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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (NES) artwork

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (NES) review

"The game is both side scrolling action (word used loosely) and scrolling shooter rolled into one. You take control of both Jekyll and Hyde. Playing as the former is dull and boring, playing as the latter is frustrating and boring. "

The NES was a major powerhouse. It was the most dominant system of its time, and had some of the greatest and most memorable games ever created. However, like Tales from the Dark Side, there is, unseen by most, an underworld; a place that is just as real, but not as brightly lit. A BAD SIDE... For ever awesome game on NES like Contra, there is a counterpart that's just as poorly made like Silent Assault. Somewhere in NES's rogues gallery of legendary Z-list games is one that a moderate amount of hardcore gamers have played, and almost all have turned away in disgust. This game is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

The game is both side scrolling action (word used loosely) and scrolling shooter rolled into one. You take control of both Jekyll and Hyde. Playing as the former is dull and boring, playing as the latter is frustrating and boring.

One might wonder what Toho was thinking when they developed the Jekyll aspect of the game. There's nothing at all interesting, fun, or well made about it. You guide a normal man out his front door and into the real world where everyone is out to get him. Jekyll is on his way to be wed, and instead of taking the buggy like any person with half a brain would do, he decides to walk to the wedding veeerrrrryyy slooooooowly. All seems well. The sun sits low in the sky, the area is calm and peaceful, and even the soundtrack sounds like it's going to give out on us and fall asleep. People walk past Jekyll without incident, but it's one passer-by that ruins his experience. One child produces a slingshot and fires a projectile at Jekyll, injuring him both of body and mind. You have two meters to watch in this game: stamina and sanity.

Random enemies come at you, many of which make no sense. At first it's just the kid. Soon spiders, mad dogs, pissed off cats, gravediggers, birds with diarrhea, and even singing fat chicks are out to get Jekyll. No, you read that second to the last one right. There are birds in this game that continuously defecate, lowering your sanity if you are hit by one of their stinky wedding gifts. The worst is the mad bomber. You'll see him a lot as he appears about ever ten seconds. He'll walk out, drop a bomb right in front of you, and run away quickly. Dodging the bomb is the pits because you move very slowly and have no idea how large the blast radius is. There's no indication. Sometimes it'll look like you're out of harm's way and it will turn out you're still too close, and being a short distance away is just as bad as being right next to it.

If this were Castlevania, or Contra, or even a Mario game, then these people would be no problem. All that would remain of them would be puddles of blood, piles of corpses, and the rivers of tears generated by those who survived. However, you aren't a Belmont, or a commando, or even an Italian plumber with really strong legs. You're Dr. Jekyll, and as about as adept at fighting as a throw pillow. The only weapon you have is a cane. Moan in agony as you notice that the cane DOES NOTHING. It's ineffective on most of the enemies in the game, and those it does damage are few and far between.

Dodging enemies is your only recourse, and it's not much of one. You can jump over some, like the cats, very easily. Others can be dodged with a little patience. Others still are ridiculous to deal with all because of the horribly stiff controls. Jekyll crawls across the screen, making dodging certain attacks needlessly difficult.

You can't possibly dodge everything. You encounter a bomb you cannot dodge. It explodes. The shrapnel shreds the frail Jekyll, and his life fades. Lose your stamina and it's game over. The game is at least forgiving in that it gives you infinite continues. You open your eyes and notice that your stamina still has one point left, but the bomb took its toll on your mind. Your sanity wanes, slips away, vanishes. You turn into Mr. Hyde, and that might as well be death.

Seeing the dark and demonic screenshots of playing as Hyde as a kid are what inspired me to play this game in the first place. The jumping brains, demonic babies, flying skulls, and other incongruous horrors made this game look like Castlevania with a Stuart Gordon touch. I imagined roaming the countryside and pulverizing the hell out of these ghastly creatures, and how much fun it would be to see some of the other strange designs Toho had concocted. However, the gameplay is nothing like I had imagined. Where playing as Jekyll is a straightforward side scroller, playing as Hyde is a very poorly designed scrolling shooter.

Scrolling shooters generally work well when you have the freedom to move about the screen to dodge oncoming projectile and enemies. Mr. Hyde cannot do this. He can only walk forward and jump in the air while the screen continues to scroll. His line of offense is to either punch enemies, which is worthless because it requires you to wait for enemies to get close enough and leaves you wide open to damage; or to fire his just-a-little-less-worthless projectile attack. Instead of shooting straight like any other scrolling shooter would, his projectile flies all over the screen in a strange pattern, almost like a figure 8. You have to hope that it winds up hitting something. This reduces combat to simply attacking over and over and over again, and maybe jumping now and then since the attack usually shoots downward at an angle. What makes it worse that in order to shoot, you must hold up and press the attack button. Hyde is thankfully less stiff than Jekyll, but his controls still feel wonky. Trying to time your jumps to get around projectile or enemies becomes a very daunting process.

Hyde plays the same ground that Jekyll just covered, except backwards. The object is to refill your sanity, and this is done by eliminating as many enemies as you can with your horribly erratic blaster, before either A) you run out of life, which leads to a game over; or B) you arrive at the location where you lost your sanity as Jekyll. Don't ask me how, but this kills you. It really makes no sense. Calling this game Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde makes no sense. It has nothing at all to do with its source material except that you play as a normal man and a beastly alter ego. Tying it in to the novel and subsequent movies feels very pointless. Was there a huge demand for a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde game? Maybe Toho was trying to do for The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde what Konami did for Universal's horror movies and their classic novel source materials, only Toho missed the mark by several miles.

There's nothing at all redeeming about this game. Playing as Jekyll is slow and painful. Playing as Hyde is quick and painful. Jekyll gets into the same situations over and over again stretched over a long, slow, arduous trip across a dully designed level, and half the time he can't dodge them because of the stiff controls. Playing as Hyde most often results in dying, since dodging is out of the question and attacking leaves you only praying that you will kill something. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a game worthy of its notoriety. It's a bipolar mess of boredom and frustration created by poor design and wonky controls.


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (October 31, 2010)

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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