tiistai 25. tammikuuta 2011

REVIEW - The Adventures of Dr. Franken (1993)

Genre(s): Action / Platform
Released: 1993
Available on: SNES
Developer(s): MotiveTime
Publisher(s): DTMC, Elite Systems
Players: 1-2

In 1992, MotiveTime and Elite Systems collaborated on a quite decent, campy Game Boy platformer strangely named Dr. Franken, which even more strangely starred a perfectly humanoid version of Frankenstein's monster, called Franky, who wandered around a castle in his pajamas and apparently tried to reassemble the scattered pieces of his bride. One year later, this game was totally revised for mothership SNES as The Adventures of Dr. Franken. I always thought this would be quite a decent game, I read a lot about it when I was a kid and the colourful, slapstick style of the graphics appealed to me. Well, some truths are better left unknown. It's like I'm experiencing Bubsy II all over again.

Why is it alive?

For the first time ever, I must say I have no stinking idea what the plot of the game is; as if it would even matter. The bottom line is this: you're Frankenstein's monster, or a version of him that's pretty much a cross between Herman Munster and a Californian surfer kid. You go around the world, starting from Transylvania - what a damn surprise - gathering scattered parts of your passport in maze-like areas to advance to the next country. I always wanted to see a campy game that had a family-friendly Frankenstein's monster as a world travelling tourist. Or maybe I didn't.

The graphics are still quite OK, I have nothing to really complain about. Quirky, colourful, toyish stuff. The music is also quite good. There's some original groove and then a couple of Bach pieces, including an adaptation of "Moonlight Sonata" thrown in. On the surface, The Adventures of Dr. Franken looks perfectly playable. The moment you put it in, you know it's not going to be great, but you'd like to think it's still a harmless platformer.

Bubsy II came out a year after The Adventures of Dr. Franken, so I guess Dr. Franken influenced Bubsy, not the other way around. The stages are similar back-and-forth runs in cube-shaped, confusing hallways with no point until you've reached the actual goal of the stage, like gathered a certain amount of certain items - then, you can exit the stage and be done with it. The more you play the game, the more it starts to feel like the worst and most unnecessary movie licenses in video game history, although it isn't one. Kind of like Wayne's World or Blues Brothers. Think about it: can a game I compare to one that is currently the 4th worst game of VGMania review history, and two movie licenses that aren't just bad but do not make one tiny little shard of sense, be even remotely playable? Well, sure. But don't expect getting anywhere in it. And for the love of God, do NOT pay for it. It's quite rare, and rare is what it should remain. Please. Buy your girl something nice. Love her. Be good to her. Put your greed and ambition as a collector of video games aside when it comes to Dr. Franken. You'll not regret it.

It doesn't matter if I stop now, the non-existent
traction will probably make me hit that guy.
The items you need to gather are indeed pieces of passports and they're usually guarded by enemies that respawn as soon as their spawning location slips half an inch from the screen. The controls are simply putrid. The oversensitivity of Franky's movement is just the beginning. There are two action buttons, Y and A. The second is for a frontal attack, the other's for a roundhouse kick to the back. Which one's which depends on your heading. The X button executes a somersault kick that needs to be timed perfectly or you'll get your dignity stolen in the usual American prison way. The L and R buttons are used for different projectiles, that should be used only in the most desperate situations - your ammo capacity is very, very low. So is your health bar, although it doesn't look like it. You have seven full ticks by default, but that don't mean jackshit - it's three or four hits, and you're done. Health items come in generous amounts, but they aren't of much help if you happen to get, let's see, stuck on a staircase and spammed by unblockable attacks by an enemy you simply cannot counterattack from your current position.

OK, so you made it to the next stage after the very frustrating beginning. Ooh, at least the game has bang for your buck - there's like two dozens of different stages marked on the world map, how about that? You don't even have to do them in a single, strict order. Well, let me tell you that the game is never going to change. It's the same boring, hectic, merciless drivel all the way. And let me tell you something else. You lose three lives, your game is over. No passwords, no battery, it's back to square one with you. Now, what is the travelling speed of a SNES cartridge, in miles per hour? Only one way to find out.

It seems I just can't find a decent game out of all this material I've laid before me. I'd love to find a totally hated game that I like - I haven't written a total contrarian's review in a long time. Well, the search continues. The Adventures of Dr. Franken was a pathetic pitstop, and it just became the reigning 8th worst game in the aforementioned VGMania review history. (This list will be made public some time in the future, by the way.) If you want to enjoy the best qualities of the game without having to actually play the wretched thing, just browse through Music in the main menu.

Graphics : 6.8
Sound : 7.5
Playability : 4.5
Challenge : 4.0
Overall : 4.3


a.k.a. Dr. Franken

GameRankings: 65.50%

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