional key. This would be fine were it not for the fact that the game doesn’t pause while the player searches for needed items, leaving Eddie prone to enemy hits. Eddie’s punch is also awkward: to wind-up a knockout punch, the A button must be repeatedly tapped, only to be let go once the power gauge has filled. These are things that can be overcome with some practice, but certainly serve to hinder rather than help the game flow. Thankfully, the rest of the controls perform as expected with no problems.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is an admirable attempt at creating a license-based game that doesn’t fit the cookie-cutter platformer mold. While the experience is marred by the cumbersome controls, the charm and fun of investigation help to siphon attention away from them. Roger Rabbit is a fun game that tries hard to capture the magic of the movie, and almost succeeds.
|Who Framed Roger Rabbit?