Addams Family Values (SNES) review
"Or you'll become befuddled by your umpteenth encounter with one of Addams Family Values' favorite underworld "puzzles" — the games of "Guess Which Teleporter Won't Move You Back Eight Rooms" and "Randomly Push These Switches Until You Do It Right". This cartridge did a fantastic job of making me feel that it was either dumb luck or trial-and-error that got from one place to the next, as opposed to anything resembling skill or gaming knowledge."
One thing I see people do from time to time is look for chinks in the armor of beloved classics. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, as many of those venerable games haven’t necessarily aged all that well and may no longer be a paragon of excellence. However, at times, I have seen a certain lack of perspective in this form of arguing. The popularity of, for example, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past inherently causes that game to come under a great deal of scrutiny that obscure cartridges never receive. Microscopic flaws transform into game-destroying blunders, while the good things about the gameplay almost seem to be taken for granted and considered not worth talking about.
I don’t take those things for granted, as I’ve played my share of games that are unable to provide even the most basic elements of actual quality gameplay, such as Addams Family Values. On the surface, it’s easy to compare this game to LttP, if that game had a movie license. The player controls Uncle Fester as he hunts down items for other members of the family while questing to rescue Baby Pubert from the evil grip of his treacherous wife. The game has the same top-down view that Link’s SNES adventure had and contains a fair amount of dungeons, as well as a variety of different overworld regions. So far, so good, right?
Well, maybe not when you consider that Addams Family Values, released for both the SNES and Genesis, botches that theme so badly all one is left with is a confusing adventure that becomes nearly unplayable in areas. It quickly becomes obvious the designers were more interested in making money off the eccentric Addams Family than actually crafting a game worth anyone’s time and money — which seems to be an all-to-common trend in games based on movies. Plagued with flaws ranging from annoying to enraging to just plain confusing, Addams Family Values does more to make LttP look amazing than any amount of “fanboyish” praise ever could.
To be honest, the only thing I can praise Addams Family Values for is its atmosphere. Many of the overworld regions take place in desolate locations such as swamps, deserts and mountains — while the dungeons have a drab appearance that is fitting, considering how the family members preferred that sort of thing. Some of the dialogue can be pretty humorous, especially when Fester encounters an annoying, "goody-two-shoes" critter in search of his voice (the naive, pleasant nature of the fellow disgusts the morbidly malformed anti-hero) and has a run-in with a boss who utters a generic line and then becomes enraged at how bad its dialogue is.
Sadly, those are the only positive aspects of this game and they don't come close to balancing out even a couple of Addams Family Values' glaring negatives. Let's start with Fester's weapon. His primary attack is to fire what looks like a bolt of lightning out of his hand. At full health, this weapon has decent range; however, as he takes damage, it shrinks until this beam can only can hit enemies right on top of him. Considering that few enemies drop health-regenerating items (and tend to do so somewhat rarely), it's a given that most players will be struggling to consistently have enough offense for many of this game's more difficult areas — especially since many enemies and bosses are far more mobile than Fester. Maybe that shouldn't be a surprise (the guy is a short, hunchbacked troll and this isn’t Castlevania), but it doesn't add to the game's play value.
It also doesn't help that Fester can't move while he's on the offensive. Since the lightning attack takes up very little space on the screen, that makes him very vulnerable to taking hits while attempting to lay a beating of apocalyptic proportions on some unlucky fool that stupidly moved directly in front of him. While most enemies do tend to get knocked back a bit after being hit, their motions aren't affected that much, which can be problematic. One boss in particular really made me gnash my teeth in rage at Fester's incompetence. A good ways into the game, he encounters a foe that can't be killed by normal means — rather, it must be knocked off a plateau. Since all it does is move around somewhat randomly, this seems like an easy task at first, but soon turns into an incredibly frustrating ordeal. When one considers Fester can't move while he's shooting, while the beast barely moves backwards after getting hit (and then immediately recovers and starts going forward again), it shouldn't come as a surprise that this battle was finally won by pure, dumb luck.....not because of anything resembling skill.
At times, it seems like luck is required just to advance through the game. Fester's assorted family members and associates really don't do much to help him figure out where to go next, forcing the player to resort to simple trial-and-error. If your experience with the game is like mine, you'll find yourself going in one direction until you no longer can advance. Then, you'll wander down another path....and another....until you've found the right item (or completed the necessary fetch-quest) and can move on.
Oh, don't count on it being easy to EVER find the character you're looking for. Not only does each screen of every overworld region look virtually identical, but many of the other characters tend of move from place to place. Hidden throughout the game are several recipe books, which Granny Addams uses to make cookies to heal Fester's injuries or give him various powers. That is, assuming you can find Granny, who seems to have relocated every time you've found a new book. Cousin It provides game-saving passwords (which are tedious as hell to input), but spends much of the game in one of the more isolated swamp regions. If these folks are hoping Fester can rescue Baby Pubert, they have a pretty strange way to helping the poor guy succeed.
If this game's assorted overworld activities don't break your will, the dungeons are more than able to finish that job. Odds are, you'll take a number of cheap hits from the hordes of tiny, fast-moving enemies that are fond of hiding behind rocks and other obstacles. Or you'll become befuddled by your umpteenth encounter with one of Addams Family Values' favorite underworld "puzzles" — the games of "Guess Which Teleporter Won't Move You Back Eight Rooms" and "Randomly Push These Switches Until You Do It Right". This cartridge did a fantastic job of making me feel that it was either dumb luck or trial-and-error that got from one place to the next, as opposed to anything resembling skill or gaming knowledge.
Addams Family Values truly is a dreadful game. It tries to emulate LttP, but fails miserably on all counts. You often have no idea where you're supposed to go and wandering around isn't remotely fun because of the shoddy game mechanics. Maybe the humorous dialogue and effective atmosphere are enough to save this game from being completely pathetic....but not by much.
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (February 20, 2006)
Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.
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