When considering the concept of a “movie tie-in,” you have to understand beforehand that you are entering the most deceptively innocent chapter of the entire encyclopedia of senseless human tragedy. This encyclopedia is widely available, and you should definitely check it out for this opening alone:
- The Third Reich
- Manifest Destiny
- E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (Atari)
Simple, effective, and so irreverently straight laced, it makes you want to shed a tear for all the lives lost and broken by those needless and neverending disasters. Twenty-six years later, as evidenced by a game titled WALL*E for the DS, we still haven’t learned that movie tie-ins do nothing for the planet but pollute it. You think that landfill of E.T. cartridges is the only one out there? Every day we dig 59 more holes to find places for these useless mediums, ensuring that our underground rivers and water sources in the years to come are poisoned with plastic and silicon, lumpening our breast milk and producing more half-formed Siamese triplets than every Chinese nation combined.
When considering this concept and therefore losing the will to go on, it’s natural then that you’d pass up a title like The Addams Family for SNES. It’s a game that looks like Mario, loosely based off a top movie that came out 0.5-1 year before it and…dammit, just look at it. Does this look like a game you’d really want to play?
And that’s a shame, because the sinister irony is that The Addams Family for SNES is the one game in all the licensing galaxy that doesn’t suck bloated elephant balls through a vacuum-powered glory hole for $49.99.
Granted, that’s saying a lot only because the standards were subterranean to begin with and still are. Put up against a real platformer, The Addams Family, with very standard bobblehead graphics, effortless play, and an average soundtrack, will pale quicker than Wednesday during the Sammheim; but for what it’s worth and on its own merits, The Addams Family is refreshingly solid and even fun to play.
I don’t know what was going on behind the scenes, but I amount it to just dumb luck that Ocean Software made the right decisions in planning and programming this game. The first good idea was letting YOU explore the crazy-ass mansion and all the tricks and traps that go along with it, all of which are exaggerated in the same vein that the film did, but to the standards of a videogame. A lot of paths lead to dead-ends and loops, and that’s exactly what you should expect when you play through the Addams family’s mansion. If this game were linear, it wouldn’t have worked. The second was achieving a right balance of gameplay by going above SIMPLE but not making it COMPLICATED—it’s really just a simple Mario-style hop’n’bop, but you can do a lot with it. Gomez can acquire a sword, golf balls, and flying fezzes to get around the levels, which leads me to the third point, the strongest in my opinion and one deserving of its own paragraph:
LEVEL DESIGN. Kick-ass level design. This is the game’s biggest strength, not so much because the levels themselves are incredibly awesome (they are above average with a few bright spots, but nothing to scream about), but because, true to the Addams’ nature, there are more secrets and hidden STUFF than you could believe. I bet there is a secret treasure room in every major screen, and sometimes even the hidden rooms have hidden rooms, which themselves can contain further hidden rooms. If you’re building a game around a movie with an atmosphere that’s charmingly and profoundly labyrinthian, how else to translate that hook into gameplay than by making a shitload of hidden stuff?
And from there…that’s pretty much it. Charm and competent level design. The game coasts remarkably well on it, but there’s little else to detail. The graphics are just over the usual Mario clone standard and the soundtrack is unmemorable. There’s a great lack of real challenge, especially in the boss fights, and the scant difficulty that there is comes from inadvertently running into spikes or running out of hearts or some other cliché device.
You could also turn your nose up at the non-canonical setting, where the JUDGE is the last boss in the treasure room and the Abigail and Fester thing is just a task to complete (as well as every single monster here. The Addams mansion is supposed to be creepy, not haunted), but I would argue back that you couldn’t get a decent game out of the film’s plot. Sometimes sacrificing canon is a good thing, especially if it injects much needed gameplay into a game that really doesn’t even stand a chance when, even in the early 90s, we knew better than to play games based off of movies.
So even though, 26 years later, we still put all our efforts into maintaining economy (because, you know, the idea of saving money still hasn’t been invented yet) and can blast endangered species into outer space to prove how far we’ve come without learning anything instead of fixing this apocalyptic time bomb, I can still wholeheartedly state that THE ADDAMS FAMILY for SNES (because there are a lot of different versions) is the best movie-to-game translation of all time and will provide the hours of entertainment we’ll need as we hide from nuclear miasma permanently and look for things to do so we don’t go mad and start killing each other underground, too.