When anyone drops a mention of licensed games, it's generally appropriate to tune out. With very, very few exceptions, almost every single game based on a movie, TV series, comic or what-have-you is mediocre at best, and frequently completely terrible. There are exceptions – everybody knows about classics like DuckTales and GoldenEye 007. One series of titles that is not frequently mentioned, however, is a set of games based on the Addams Family.
These got off to a bit of a bad start with Sunsoft's NES title Fester's Quest, but everything that followed was surprisingly good. The Super Nintendo first got two surprisingly challenging yet fun platformers, followed by Addams Family Values – which did something completely out of left field.
The game is only very loosely based on the movie of the same name. The family has just welcomed its newest member, baby Pubert, who has promptly been kidnapped by his babysitter, Debbie Jellinsky. She's taken him to her mansion located not far out of town, but to get there, the Addamses will have to traverse some dangerous terrain. All members of the family go out to look for the pair, but it's not Gomez or Pugsley you take control of this time – instead, Uncle Fester gets another turn.
The previous games, save for Fester's Quest, were all platformers, but the developers decided to try something completely different here. Values is close to an action RPG – the entire game consists of one large overworld containing numerous dungeons, puzzles and items, and is played from a top-down perspective, making comparisons to the original The Legend of Zelda quite accurate.
The Addams mansion itself was already a pretty unusual place, but Debbie's mansion grounds are completely crazy. The starting area is pretty much just a big garden, but as you go further in, you'll stumble across forests, swamps, graveyards, deserts and even an area covered in snow and ice. You can't exit in every direction on most screens, which means you can't move to one specific destination too quickly, so it is vital that you keep a general idea of where you are in your mind – it makes the large amount of travelling you have to do much easier. Later in the game, fortunately, you unlock a method of quick travel, which will make this task a lot less difficult.
The main goal is to reach Debbie and rescue Pubert, but as she is holed up in an abandoned manor in the icelands, she is inaccessible without first collecting various necessary items. Naturally, these can be found by clearing the game's many dungeons and solving certain puzzles in the overworld.
Just like the original Zelda, if you randomly wander around hoping to stumble across things, you'll quickly become lost – it's best to talk to any other members of the family or other creatures you encounter, as they will often give useful tips on where to head next. You have a map, but it only covers the general area you're currently in – for example, if you're in the swamp, you can see all the areas the swamp is composed of, but you won't be able to see any other location.
The most useful of all family members is Granny, as talking to her will usually get you some disgusting (or delicious, if you're an Addams) cookies that you can eat at any time to recover a sizable amount of health or give you temporarily increased power or invincibility. Keeping your health high is the key to success in this game – although you can receive a number of throwable weapons (with limited ammo), Fester's main form of attack is a jolt of lightning he can shoot from his right palm.
Only with full health will this attack have maximum power and reach; any less will make it less effective, while being near death will make it almost useless. The electricity also has the handy side effect of pushing back enemies it hits, so the longer your bolt is, the further away you can keep them. The game is a bit forgiving in that all enemies within your current area stay dead, even if you go between screens. Leave the area completely, however, and they'll all return.
The dungeons start off fairly easy but will quickly become very, very hard. Each has numerous traps and strong enemies, so you always have to stay quick on your toes to react to anything that might pop up. The game will frequently try to trick you by hiding enemies behind cover, so you won't see them until they step out. Naturally, each dungeon also has its own boss, who will generally reward you with that dungeon's new item upon defeat.
Fester's adventure is of sizable length – this is absolutely not a game that you can pop in your SNES and beat in one short setting. There are about eight dungeons to go through, which, coupled with the large amount of overworld exploring will make sure it has the potential to take over ten hours to beat the game the first time you play it. There are also a number of additional side-quests you can undertake, which will generally reward you with additional weaponry or an extended life bar.
Thankfully, it's possible to suspend your game and continue at a later date, but, unfortunately, it's not done by saving – perhaps because the game is already packed with too many other features. Instead, it opts for a password system, and you can obtain a password from cousin Itt at just about any time in your quest.
This is not a big problem, per se. The real issue comes from the fact that Itt only appears in one location in the entire game, which happens to be near the start, so if you're near the end and want to stop, you'll have to backtrack quite a bit to do so.
The game is topped off with some pretty nice graphics and a surprisingly atmospheric soundtrack, coupled with some quality visual and sound effects. One highlight is the garden area at the start of the game; as time goes on, it will gradually become dark and begin to rain. As you walk around, some fairly realistic-sounding lightning will randomly strike and the screen will flash, which, when you don't know about it, is genuinely quite unexpected.
Although the game's giant overworld and the slightly irritating password system might be a bit overwhelming for some at first, those willing to invest some time to work around Addams Family Values's issues will find a surprisingly solid title that will grant you plenty of hours of challenge and entertainment.