FGC #049 Fester’s Quest

There are games in this world that are created with creativity, love, and skill.

Then, there are the franchise games.

And then there franchise games based on situation comedies that ended in 1966.

On a cold day in ’89, the Addams Family made a comeback, two years before their big screen debut, two years before anyone with a NES knew who or what The Addams Family was, here was Fester’s Quest.

The plot is very simple, aliens have kidnapped Gomez, and it’s up to Uncle Fester Addams to rescue his brother. If you’re slapping your forehead and shouting, “Of course, that’s the perfect plot to an Addams Family game!” then you’re obviously completely insane, or one of the people responsible for Aero the Acro-Bat, and in either situation, you should get off the internet and back to your cage. The warden will see you.
For those of you who have never played this abomination, imagine Blaster Master, but without the tank, picture the dismal part, the time you’re just a little boy trying desperately not to get hit, because every blow will deplete your life and weapon abilities. That’s the entire game. Well, except for the really, really horrible parts, but we’ll cover that later.

I mean, it'd be nice...So you’re just a bald guy wearing a blue cloak tromping along with your… gun. I have to admit, I was born in the 80’s, so I have not seen many episodes of the Addams Family, but I must have missed the episode where Uncle Fester repels a booger-based alien invasion with his trusty lamp-gun that shoots boomerangs. But that’s not Fester’s last line of defense! He’s got a leather whip that gradually upgrades to a morning star, and then a flaming morning star, which is so not like Castlevania II that I can’t imagine why I would even bring it up. Oh, and he can shoot missiles, too, presumably out of his personal rocket launcher. Fester is one versatile not-at-all-like-other-video-game-characters dude, which is exactly how he was created in 1932.

And Fester’s got a whole inventory of items, too, like:

  • Money, which is used to restore health through hotdog purchases. This is practically the only way Fester can recover his miniscule (2 hits!) health bar, which I suppose is to simulate the creepy, morbid feeling of The Addams Family. Also makes the game absolute hell to play, which I suppose is to simulate the creepy, morbid feeling of being hit in the eye with a hammer.
  • Vice Grips, which restore Fester from “slow” status. Yes, in addition to having next to no life energy, Fester can be made to move even slower via contact with certain enemies. Vice grips stop the slow-down, which makes perfect sense when you think about it, because Vice Grips make things stop. … Wait.
  • I CAN SEE YOUThe Invisible Potion, which will make you invincible, but still very visible. When I was in second grade, this confused the living hell out of me, and permanently destroyed my vocabulary. Because of this game, my chances of getting into Harvard were invincible.
  • Missiles, which Fester uses to open red, sealed doors. Without these missiles, you’ll never make it past the zebetites.
  • The Noose, which at least has a series connection. As opposed to simply suiciding Fester up, the noose summons Lurch the butler to kill every non-Fester thing on the screen. But you only obtain it ten minutes or so before the finale. Why can’t Lurch assist Fester the entire journey, hm? Is he busy scrubbing the sink while Fester faces certain death at the hands of a generally gooey evil? My guess is Ted Cassidy, the actor who portrayed Lurch, wanted as little to do with this game as possible, and used his other-worldly, post-death powers to be the most powerful/rarely seen thing in the game.

Then there’s the one part of the game that was ahead of its time/horrible. Most of the game takes place in a faux neighborhood, some sort of suburbia with an oddly high number of gaping holes in various structures. The boss of each area is always hiding in one of the little neighborhood houses. Once entering the boss’s home, you enter 3-D hell. This game is the childhood trauma that caused me to dislike first person shooters until this very day. There’s a maze leading up to each boss, and it’s a “3-D” maze made up of roughly I'M ALREADY LOSTfour or five different graphics. Hallway, hallway, hallway, door, whoops, you went out the wrong door, now you’re outside. Hallway, hallway, hallway, left, hallway, door, well how’d that happen? You’re outside again. Repeat forever and ever. No, I told you already, the noose isn’t used for that, put it down.

And should you ever reach the end, congratulations, you’ve found one of five bosses rejected from Blaster Master for being too generic. There’s an ugly guy with long arms, a Triceraton, a hell-themed knight, a knight-gunner, a cyclops, and, finally, a mother-computer thingy. There are simple patterns to the bosses, so life would be easy if Fester could move faster than a sloth on valium, or if his gun didn’t become completely useless after a power-down or two, or if the items in your inventory at least bothered your enemies, or if Sunsoft didn’t want to destroy countless hours of your life. Oh, and the Blaster Master pause trick doesn’t work, so welcome to pain world, population: the sap with a controller.

Oh, and the common enemies are piles of (constantly reproducing) slime, langoliers, mutated frogs (spawn of Fred?), and floating, bald heads that spew flies. There’s really nothing I can add to that.

And this is what makes up an Addams Family game. The Addams Family had an episode that began with Fester lighting the family’s polar bear on fire with Morticia’s new flamethrower, but Sunsoft gave us Fester vs. Aliens with a blunderbuss. The Addams had a great-great-grandfather named The Battle of '89Pegleg. Pegleg! Does this mean nothing to you people!? Wednesday and Pugsley wrestled an alligator in quicksand to pass a boring afternoon. There are literally millions of ways this game could have actually tied into the 20 years dated source material and still have been enjoyable, but, nope, we get a bald guy that needs hot dogs to survive fly-related injuries.

There were some pretty bad licensed games out in the late 80’s. The Three Stooges, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Blues Brothers, just to name a few, all horrible in their own ways. But Friday the 13th had campers and Jason, the Three Stooges had pie fights, and even the Blues Brothers had a detestable two player mode that preserved some of the “duo” feel of the movie. But the Addams Family? They get a few items and characters that practically boil down to name-dropping, and a quest against aliens championed by a peripheral character. Gomez, the character who is a known for his unmatched swordsmanship, is kidnapped within the first five seconds. There is nothing redeemable here, it’s all just a Blaster Master rehash that happens to have a few Addams Family cameos. Heck, change maybe two sprites and you could have Barney Fife battling space aliens, or why not Darrin going on a quest with a magic gun to rescue a kidnapped Samantha. Sure… your witchy wife is kidnapped, but she left a magic gun and magic whip, and you can eat hot dogs to restore your health… it all makes perfect sense. Hand me the phone we use to call 1989, I’ve got an idea here.

FGC #49 Fester’s Quest

  • System: NES. And considering how licenses usually work, I doubt it will ever escape those confines.
  • Number of players: The one and only Uncle Fester.
  • Damn langoliersDifficulty: Another one that is only difficult because of a byzantine health/respawn structure. You have two hit points, expandable to a total of four if you know exactly where to look. Lose all your health at any point, whether it be on the first boss or the finale, and you can “continue”, but you’re back to the absolute start of the game, just with any accumulated items. No, none of those items have a “quick travel” feature or some other benefit to make the retread go faster. To make matters worse, there’s five bosses in the game, and each of their defeats will restore all your consumables/health. On a “continue” game, the bosses do not respawn, so neither does the associated refill. Continuing only makes your life easier if you don’t feel like refighting bosses while conserving all of your precious items. As save states prove, the game isn’t really that hard with a little practice, but good luck learning a boss’s pattern with only 2 HP and the possible penalty of losing twenty minutes of progress.
  • Anti-Powerups: Blue “Gun” or “Whip” drops will increase the power of your gun or whip. Red “Gun” or “Whip” drops will decrease your items’ power, potentially leaving you near defenseless in the midst of a melee. God, I hate everything in this game.
  • I thought your blog had a no negativity mission statement: What kind of man doesn’t want to rail on his childhood bully?
  • Whip it good: This might be the first game I ever played where you could whip an item to retrieve it. We just take it for granted nowadays when you can just whip, stab, or boomerang an item into your possession. I think some other franchise started that boomerang thing, though.
  • Did you know? The European version of this game (did The Addams Family ever make it across the pond?) includes enemies that take fewer hits to go down, and, more importantly, Fester’s gun can now shoot through walls. I can’t emphasize enough how much this would change the game, as the whole “my bullets keep getting stuck on walls” thing, particularly in the underground areas, vastly changes the monsters’ offensive capability and the versatility of the (short range, but safe for wall use) whip. What did we Americans do to deserve our version?
  • Would I play again? Never! Despite this being one of my precious few original “owned as a child” NES games, I have no fondness for the game, and would like to see it expunged from history. Waste hours of my life, wills ya?

What’s Next? Random ROB has chosen… Final Fantasy Mystic Quest! That’ll be my third Final Fantasy game reviewed for the site… wait… what’s that? It’s not a real Final Fantasy game? Oh ho ho, we’ll see about that. Please look forward to it!

The whole ending

5 Responses »

  1. Uncle Fester did have a blunderbuss in the old 60s show but that was strictly for intimidation purposes, the thing he reaches for when he feels that somebody has wronged his family. Fester’s more an “all talk, no action” guy when it comes to actual fighting, which makes it extra odd that he would go through a late 80s overhead shoot-’em-up to save his brother/60s show nephew in-law, before the series had been rebooted with the movies, even.

    Speaking of odd old property choices for games, Nintendo once made a Zapper game called Barker Bill’s Trick Shooting, featuring a short-lived 50s mascot absolutely nobody in the NES’s target audience would recognize who was used to introduce Terrytoons cartoons on TV. The other characters present are Trixie (some random bunny girl cooked up for the game BECAUSE JAPAN*) and the Duck Hunt dog, who you can actually shoot in the balloon game.

    It’s definitely a better game than Fester’s Quest (It’s hard to fuck up a light gun game, and we are talking Nintendo R&D1 here), but Barker Bill is even more interchangeable than Uncle Fester. I mean, he’s just some guy with a suit and mustache in a fancy outfit, so why not just have Mario do it instead of some (at the time) 37 year-old mascot who was only active for about two to three years?

    * Not that the game was ever released in Japan. Like the Startropics series, LJN’s Friday the 13th and Jaws games, and Fester’s Quest itself, Barker Bill’s Trick Shooting was made by Japanese devs but only released for western audiences.

    • I’d almost guess that the Barker Bill thing was a sort of early pass at the Wii Sports crowd. “Gun Games” have always had the capability of appealing to adults and children alike, and that may have been an attempt to say “hey, parents, this system is for you, too,” before it became firmly entrenched in child land for a solid decade or so.

      Obviously, none of this applies to the craziness that is Fester.

      • I guess, but given how old and short-lived Barker Bill was it still comes off as an odd choice for video game branding. Anyone who knew what Barker Bill even was in the pre-Internet world was likely to be at least in their 40s or 50s (more likely grandparents than parents), and he was literally just the mascot of a 10-minute show serving as the intro and outro for a cartoon. At least in the Addams Family’s case there’s the chance audiences saw the show or old cartoon on cable or in syndication.

        Really, they would’ve been better off going with one of the Terrytoons from the show. I mean, Mighty Mouse had an 80s reboot, even if it was short-lived due to that whole “sniffing flowers like crack” incident paired with “being made by the guy behind Fritz the Cat”.

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