Review: Fester's Quest (NES)

What the macabre sixties sitcom were they thinking?

Uncle Fester of the Addams Family has to save the world from aliens in this cheap cash in on a beloved franchise. So, why is Fester's Quest so terrible? The reasons go on and on. This will remind you to go enjoy a nice day outside, play a board game or clean your kitchen. Any activity you could think of would be more fun than this. It's so bad that you may need to put down video games for a while after playing. On top of the terrible gameplay and mediocre graphics and music, it's horribly difficult and unfair. The only reason you may want to play is just to see for yourself why it's such a famous turd.

The game is a top-down action/ adventure experience that breaks things up with occasional pseudo-3D mazes. You collect power-ups such as keys, light bulbs, dynamite and weapon upgrades to make your way through the city and defeat the aliens. With the exception of the gun and whip, your main weapons, most of the items you collect reference the Addams Family in some way. For example, the vice grip item is what Fester uses in the show to cure a headache. In the game, the vice grip cures the condition that halves your walking speed. Way back in the campy days of 1960s sitcoms, it was hilarious that Uncle Fester could power a light bulb by putting it in his mouth. Don't worry, Addams fans, he'll be doing the same thing here when you enter a dark room. Just knowing that the developers were aware of some inside jokes from the TV series almost makes this game worse as it shows that even in spite of their paying attention to the source material, they still failed at creating anything worth playing.

Your first clue that this game is going to be zero fun is how slow Fester moves. Our hero travels much more slowly than nearly every enemy in the game, and some of them can further cut your speed as their attack. Immediate frustration will grip you when you must run away from an enemy frog, only to realise that there is no escape. Once the bad guys start shooting you with projectiles of their own, you may just feel like dropping the NES controller as you won't have a chance to even think about shuffling away.

There are several levels of weapon upgrades, but, rest assured, they are all useless. Your gun starts out firing straight ahead, and with subsequent upgrades begins to shoot in different patterns, which feels quite ridiculous. Whoever thought it was a good idea to make Fester's gun shoot several mini boomerangs or spray bullets in wide waves didn't keep in mind how narrow the corridors are. The upgrades just make it harder to hit the enemies. Sure, the raw power goes up, but when your shots are spraying impotently at a wall while an evil frog is hopping right at you, it doesn't help much. Additionally, if even half an enemy goes off-screen for a brief second, it re-spawns. With full health and the best weapon in the game, you can still end up in a corner and get a game over from the first breed of frog that you encounter. There is no hope – only disappointment.

Speaking of health, your life bar is very small. For most of the game, you'll only be able to take two hits before having to start all the way from the beginning. There is a dead end in a maze section that increases your life bar by one, but this may be a glitch because there is no physical power-up to collect. After getting game over, you'll have a "continue" option that allows you to keep all the items you've collected and your weapon upgrades. However, it sends you to the very beginning of the game. There are no check points or short cuts; be prepared for the grind of your life.

The bland graphics serve their purpose with zero flair or attention to detail. In fact, they fail at a very basic level in the maze sections. Because everything looks the same, you won't be able to tell where to go or where you've been. You'll most likely accidently exit through the door you entered and have to start the maze all over. Should you actually find your way to the alien boss, you'll be disappointed by its relatively low difficulty compared to the rest of the quest. In such a hard game, you would expect a worthy boss battle. Fail, fail and fail.

The music is interesting in a unique way. Don't be fooled, most of the sound effects are borrowed from Blaster Master, and the actual tune that plays during each level is just filler. What's intriguing is how they chose to use the famous Addams Family theme: you hear it when you get a game over. In a title where you'll be getting a lot of those, you may begin to detest the ditty. It's somewhat of a glaring mistake to risk conditioning players to associate the franchise's flagship tune with defeat, frustration, and unfair treatment.

The icing on the cake is the lack of humour. The Addams Family was a funny group! Where is the dark satire? Where is the light-hearted take on the perfect nuclear family? Not here. The only comedy you’ll find in this game is how terrible it is. You may also laugh at yourself for giving it a chance. Any fond memories of the Addams Family will be tarnished by forcing yourself through this disaster.

Conclusion

Fester's Quest is bad – it could be one of the most horrible games for the NES. Which, in a way, is fitting. If the Addams Family themselves were to play a video game, they may have chosen this one. A group of people that enjoys being tortured and blown up may just enjoy it. It’s almost as if this is a working prop for the show – Wednesday’s favourite video game that is impossible to play and no fun at all. This is one for the history books. The boring, repetitive, uninspired, franchise-destroying history books.