Thursday, October 24, 2013

"Fester's Quest", NES, 1989.

The Addams Family enjoyed phenomenal success for a franchise that began as single-panel comic strips. Have you seen the Far Side movies? (Maybe even asked yourself what a Far Side video game would look like?) It's a trickier act to pull off than it seems. The Addams Family movies were very canny, timely works that used great actors in the service of superb characterization. Then in their wake, all these licensed video game adaptations emerged that essentially had nothing to do with the films or anything that came before them, save a vague kind of skinning. (Not that these are any more off-base than, say, M.C. Hammer's rap about the family.) Apparently this game concerns the voyages of feral Uncle Fester in space. Admit it: you were making a space game already, then lucked into this license and decided to dump the characters in. Thing is, the space game wasn't very fun in the first place. (Actually, some commentators note that in many regards this game resembles SunSoft's Blaster Master, which actually is quite fun. But Uncle Fester doesn't drive a giant tank.)

GET THE TITLE THAT JUST MIGHT DRIVE YOU CRAZY!

You rang.

Fester's Quest takes the skeletons out of the closet for a trip to outer space.

If "space games" are your thing, here's the spaciest one yet! With Lurch, Pugsley, Thing, and the rest of the Addams crew at his side, Uncle Fester leads the way in the wildest, wackiest alien shoot-'em-up ever! The action is manic, the graphics explosive, and the story is guaranteed to leave you howling. So find out for yourself how much fun going crazy can be. Get "Fester's Quest." At your favorite dealer now!

Maybe I'm being mean. Still, I have some problems with this ad. 1) The picture caption is clearly not being presented on-screen, bereft of the jaggies gracing Lurch's portrait. But to what end? 2) The little boy in the foreground is clearly not looking at the screen. 3) If the game the boy is playing is this one, he is aggressively button-mashing his way through a non-interactive cut scene.

Are "space games" my thing? Not being talked down to by patronizing adults is my thing. Wild and wacky are filler adjectives, invoked when you don't actually have anything to say. Just because the story will leave me howling doesn't imply that I will be howling in satisfaction. "How much fun crazy can be"? This ad just showed a pulse! Alas, just before it ends.

Then there are some curios in the small print: Sunsoft and Orion Pictures alike licensed the Addams Family characters from Barbare Artists, Inc. But who licensed television rights to Fester's Quest from Orion Pictures? Is that to cover broadcasting gameplay footage over the air? Brand licensing: it's a strange world. (Edit: strangest of all -- this game pre-dates the movies by two years. But evidently they were in the works.