Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Addams Family (SNES) Review

Received: June 20th, 2015 / Written: October 1st-2nd, 2016
Year: 1991 | Developed and Published by: Ocean Software

Hello everyone, StarBoy91 here; passionate about video games, big retrophile, and fan of all things 16-bit.  In 1938 American cartoonist Charles Addams created a comic strip about a satirical equivalent of the American family who delight in the macabre (they are not evil though as they are rather pleasant and hospitable but are oblivious to the fact that their antics are creeping people out), being inspired by his Westfield hometown in New Jersey which was full of ornate Victorian archaic graveyards and mansions, and would work on it until his death in 1988; this was The Addams Family.  Since the comic's inception it has been adapted to various media including TV shows, animated series, movies, video games, and even a musical.

Aw, Gomez is walking over those gaps as if he was Mario
On November 1991 The Addams Family got adapted to the big screen in theatres by Raising Arizona and When Harry Met Sally... cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld in his directorial debut, developed originally by the waning Orion Pictures (who owned the rights at the time) but was completed by Paramount due the former's financial troubles (distributed by the latter in America).  It received good word of mouth and made really big numbers at the box office, and its success would inspire a few video game adaptations based on it (and even a pinball-themed game in 1992 by Bally/Midway which sold more than 20,000 units).

All aboard!
In 1991 the TurboGrafx CD console saw a video game tie-in developed by ICOM and published by NEC (where you took the role of the Addams' family lawyer Tully Alford, whilst in all other versions you controlled Gomez), Arc Developments developed the Sega 8-bit editions on the Master System and Game Gear published by Ocean, and there were Ocean-developed versions on the NES and Game Boy.  The most well-known video game tie-in to the movie, however, would be the one on the SNES released in the early months of 1992 developed and published by Ocean Software in their foray to the Nintendo 16-bit console (from what I gather it took them four months to make; the Super Famicom version was released by Misawa Entertainment) which would receive ports on the Sega MegaDrive/Genesis console as well as the Amiga and Atari ST computers.  This SNES edition is what I'll cover today, as I didn't play the other versions; so is today's licensed game worth a go?  =)

Things sure are getting medieval in here
The plot of the game goes thusly (I don't own the manual, so I had to look it up): Tully Alford (played by Dan Hedaya), the lawyer of the Addams Family, has taken over their home and has imprisoned the whole family and scattered them in different parts of the mansion--that is, all except the husband and father Gomez Addams (played by the late Raúl Juliá; yes, that Raúl Juliá) who's the only one who can reclaim his home and liberate his son and daughter Pugsley and Wednesday Addams (a young Jimmy Workman and young Christina Ricci), Uncle Fester (played by the legendary Christopher Lloyd), Grandmama (Judith Malina exclusively for this movie before being recast for the sequel), and wife Morticia Addams (played by the lovely The Witches star Anjelica Huston) one by one.  It will not be easy, but he'll do all he can to get them back as he braves the depths and corridors of his entire mansion.

Ohhhhh, so that's where the recoiling back and forth
wall enemies from the Abandoned Mines stage
in Porky Pig's Haunted Holiday came from!
In The Addams Family you play as Gomez Addams who has very simple platforming controls: B (or A) to jump as well as swim underwater and Y to use your weapon (a falchion or an unlimited array of white bouncing balls, provided you have either in your stead); he can also walk left and right, duck down, climb ropes or chains up and down, and enter doors by pressing up beside them.  Along the way you'll be encountering monsters that will attempt to impede your progress (most of which can be jumped on in order to take down) as well as collect a lot $ here and there (funny how even though this is a Euro platformer it uses the American currency; then again, I guess it is one of the more famous money symbols) for points.

"Oh, please don't eat me!"
At the end of each segment of the Addams Family mansion you get to fight a boss, and just like you have a health count on the left they have a health count on the right; the main way of dishing damage is by jumping on them (should you have the window of opportunity) and once you've depleted their whole health you'll be given a five-character password (hurray), at which point you'll either get a health augmentation by one (you begin the game with two) or save a member of Gomez's family.  Sometimes you'll come across hearts to replenish your health by one, but if one's not nearby there is one thing to count on: for every 25 $ you collect you'll get one heart back, except when you reach 100 in which case you'll garner a life (original, I know).

Swimming with the piranhas in dithering water
Even though The Addams Family is a platformer it is by no means straightforward fare (at least not all the way) as it is open-ended in nature and quite nonlinear in places.  In the Hall of Stairs there are several doors to choose from as you have a choice regarding which part of the mansion you wish to tackle right away.  Sometimes you'll come across some block-like switches you have to jump on in order to either have some platforms appear or open up a pathway which was previously blocked; of course sometimes the opposite effect comes into play meaning that if one thing happens to a series of blocks another will vanish (you'll have to be mindful of your surroundings and where you should press them).  A few times certain doors might lead to bonus rooms (or worse, send you back some) but the only way to get to the next part is if you find the right door (so choose carefully).

Whoa, whoa, whoa, why is Mr. Game & Watch consumed
by flame (or have a white eyeball for that matter)?  o_O
The movie's soundtrack was composed by Marc Shaiman, but since it's been awhile since I've seen the movie I can't confirm if the video game's soundtrack is accurate or not.  The Nintendo 16-bit video game adaptation's soundtrack was composed by Jonathan Dunn who also provided music to other Ocean licensed titles such as The Addams Family: Pugsley's Scavenger Hunt, Jurassic Park, Jurassic Park 2: The Chaos Continues, and the interactive take on the live action movie based on Hanna-Barbera's The Flintstones; and on its own terms the soundtrack in this game is pleasantly atmospheric and playfully engaging for the ears, as small as it is.  =)

Swimming underneath the graveyard
During title there is the famous Vic Mizzy Addams Family theme which has been faithfully replicated in Nintendo 16-bit format (sans lyrics), and in the Hall of Stairs is a playfully inviting variation of the theme.  Many of the songs made for this game utilize sound samples which add a sense of atmosphere (lite organs, to name one), and some songs are used more than once: the song used for the Red Hot Maze and Portrait Gallery areas (among a few others) has got a fun composition going for it and at one point sort of gives off an Egyptian vibe to it (it could easily be used in a pyramid stage, none of which exist in this game), it's easily the best song of the bunch (the other songs are good too).  The boss battle theme is decent and slightly more action-packed and the ending theme is well-earned after all has been conquered.  =)  The sound effects are quaintly chosen and can be fittingly goofy at times, such as the sound for when Gomez gets an item, the sound for when a boss is defeated, and the sound for when Gomez takes damage (it sounds like a honk).

Big Books indeed
For Ocean's first Nintendo 16-bit venue the visuals aren't too shabby, and what really makes them work are the dark color palette and the detail in the background.  In one of the segments you're indoors but occasionally you'll see a full moon through a window which is bright; in the Portrait Gallery there are suits of armor and medieval weaponry but adorning its walls are huge looming portraits of each member of the Addams Family (many of which are used once for the respective member of the family you save as they thank you); the underground segments have some rocky walls (with some dithering effects used for the water you swim in a la Jerry Boy); there's an ice-laden room which gives an aptly chilly feel; and during the start of the path that leads to Morticia there's a room full of chains not just in the background but in the foreground (actual moving foreground sometimes obstructing you) which lends some atmospheric depth.  I especially enjoyed the introduction where the Thing pops out of the box culminating in you entering said box.

That's not scary!
The creepy jester-patterned wall, however, that's scary
Many of the bosses you'll face are huge (at the expense of having much animation) and drawn in a cartoonish manner (with the exception of the serious-looking Fire Dragon who's red, spiky, and damn imposing in spite of its simplistic pattern); among them is a giant bluebird, a floating skull-tossing goblin who doesn't appear to know how to be in standing position, a giant rolling snowman, and a giant witch among others.  Included in the enemy roster you'll come across a singularly-spiked turtle, jesters, skulls rotating in a (counter)clockwise manner, simply drawn white ghosts (who are cute), bookworms, cartoonish sword-tossing knights, piranhas, magenta flying eyeballs, black silhouettes on fire(?), pumpkins spewing down fire, and zombies to name plenty and they sport okay to decent animation (and when they're disposed there's a Dig Dug-like "pop" effect minus the burst).  The Addams Family themselves are well-designed (I like their SD look, it's endearing), with Gomez having fluid walking and idle animation (not so much for when he uses his weapons, but you know, not bad overall).  =)

Oh, great, I'm getting Mickey's Dangerous Chase
flashbacks during this bit
That's not a good thing, by the way
The Addams Family is not an easy platformer for Ocean has devised ways of making it somewhat challenging.  So at first you start with two hearts which means you have to be careful lest you want to start the segment you're in from the beginning (or from a checkpoint depending on how long it is); after you receive more hearts you'll still have to be careful.  This platformer is of the slow-paced variety which means you should take your time and not rush; there are many enemies you'll have to deal with either on ground level, underwater, or in the air (sometimes these ones in particular will serve as jumping points in order to reach a platform which is either far or above from you).  And since it's pattern-based should you die you'll at least know what to expect from them and where you should position yourself for next time.

Let's fly away
Gomez has only one deliberate walking pace unless you get some speed shoes which increase your speed (try to coordinate yourself when you're moving and/or jumping in this condition); they, the short-ranged falchion, and the bouncing balls serve as health supplements, which means that if you have any one of these things when you get hit you'll lose them but not a heart.  Convenient!  =)  As I said before there are blocks you'll have to press in order to make progress (either making a platform appear or open up a doorway), some are in precarious moments such as when you're flying via flying cap or when you must time your jump correctly in order to get from one safe spot to another in Jester's Jump lest you get bumped down from the small ceiling space (or worse) fall down.  The latter reminded me of that one moment late in Mickey's Dangerous Chase where you had to jump upward dealing with a small ceiling place; but this game is better off because at least The Addams Family has a good sense of polish and is not unfairly structured and cheap like Kemco's mediocre Mickey Mouse platformer.  Count your blessings there is no time limit, otherwise it would've surely killed the whole thing altogether; there are unlimited continues for you have a choice after losing all your lives whether to start the segment you were in all over again or forfeit for another time (via password).

Uncle Fester: "One day I'll star in my own game."
Gomez: "Didn't you already have one where you---"
Uncle Fester: "I told you never to talk about it!  Ita
never happened!"  >=(
Mario-themed College Humor reference with the last bit
There are stationary obstacles you'll have to be mindful of here and there; such as the rotating spiked mace (clockwise or counterclockwise) where the only safe spot is the rope if it swings your way or up its platform depending on its rotation.  During the cold rooms you'll be walking on the slippery ice, so be careful how fast or slow you are; sometimes there are spikes not just below you but above you, in one moment you ride on a train as you must avoid the oncoming obstacles ahead of you, on the way to one of the segments there are big pumpkins floating above you as you deal with zombies on ground level and if you go slowly you'll only get to deal with little at a time (as opposed to if you were rushing in which case you'll be overwhelmed and have to start that bit again).

During the Nintendo 16-bit period Ocean Software would create two more Addams Family licenses for the console; if you're holding your breath for me to review them I suggest you stop now because that's not going to happen any time soon--sorry to disappoint you--but the least I can do is share my brief thoughts on them (which is the closest you'll get to a full review of them from me).
I swear that ooze is supposed to be blood; Nintendo Seal of Approval, everyone!
In the wake of the production for the live action Addams Family movie Hanna-Barbera created their second animated series based on these characters (which was my introduction to The Addams Family as a child) which lasted twenty-one episodes at two seasons from September 1992 to November 1993.  Ocean took the opportunity to create a game based on this series exclusively in The Addams Family: Pugsley's Scavenger Hunt where you controlled Gomez and Morticia's son Pugsley Addams.  For the most part the gameplay and structure based its template from today's game, only this time you can run and move while crouching which made it more faster-paced than the previous game.  Visually it was really colorful and had the charm from the show but was very difficult and frustratingly overlong thanks to the fact that there is no password system, which meant you had to beat it in one sitting.  =(  ActRaiser 2 was more manageable and playable than this, at least I can play Quintet's all action-platformer all the way through; the best I could manage in Pugsley's Scavenger Hunt is to make it halfway.
Fellow colorful and charming Ocean platformer Mr. Nutz also had to be beaten in one go (the original SNES edition, anyway) but that game at least had a fair structure to it, felt very playable and manageable, it did not feel broken or overlong in any way, and was more forgiving in terms of gameplay and difficulty.  I also found it to be more fun and enjoyable than Pugsley's Scavenger Hunt and rewarding to play all the way through to the end; a reason for that being it is slow-paced and not speed-oriented.  =)
The third and final Ocean-developed Addams Family license on the console would be based on Sonnenfeld's second directorial effort and sequel to the first film Addams Family Values, where this time you took control of Uncle Fester who has to search around for Gomez and Morticia's infant son Pubert who's gone missing.  Instead of being a platformer it vied for a bird's eye-viewed action-oriented adventure game (in a similar-ish vein to Zelda).  The atmosphere was highly abundant (especially with the creepy soundtrack) and you could move in all eight directions, but could only attack from half of them which added difficulty to the proceedings.  It also had a very inconvenient password system which only Cousin Itt can tell you it, but he doesn't appear frequently which overwhelmed matters exponentially given how long the journey is; this wouldn't be a big issue if not for the fact that this game is HUGEO.O  It can be so easy to get lost (and if you wish to keep the items you found you cannot die before reaching Cousin Itt); maybe one day I'll brave through this whole adventure but as it stands it is too high an order even for me.  I'll say this much: it's a huge improvement over Sunsoft's Fester's Quest on the NES.

"And should I not appear to look the same in the
sequel try not to be alarmed by that"
On October 2010 I caught up with The Addams Family: Pugsley's Scavenger Hunt due the fond memories I had for the '90s Hanna-Barbera animated series, and it wouldn't be until the Summer of 2015 that I would finally play both The Addams Family and Addams Family Values on the SNES.  Better late than never, am I right?  The first time I played The Addams Family I was so engrossed in it, exploring every part of the family mansion as well as getting past difficult obstacles.  It took me less than twenty-four non-consecutive hours to beat it the first time, recently it took me less than a few.  I found it to be very fun and engaging, and what's kept me on it until I finished was the atmosphere; there was tons of it.  =)

A block that gives advice to you upon being jumped up;
where have I seen that before?  =<
Ocean Software's The Addams Family has gotten a generally mixed to positive reception by gamers even to this day, some have even accused it of being a Mario clone.  There's no denying that jumping on enemies and bosses being the way to deal with them does bring to mind any game in the Mario franchise, getting a hundred $ nets you a life (like Nintendo's series), and once in awhile there are some blocks where jumping up on it results in a hint a la Super Mario World.  I'm not particularly bothered by those similarities as I did enjoy it as its own thing; besides, while the Mario games are either easy or normal in terms of difficulty The Addams Family is a bit on the hard side (but it's not impossible if you stick with it and pull through at a slow pace).

1Up all the way, baby!  =)
Say, that bricked pattern looks familiar...
Speaking of exploration, one of the best things about today's game is that there are a lot of nooks and crannies as well as secret paths and doors should you look thoroughly; if you feel through a wall in an inconspicuous spot for example you might stumble upon either a lot of $, hearts, and even lives.  I bet the programmers had a blast adding these secrets as it really augments a sense of scale to this adventure; a while before I played this game I read RVGFanatic's review of it and that was where I found out about Pugsley's Den which is behind a hidden door underneath the bottom left stairs as you press up (in it are the weapons, speed shoes, and a crapload of lives) in the Hall of Stairs.  With enough practice I'm sure it's possible to go through these stages without all the extra lives, but just in case you might need all the help you can get... it certainly prolongs your chances of escaping a game over.  =)

What a great dragon design  =D
The fact that there's no time limit is a good thing as you don't have to worry about getting to the next segment on time, going at a slow pace is the way to go and stepping out of the way of obstacles is a must when it's required.  Many of the boss battles (even the final one) are rather easy with the most simplistic of patterns, which I suppose some might view as a godsend considering all the challenges you had to overcome to get to that point, but a bit of challenge would've been appreciated in that regard.  I liked the open-ended nature and the ways that Ocean tried to challenge you, exploring the mansion was fun, and it's exhilarating during the final segments to see if you can make it to the next part.  Some might feel that Gomez's walking pace is a bit slow for their liking, but I did not mind it much at all.
He's certainly not as slow a walker as, say, Peter Banning from Ukiyotei's Hook where he moved at an unforgivingly snail's pace unless you held down the attack button which enabled him to run... but would not actually show that for at least a couple seconds as opposed to being immediately apparent (which is bad design).  Personally, the slow approach benefits The Addams Family more than it did the video game tie-in to the underrated Spielberg flick.

Count your blessings that gondola rides in Venice
aren't full of enemies trying to attack you
The Addams Family is an enjoyable platformer while it lasts, and despite some hiccups manages to provide plenty of challenge and secrets, and of the Nintendo 16-bit Addams Family trilogy of games I enjoy this one the most.  =)  There is a likable charm about it, the sense of atmosphere is big, the gameplay is simple yet good, and I can actually play through it all the way to the end without fail.  Since I got to play this game I've been meaning to catch up on the movie it's based on but I never got a chance to (hopefully soon).

Jump in!
I honestly find this game to be underrated and I can picture people playing it during the Halloween season; I mean, given the subject material, it's only logical.  =)  It's one of those games I find myself returning to once a year in the right mood, but while I largely enjoy it personally I do understand why someone might end up not liking it; whether it's because they don't like the challenge or if they think it's too long (as for the latter, it may not be short but it's certainly not long enough in my book).  As far as movie-based titles on the Nintendo 16-bit console go, I find Ocean's The Addams Family better than Ukiyotei's Hook and it's certainly better than Imagineering's Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.
My first physical SNES purchase from eBay back in 2009, it'll always have a place in my heart  =)
It may be no Mr. Nutz--though what Ocean platformer is, really?--but for Ocean Software's first game on the Nintendo 16-bit console it's well-made for they have done a commendable job for their The Addams Family is solid fun in its own right.  =)

"Morticia, my darling, I shall save you!"
If you wish to play a fun licensed title Ocean's The Addams Family offers plenty of it in the long run; if you neither like difficult titles nor like to be challenged this game is not for you then; if you wish to play a platformer that oozes with atmosphere and secrets you'll definitely be satisfied in that regard; if you're looking for a short title it's probably best that you look elsewhere; if you crave a little challenge there's a good chunk of it in store.  Today's game might be flawed in places, but it definitely is an hour or two's worth of entertainment while it lasts and it's an ideal game to play during the Halloween season.  It's got thrills and chills, it's full of nooks and crannies, it's charming, and there's a good sense of atmosphere and challenge during the proceedings; and in the end, what's not to like?  <=)

My Personal Score: 7.5/10
<( ^o^)^TO EACH THEIR OWN^(^o^ )>
P.S. There was a "The End" message during the end of the credits which I missed because I was distracted looking at some of the screenshots I took; I was too late by the time I tried to take it.  =(  The Gomez and Morticia image is the best you'll get to that.
P.S. 2 I also learned from RVGFanatic's review, which I'll warn you about now, that apparently there'll be a glitch which abnormally affects the game if you get a password when your life count ends with the digit "9".  Meaning if your life count is at "9" during a boss fight, lose one on purpose so you can avoid that mishap (unless you're really having a tough time with it).  Thanks for the warning, man, I took it to heart!  =)
P.S. 3 I need to catch up on a few SNES Ocean Software titles; namely Dennis the Menace and The Flintstones.
P.S. 4 I also wish to thank my followers and readers for sticking around, and I'd like to apologize for not posting as much as I should have as of late.  My other passion (besides video games) took precedence over StarBlog.
Thank you for reading my review, please leave me a comment and let me know what you think.  Hope you have a great Halloween, take care!  =)
Image from Wikipedia
Happy 25th Anniversary,
The Addams Family Movie!!!  =)

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