Addams Family Values Review
The family may be creepy and kooky, but it must be said, after the prior performance of the last licensed game on this series, Donald in Maui Mallard, it doesn’t look good for the next tie-in title: Addams Family Values. Look at the, ahem, long and illustrious line of movie-based games like Home Alone, Independence Day, Transformers – these are games that were clearly not made with quality in mind, ruining many a weekend for poor, unsuspecting gamers upon their release. Yes, one could easily counter with examples like The Simpsons Game or Goldeneye or even The Warriors, but it’s fair to say that we’ve all been burned too many times in the past. Rolling into a movie-based game is much like rolling the dice – let’s just hope we don’t come up with snake-eyes.
Addams Family Values (for the Mega Drive; the SNES release was transatlantic) came out in 1994 care of our friends at Ocean, who published (but didn’t develop; key point to remember) Worms, which I was a big fan of. From the loose mould of the likes of Link to the Past, this game plays like an open-world adventure, where you have free run of the map, and are tasked with the collection of keys and collectibles that will take you on to your next quest. “Blimey,” I thought, “I’d expect this level of freedom from Nintendo, but not off what’s supposed to be a cheap snatch-‘n’-grab cash-in.”. Of course, this approach to level design is mundane today, but I can’t help but be impressed here.
We play as everyone’s favourite bald freak, Uncle Fester, who has to roam the Addams estate in search of baby Pubert. This is really just an excuse plot – and not one I can say mirrors the movie, as I haven’t seen it, but who cares? It provides a flimsy reason for Fester to go around zapping creatures, which is good enough for me.
What ensues is an experience that will leave you scratching your head. You begin the game in the back garden of the estate, and the only real indication of what we should do is that we have is to find the baby. So, to glean some information, the player can talk to Granny, Morticia, and Gomez, but the only thing that is really gained from these interactions is an area map and some cookies(acting as the game’s stand-in for an HP potion). So, you wander around, looking for any sort of clue, key, or new area, and we find a dungeon, but after an easy boss fight, we’re just as quickly outside again, scratching our head. Most players appreciate not being dragged by the hand as is common in many modern games, but here, the logic involved in trying to get to the next area is so unclear that you’ll be wondering what on earth the devs were smoking. In fact, I’ve played through the beginning a few times, doing the same things to constitute a fair test, and sometimes the gate to the next area opens and sometimes it doesn’t; this screams of poor programming to me, and comes as a real disappointment after the initial premise seemed solid.
Having said that, though; the game is actually mechanically sound. Fester uses a lightning attack, and running around and zapping enemies is fun in and of itself. The only real detriment to this is that some of the entry-level enemies are much smaller than yourself, so you won’t be able to just dispatch them quickly; you’ll have to scootch yourself around so your lightning bolt hits them in the right place. Not a massive deal, but definitely frustrating when you eventually get swarmed by more than one enemy. The bosses are straight from the textbook of classic gaming – they attack, you dodge, you memorise the pattern, and you move in for the kill. I don’t know if it’s just me, but the bosses featured in Addams Family Values were some of the most satisfying I’ve fought in a while. Not for being particularly tricky, but they all mostly relied on the tried-and-true way of fighting a boss – getting yourself in a rhythm and timing your attacks perfectly. As such, killing off the bosses became a real moment of fist-pumping, “Yes, I did it” joy.
Addams Family Values retains the same wry sense of humour that made the franchise so enjoyable. Playing through, I always found myself with a little smile on my face – be it from a boss saying “That’s it, I’ve had enough of you, laddie!”, to cookies promising to give you a “flabby” quality that grandmas love, to Fester cheerfully describing his mood as “Horrible!”, the game always promises to leave you entertained; though this certainly does wear thin when you can’t work out where to go next.
The artistic presentation of Addams Family Values is an interesting one, to say the least. The game doesn’t have an enlightened colour palate; compared to this game, the last Call of Duty looked like Rez. It relies on a nauseating scheme of greens and browns; in any other case, many would be quick to chastise Addams Family Values, but those that do would be getting ahead of themselves. These dark and turgid colours serve to make the game look grim and murky, and although it gets hard to look at after extended periods of play, it would be difficult to argue that Ocean haven’t perfectly captured the spooky world of Addams Family.
The music operates similarly; the soundtrack is rather minimalist, sounding like a broken church organ with a reverb machine attached. The music vibrates uncomfortably, and hangs in the air like a nauseating, Brown-note inspired mess. At least with the graphics, Ocean’s choices were understandable, but listening to the music for longer than five minutes makes my lunch want to lurch out of my stomach. At least they got one thing right, though: the theme song is present and accounted for, and it sounds great in 16-bit.
This isn’t a resounding success, but it’s clear that Addams Family Values avoided the dreaded snake eyes and rolled an easy eight. With solid controls, bread-and-butter gameplay, and a neat tongue-in cheek sense of humour spoiled only by how lost players can feel in the game, this is a decent effort and one that deserves some respect.