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Frankenstein's Monster (Atari 2600) artwork

Frankenstein's Monster (Atari 2600) review

"Its thanks to its simple structure, swift pace, and impressive implementation of an actual ending that Frankenstein's Monster is a stellar entry into Atari 2600's library. Unfortunately, it's not a well-known title, though it deserve to be. I say this because it's unlike other obscure Atari 2600 titles in that it's actually worth playing for fans of the console."

Frankenstein's Monster asset

Your attempt to incite an angry mob to storm Castle Frankenstein is unsuccessful. It turns out that your neighbors dislike rain more than ominous castles inhabited by people who don't subscribe to local norms and traditions. You, on the other hand, are a man's man, and therefore don't mind if the nasty weather ruins your perm or tarnishes your new brand-name boots. It's thanks to this raging masculinity and borderline inferiority complex that you are able to march to Castle Frankenstein solo despite the heavy downpour and blackness of night. Once there, you stomp to his uppermost chamber, hands aching for vigilantism and mind racing with paranoid prejudice. You stand at the entrance to the chamber ready for action, piss drunk and unstoppable.

...until you see what the good doctor is cooking up, and suddenly the spike in the sales of suture materials makes sense.

For once, your paranoia is not misplaced. You've stumbled upon a bona fide diabolical genius performing the most demonic of rituals. In the company of the real McCoy, your spirit wanes, you sober up, and your macho rampage cools to a hopeless dread. You have failed in your alcohol-fueled mission.

You recall at that moment all who have been executed under suspicion of diablery. Your heart dips lower as you consider the potentially innocent lives that have been lost as a result of your village's mob mentality. The horrified countenances of every lynched "witch" and "sorcerer" who've perished in the village square appear before you. You cower in guilt at the sight of them, but desire something more deeply than release from their admonition: atonement. You know now what you must do: prevent the doctor from awakening his undead abomination!

Were we to break the boundary between our dimension and the world within our imaginations, where our experiences in playing Frankenstein's Monster are reality, we might describe our hero's attempt at defeating the daft doctor as repetitive and simplistic. Like an arcade game, some wiseacre would pipe up. For the hero's mission--nay, your mission--in ending the bolt-necked beast is not as efficient as grabbing a weapon or destroying Frankenstein's machinery. Instead, your overcomplicated plan involves darting into the musty depths of Frankenstein's dungeon and swiping stones to erect a wall around the creature, regardless of your lack of mortar. This is the perfect setup for Atari 2600 games, which demand uncomplicated design and brisk action.

Your odyssey from castle's apex sends you through a haunted corridor where you dodge a disturbed specter, whose ectoplasm threatens to stop you in your tracks. While a temporary stunning may sound harmless, it's enough to aid in hampering your quest. For you only have a short time to imprison the monster before it is roused to wake and rendered unstoppable.

Upon escaping the ghost, you descend into a dilapidated hallway complete with holey floors and paralyzing tarantulas. Surmounting this obstacle course is no challenge for you, as you are capable leaper. With ease, you bound over the creepy-crawlies and the pitfalls, making your way quickly to the dank dungeon. There you are slowed by a murky pool, venomous spiders descending from the ceiling, and precarious platforms. With careful timing and awareness of your positioning, you once again best the test with skillful hops and cross the pool. On the other side is a stone fit for wall construction.

Frankenstein's Monster asset

Stone in tote, you run the gauntlet in reverse, ascending to the doctor's chamber again. Though you have reached your opponent, you are not yet out of the woods. Before you can place the brick, a colony of bats rushes to aid the creature, knocking you back with the slightest touch. Worse, you find that one blow from a bat leaves you open for further strikes, leading into a vicious cycle that sends you back to your initial position. Even worse, the bats appear arbitrarily, reducing this task to a matter of luck rather than skill. With effort, you find breaks in the black cloud and successfully negotiate the challenge.

With the first stone placed, you feel like a tiger. Unfortunately, as you advance back through the collection of deathtraps, the cocky smirk you donned a few minutes ago dissipates. Somehow, the castle has altered itself, adding more spiders and holes to its blueprints. Even the floating platform in the dungeon has changed, now consisting of three smaller platforms instead of a single large one. After another trip to the top and a second stone placed, you find that the castle's transformation is a constant process. Eventually several tarantulas and holes populate the ruined corridor, moving platforms invade the dungeon, and the bats in the penthouse increase in number and speed while flying at you from every angle.

Frankenstein's Monster asset

Thanks to the progressive increase in constraints, our hero will rue the day he stepped into Castle Frankenstein. Atari 2600 fans, on the other hand, will delight in it. Here we finally have a 2600 title that doesn't rely solely on increased speed to drive its challenge factor. Nor does it amp up the difficulty to ridiculous heights in within a single stage, but does so progressively. It's refreshing, too, because the game refrains from breaking your face immediately like other members of the 2600 library, thereby allowing you to play longer and spend more time honing your skills.

What's more, Frankenstein's Monster is one of the few Atari 2600 games that has an actual end without sacrificing its arcade feel. It maintains its simplicity and doesn't toss in completely new levels lacking the complexity of true progress-based games (Desert Falcon, I'm looking in your direction).

Its thanks to its simple structure, swift pace, and impressive implementation of an actual ending that Frankenstein's Monster is a stellar entry into Atari 2600's library. Unfortunately, it's not a well-known title, though it deserve to be. I say this because it's unlike other obscure Atari 2600 titles in that it's actually worth playing for fans of the console. So this October, forget Halloween, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Ghost Manor. The real horror-inspired game to play on Atari 2600 is Frankenstein's Monster, a forgotten sleeper that deserves to be jolted back to life.


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (October 22, 2012)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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