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UK Mike (miner2049er)

The Bi-Weekly British Backtrack - The Addams Family Games

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As you may have guess, or nay not even need to guess, there are tons of Addams Family games out there on all sorts of systems, but for the sake of this exercise we'll be concentrating on one of my favourite games, certainly in the 16bit era anyway.

Between 1989 and 1994 there were half a dozen games based on the Intellectual Property of The Addams Family including of course a great pinball table by Bally Midway in 1992, one which broke previous sales records by selling over 20,000 units. Tying in with the movie release didn't do it any harm obviously, but the IP is a popular one with console games ranging from platformers to top down shooters and starring different central characters from Uncle fester to Pugsley, but I'll give you a clue, the one I'm covering stars Gomez in the central role.

The game appeared in 8 bit versions too but they were all different in some way and this is where it can get confusing. The 16 bit games appeared on Amiga, Atari ST, Mega Drive and Super Nintendo and like I say, featured Gomez in the central role, but the 8 bit versions that appeared on NES and Gameboy were essentially the same game but with the central character switched to Pugsley and with the game's name switching from The Addams Family to Puglsey's Scavenger Hunt.

To be honest the NES game pales in comparison as it has no music, basic sound effects, no character animations to speak of and no backgrounds. I actually prefer the Gameboy game to the NES one. If you are going to play this game then play the 16 bit versions because they are far superior.

So the 16 bit version was just called simply The Addams Family and it was made by Ocean Software. The game's story line is that Uncle Fester has lost his memory and has fallen under the spell of Abigail Craven who wants to get her hands on the Addams Family's hidden fortune. She and her evil assistants Tully and The Judge have used Uncle Fester and imprisoned the other members of the Addams family somewhere in the mansion and only Gomez can save the day by freeing them and by restoring Uncle Fester's memory. Once he's done all that he has to find Morticia in the underground vaults and confront the evil Judge in a creepy and kooky, mysterious and spooky, altogether ooky final level.

The game starts off in a very promising fashion with a nice little animation of the hand from the show, Thing, appearing out of a box and beckoning you into the game almost, and if you press L + R during the opening sequence Thing will snap his fingers. The Mega Drive version then has an extra little scene that shows the family mansion with bats flying out of it towards you like the scooby doo intro, and some thunder and lightning.
Once you get to the main screen you get an option to either start the game or enter a password which is the system used to allow the console versions to have progress saving of some description. Don't forget we're 16 bit consoles here, no floppy disks or memory cards just yet.

So starting the game puts you on the front doorstep of the mansion and you can choose to explore the garden or the house first, even finding some of the secret rooms accessed via the chimneys on the roof.

Graphically the game is slick without being excellent but the cartoon style seems to fit perfectly with the gameplay. The rooms inside the mansion have backgrounds with a couple of levels of parallax scrolling and the character and enemy sprites work well and are well animated. I realy like the overall look of the game.
There are several soundtracks used in the game which change depending on what section of the house you are in and they are good tunes that add to the experience rather than anything else and you won't find yourself getting sick of them too quickly. When you lose a life you get a screen and a little harpsichord tune that sounds good, and perhaps sounds slightly better on the Mega Drive. Despite that, and the extra intro sequence on the Mega Drive I think I prefer the SNES version though essentially the game is the same.

Graphically I prefer the look of the SNES game but I think the main difference is the controls. In my opinion the controls are slightly better implemented on the SNES. You see, Gomez as the central charcater has inertia and momentum, so if you are running to the left or right and then stop, he doesn't stop immediately on the spot, he skids to a halt, and if you start to move, the reaction isn't instantaneous and sudden, again there is inertia and he will move slowly initially then speed up. Obviously this is all done very quickly and is not sluggish in any way, but just the feel of it and the way it works on the SNES makes the controls a little more accurate and predictable, and I found my self dying on the Mega Drive version in places where I wasn't on the SNES. Once you get used to it, it might not be a problem and you'll forget about it, but it's worth being aware of.

The character himself starts off with a life energy of 2 hearts, and each hit you take loses you a heart so you get 2 hits per life and 5 lives per game. Dotted around the mansion are extra hearts to restore your energy and extra heart containers to give you more than the 2 hearts you begin with, and you're going to need them because this game gets quite tough in places and you have to time your moves exactly in certain parts. It's not annoyingly difficult in my opinion but it's not too easy either, a difficult balance that this game pulls off well.

You also collect $ signs on your journey, and these $ signs will give you an extra life every time you get 100 of them. You'll notice that there are other hidden bonuses around the mansion and secret passageways that are usually marked with a box containing a letter "A", and when you hit these "A" blocks you'll be told that "Where there is an A there is a way", so look around for a secret tunnel or door to find the hidden bonuses.

There are also Power Ups to be collected such as the Fez which has a propellor attached, effectively giving Gomez the power of flight and that will come in very useful. There are bows and arrows, balls that you can throw and a sword that you can use on your quest to deal with the baddies. If you get hit while you've got one of these power ups you will lose the power up before you lose a heart so it gives an extra hit per life if you can keep hold of one.

The game centres around the main hallway which has several floors and each floor contains a door or two which will lead you to a different part of the house and essentially a new level. At the end of each level will either be a bonus like an extra heart container or a missing family member for you to rescue by defeating the end of level boss. Once you do that you'll find yourself in the music room where the family will gather and you'll be given a password to enter on the main screen and your progress so far will saved. Then you go back to the main hallway and continue your search by going through another door.

A nice touch in this game is that when you pause, it doesn't just suddenly stop everything and become silent, obviously your character stops moving as do all the other moving objects, but the music keeps playing and slowly fades down, then when you start again it slowly fades back up. This is just a little nothing feature that doesn't necessarily add anything to the game but it's a nice finishing touch that showed somebody cared about what they were doing, and that is clear right throughout this game.

It looks great, it sounds great, it plays great and it presents a big enough challenge to be long lasting while still being fun, something not easy to pull off.

So if you want to try some 16 bit action before my next ramblings, you could do a lot worse than playing The Addams Family.

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