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Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (SNES) artwork

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (SNES) review

"Horrifying, for the wrong reasons."

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is a poorly made and frustrating platformer. Its only redeeming qualities are its music and the character animations.

The game is loosely based on the novel along with the Mary Shelley's Frankenstein movie released the same year. The player plays the role of Frankenstein's monster, simply called The Creature. At the beginning and end of each level there are cut scenes featuring text and still images that explain the plot. The game starts with The Creature fleeing Ingolstadt, Bavaria from angry townsfolk.

The Creature can run, jump, attack with a stick, and fire an energy ball projectile that requires health to use. He can also roll along the ground, but it is slow and he covers too much distance, so it isn't practical to use. In some areas there are fires that will light the stick, which increases its damage and illuminates dark areas. Movement always feels stiff and imprecise. While it may be a bit much to expect Frankenstein's monster to be light on his feet and nimble, it interferes with gameplay significantly. Many jumps require precise movement and timing. Combat often feels like a battle of attrition. It's difficult to hit an enemy without being hit in return.

While The Creature has a large health bar and takes a number of hits before dying, there are few ways to restore health during a level. Several of the levels have a certain spot where it is possible to get struck by lightning to restore all health. Other than that, only a few minor consumable items restore a pittance of health here and there. Given the amount of damage the player will take over the course of the game it never feels like enough. In addition, there are rare potions which restore all health when the player would otherwise die, but they are not easy to find.

Of the game's six levels, perhaps only the first and third are halfway tolerable. The first level has only moving platforms as its gimmick. Most enemies, which are simple townsfolk armed with pitchforks and the like, are easy to dispatch. The only major problem is knowing which lever operates which platform, and one lever is very difficult to see. By collecting a few items and combining them into a pulley system, it is possible to avoid the boss at the end of the level, but it's hard to figure out how to do this without use of a guide.

The second level is where a good number of players would give up out of frustration. The level takes place in underground catacombs and is mostly dark. By lighting the stick on fire at certain torches it is possible to see some of the screen, but there are none in the first area. Using the special energy ball attack lights the screen for a second but health is at such a premium that this is impractical. To make matters worse, the whole level is a maze where the player needs to push blocks on top of notches in the ground to open and close certain passageways. Between this and the darkness making any progress at all takes more effort than it should.

The third level, a swamp, might be the most straightforward in the game. There are no moving platforms or tricky hazards. While there are poisonous bushes and bear traps, these are easy to avoid and disarm. The boss of the level is a giant slug, which doesn't have much to do with Frankenstein so the developers likely threw that in because the level needed a boss of some sort.

If the second level is where many players would quit, the fourth is where the rest of them will. It takes place in Frankenstein's castle. There simply isn't enough health for the average player to get through it, and the level has only a little extra health to pick up. One area early on in the level has a series of falling platforms. They fall way too quickly, and there are enemies flying around. It is impossible to pass through here without taking a lot of damage from colliding with enemies. Missing a jump means repeating the area from the beginning, and to make matters worse, this area is only the first third of the level. The castle requires way too much precision and near perfect execution, as does the boss of the level.

The fifth and six levels involve The Creature running around in the Arctic to finally reach and confront Frankenstein. Their only saving grace is that they aren't as bad as the previous levels. With ice everywhere it's easy to slip and fall into water, which causes damage. The final boss has a manageable pattern but has a lot of health, so it takes far longer than it should.

While the gameplay is largely awful, the game does have a good soundtrack that gives the game a creepy, unsettling feel. Also the character animations are very well made. The Creature has a distinctive limp when he walks, which is a nice touch.

If Mary Shelley's Frankenstein had only one level that was too tedious or badly made, it would be much more forgivable. The game has a password function so it would be easy enough to skip that level. Unfortunately most of the game badly designed, so there is no good reason to go out of the way to play this, even for a fan of the novel or a fan of platformers in general.


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Community review by Bouchart (October 13, 2017)

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