Saturday, 24 March 2018

SNES Game Review 150: The Adventures of Dr Franken.

OK so when reviewing a whole bunch of SNES games I knew that I was going to come across good games, bad games and average games. I knew there would be things that had aged well and things that had not done so well. Some of the games I had very vivid pictures of in my head, I had played them to death as a kid and literally the second I picked up a pad a lot of it came back, heck some of them I have never really stopped playing. Then there are things like the game I am going to review today, things that I would have seen in shops again and again, and that I might have spent 5 minutes on at a friends house but which I don't have much more than a hazy awareness of.

So the game I am playing today is Dr Franken AKA The Adventures of Dr Franken. The game came out on the GameBoy and the SNES but there were NES and GameGear versions developed which never got released, still obviously the version I am going to be talking about today is obviously the SNES version. The SNES version was developed by a company called Motive Time LTD who I have to honestly admit I can find next to no information on at all other than various lists of things they worked on, apparently though the last thing they worked on was the PC version of Ford Racing in the year 2000. It was published by DMTC in America and Elite systems in Europe. The SNES version came out towards the end of 1993 and in honesty the game is kind of so 90's it hurts.

OK so if your reading this and you don't know I am a massive massive horror movie fan with a particular love for the classics, so to put it bluntly Mary Shelly's Frankenstein and the 1930's universal film based on it are very important to me. I am also a big fan of things that reference this sort of stuff in a fun loving parody style way, hence the fact that I adore the Adams family etc. So I really wanted to like something based of the whole Frankenstein thing even if it was a tongue in cheek joke based sort of thing.

So most people will know that Frankenstein is not the monster and is in fact the Doctor who created him right? Well this game ignores that and makes you a character called Frankie who is the monster, no idea what the Franken or Dr part is about maybe there was something in the manual which gave that away or maybe they just pulled the name out of there collective asses. Still Frankie has a giant cartoon head and wears sunglasses and is trying to be all rad and bad in a Michael Jackson way so maybe he thinks he is a Doctor like Dr Dre or John Cena the Doctor of Thugonomics but he kind of flushes all of this street cred down the toilet by appearing to wear sandals. Now call me silly but if I was really trying to make him cool I would have dropped his Bart Simpson red T-shirt and shorts and gone for jeans a leather jacket and some Nike trainers personally. Now despite only owning a cart and there being no story sequence I went and read around on the internet so that I could provide some story back drop for those that care. Apparently Frankie, wanted to take a trip with his girlfriend Bitsy but they could only afford one plane ticket so he disassembled her and stuck her in a bunch of suitcases. Apparently the suitcases instead of reaching there destination end up all over the world and so Frankie has to go around finding all the bits of his girlfriend in order to put her back together again. So I guess the moral of the story is never saw your girlfriend in to pieces to try and save money just fly with easy jet or go to Skegness again.

OK so in the game you are tasked with playing as Frankie through 20 stages, now in each of these you have to collect four parts and then find an exit in order to complete the stage and move on to the next one. Well I guess this sounds nice and easy then well it would be but unfortunately this game may well in fact be one of the most frustrating and difficult platformers available on the Super Nintendo.

OK so on to the gameplay well Frankie has a button which attacks to the left, one that attacks to the right, one that jumps and one that does a little flip kick. Then you have the trigger buttons the R button shoots a shot that can stuns enemies for a little bit while Pressing L unleashes a powerful fireball that kills enemies. Now this all probably sounds pretty straight forward and like there is a reasonable amount of moves but its actually kind of confusing that if your running one way and you press the wrong button you end up attacking behind you, surly it would just be better to attack in the direction your facing and have a wider range of attacks? What it really feels like is that the games developer wanted to give this game an innovative control setup not because it would help the gameplay but because it would tick a box and make this game different. Its basically innovation for the sake of innovation and frankly in my humble opinion it doesn't work.

Add to these innovation issues the fact that Frankie has very little health, most enemies can in fact finish you of in four to five hits, heck half the time when your jumping at them to fly kick them they seem to hit you as well. You only have three lives as well so with all of this given its a pretty darn challenging game for all the wrong reasons. You can collect icons that refill your, there are also ones which give you extra lives and the game does have bonus stages, these have no enemies and are instead loaded with power-ups and extra lives. In fairness though the stages are not always the best made some of them in fact contain pits and require pretty wild unintuitive jumps. The game also becomes pretty darn repetitive since every enemy takes one hit to kill and well the game just doesn't bother to have bosses at all.

OK so I have been ragging on the game a lot, is there anything much I can say about this game which is in any way good? Well Frankie and all of the enemies are large and nicely drawn, the animation is best described as satisfactory, it feels like it could use a few more frames but the game does have some personality to it. I would also praise the backgrounds, they are pretty rich in detail, vivid and all have there own personality, there are something like 10 different stage themes some of these include castles, dungeons, forests, Ancient Japanese architecture and construction sites.

The audio is also pretty darn good for an older SNES game. The music is pretty catchy and importantly all of it fits the area that it plays in, on the downside though I don't think there are really enough tracks to keep the game varied, which also adds to its repetitiveness. The sound effects also are not to bad at all, they pretty much all fit and work and do what they should do

I have to say that I didn't really enjoy the game at all. It’s a very hard game and in general it soon starts to feel like a chore and when any game feels like a chore you know that it is basically a failure as games are supposed to be enjoyable. The issue is that this game could have been a lot better, with some better controls a few bosses and well just a little more work. The truth is that while I have been doing all of these reviews there have been very few games that were totally irredeemable, even in the worst of them you could see some shred of something good. In fact the honest truth seems to have been that most of the SNES's library was kind of average, it takes a whole lot of good to make a good game, good intentions, good programmers, good decisions and even a dose of good luck, basically it needs all of the stars to fall in to the right alignment and this game just didn't have all of the stars lined up like it needed. I would give this game a 3 out of 10, its a pretty bad game but I cant hate it, I guess if I have learned anything in the last 4 years while I have been working on my SNES review project it is that even the best games have there flaws and even the worst of games have a spark or two of greatness in them that just never quiet got to turn in to a fire.

If you decided that you wanted this game what would you be paying? Well in all honesty most of the time when I see this game it is selling cart only for between £12 to £20, I was lucky and got an American cart for £7 including postage, in honesty though I don't think it was worth even this, the simple truth is that there are much better things you could spend your money on. Some people might find it a little strange that I have let this project end on a not particularly high note but the truth is whenever you have been working on something for a long time there is a kind of bittersweetness which comes at the end of it and who knows just because I have reviewed 150 SNES games it doesnt meen I will never review one again. It just means that I have finished what I set out to do, what I promised myself and others that I would do, and now it means that I am free, free to talk and write about whatever takes my fancy with my work complete.

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