Your Sinclair1st June 1992
Published in Your Sinclair #78
The Addams Family
I'd like to get one thing perfectly clear right from the start. This will be a review completely devoid of trendy quotes from Hammer's godawful song. Let's face it - the thing sounds as if it was written over the weekend for both a large fee and a bet. It's repetitive, ridiculously bass-heavy, and sports the kind of lyrics usually associated with the midnight people who mumble at lampposts and fall over a lot. As far as I'm concerned, Mt Baggy's soundtrack-of-the-marketing-department's-idea-of-a-film serves only as a ghastly reminder of the extent to which the pictures have become commercialised. So yah boo to him, a soulful grump to Hollywood at large and on with the review.
The plot of the game is too simple to waffle on about. You play Gomez, the other Addamses have been imprisoned within the house, and you have to find them. The one noteworthy point is that when you find someone you have to win their confidence by completing a particularly difficult screen. Hmmm. Anyway, the game. Gone are the splendidly nasty elements of the film - in their place is a cutey-pie platformer which steals bits of everything from Jet Set Willy to Atic Atac. One more thing - it's massive. There are about 240 baddie-packed screens to dash around, not to mention the trial-by-fire bits that pop up when you find a character.
Tragically you've no weapons to help you in your quest - the only thing that stands between you can certain death is your trusty pair of stout walking boots. A hop, a skip, and provided you land on a nasty's head, a pummelling blow against the forces of evil. As you buzz around the mansion and its surroundings (the graveyard, the woods, the furnace, the bus stop, etc) you'll find your progress impeded by locked doors. To open 'em you have to find the appropriate coloured key. A mapper's game, indeed.
So, what have we got? Why, a blimmin' big game that's effectively split up into six smaller sections by the locked doors feature. The graphics are small, frighteningly well-animated and rippling with colour. On the sound side, the TV theme tune warbles away in attract mode, while the game itself boasts crisp, twangy effects. The gameplay is tough but vastly playable - each screen is a textbook example of devious design - and the ability to bash the nasties as well as leap over them adds spice to the proceedings. Speaking of the bad guys, they're as motley and bonkers a crew of villainous greeblies as I've seen in many a moon. Armoured knights trudge around, periodically stabbing the air with their broadswords. Rubber balls with evil grins bounce on the very spots you want to pass. Pumpkins, amoebae, nightmare bats and speed demons patrol the mansion with terribly efficiency. There are loads of snappy touches in the game as well. Some platforms start to collapse as you jump onto them - you have to be quick to get off before they drop you onto a passing nasty. And although the playing area is huge, you can't just wander about aimlessly. A line of hearts beat beneath your lives counter, and their friendly pulsing diminishes with time. If you don't replenish 'em with an all-too-rare power icon, you'll keel over. Caramba! Even more upsettingly, in some rooms you'll come across innocuous-looking clocks which disgorge mutated cuckoos when you least expect it. Even more caramba! Without a doubt, this game is fat, Megagame material.
Or a least, it would be, but for one thing. The control system is screamingly horrible. Gomez can travel at three speeds, depending on how far you've moved him without stopping. The faster you're going, the further you can jump. This allow for a greater variety of tricks and traps in the screens, with some having to be avoided at top speed, while others demand you tiptoe past in respectful terror. Unfortunately, this idea just doesn't come off. You find yourself battling the joystick as well as the baddies - the controls seem sticky, and the stop-start movement puts the boot into the pace of the game. While we're on the subject of griping, I'm not particularly fond of being sent back to the nearest doorway whenever Gomez gets zapped. Why not just restart on the same screen?
Don't despair - though the control method gives it the old college try, it can't destroy the game. The smart addictive qualities keep you coming back to the action, and the basic idea of pitting your sneaky wits directly against the programmers is irresistible. You could even argue that with three skill levels - determining how hard the trial-by-fire screens are - you've got three games for the price of one. Yes indeedy, there's definitely a good few weeks o' fun to be had with The Addams Family. It's just that the annoying, quirky bits stop it from reaching the dizzy heights of true fabdom. What a shame.
A juicy, addictive platformer marred by incredibly, amazingly, unbelievably annoying controls.