I’m sure there was a time where you decided to play a game that had a bad rap. Either you didn’t believe the game could be bad as people say, or you simply had to experience it yourself. Then as it turns out, the game in question wasn’t so bad after all. That is exactly the situation we have here with The Adventures of Dr. Franken.
Franky and his girlfriend Bitsy, both of whom are Frankenstein-type monsters, plan a romantic trip to New York City. Unfortunately, Franky’s girlfriend doesn’t have a passport. What’s one to do? The only sensible thing of course. Franky dismantles Bitsy and mails her body parts to NYC. Brilliant! However, the Transylvanian post office goofs and sends Bitsy’s body parts to all sections of the globe! Now through 20 stages spanning the world, Franky must collect pieces of Bitsy and put her back together again. Things guys do for love, right?
Controls and Gameplay
Controls are like this:
- Y button: Kick to the left
- X button: Somersault kick/during a jump, kick in direction you’re facing
- B button: Jump
- A button: Kick to the right
- L button: Throws what I like to call Hadoken fireballs (in limited supply)
- R button: Throws what I dub Sonic Boom attacks. (freezes enemy)
- Start button: Pauses game
- Control Pad: Press down and B to drop down off a platform; left moves Franky left; right moves him right
It’s the controls in this game that will keep most players at bay, the kicking functions specifically. They are unconventional, to say the least. I realize more than a few people who have played this game have given up early due to the seemingly frustrating controls. I was in that camp when I first began playing.
All too often I would be facing right and used the Y button to attack an oncoming foe, or vice versa, facing the left and using the A button, only to see Franky turn his back on the approaching danger and kick the other way! At this point I was agreeing with the masses: This game sucks!
However, for those who have patience (i.e. video game reviewers, hardcore gamers), once you become accustomed to the weird controls, this is where the fun commences. After several playthroughs, my brain became in tune with the control scheme. There came a time where the controls became second nature and I was deadly controlling Franky. That being said, this game must be knocked for its awkward control setup. Many people turned away from this game for controls alone, and that can’t be understated. Once the control issues are no longer a problem, we can focus on the actual gameplay.
Gameplay is quite good. It’s a sidescroller with puzzle elements. Each level has a timer, and the goal is to locate and collect 4 sections of a parcel and reach the exit before time runs out. This can be tricky because the majority of the stages are one big giant maze. You must maneuver and figure out this maze, defeat or avoid the enemies, find the four parcel pieces and locate the exit before time runs out! For me, the fun comes in exploring the stages and making a plan as to which sequence I will collect the four pieces and escape the stage. The game is about exploration, time management, puzzle solving skills, and yes, trial & error.
There are 20 stages to traverse in all. However 4 of these stages are “bonus” (I use this word reluctantly) stages where there are no enemies, only power-ups and extra lives. Here’s the thing about these so called bonus stages: You lose actual lives if you die in them! Even though there are little to no enemies, there’s lots of pits and a shortened time limit to contend with. That is why I try to get to the exit as quickly as possible because these special stages are more trouble than they are worth! Be forewarned!
The level locales range from a mansion, docks, spooky forests, Mayan temples, train stations, caverns, and old world Japan. Several stage backdrops are recycled throughout the game, instead of each of the 20 stages having their own distinct look. This to me was seen as lazy design or the developers were pressed for time. Either way, I did not like this aspect.
There are power-ups in this game that ease the journey for Franky. Firstly, there are 1-ups. Almost every stage has at least one of these Franky 1-up dolls and for every 200,000 points, you receive an extra life also. The plethora of chances to attain extra lives makes the game much more bearable than it would otherwise have been.
Secondly, Franky can replenish his life bar via the use of batteries. The big battery will recover 3 bars and the small one will re-fill one bar. These batteries are in ample supply either by defeating enemies or finding them throughout the levels. I found by using a somersault kick, I was more likely to get a big battery from a fallen enemy, F.Y.I.
Finally, other power-ups in the game include:
- Smart bomb barrels. Collecting these barrels will allow you to execute the Hadoken fireball attack.
- The “P” icon gives you 5,000 points
- The Shield icon allows for 30 seconds of invincibility
- The Super Jump Sneaker permits Franky to achieve super jumps for one level
An aspect of the game I like is the ability to choose which stages to tackle first. Once you complete the initial stage, the map screen branches off into two directions. From here on you have a choice of selecting which stage you would like to finish next. Though in the end, all 20 stages must be completed to beat the game.
There’s not much in the way of options. There’s a sound test and an option for two players in the original Super Mario Bros. style. There is no password system or battery backup. You must best the game beginning to end in one sitting with no continues!
Graphics and Sound
What first caught my eye when I started playing this game is how big and detailed Franky and the enemy sprites are. Also of note is the creativity in the backgrounds. Touches such as creepy eyes peering out of a toilet and ominous trees moving their eyes eerily to and fro set the gothic tone the game tries to convey. Even Franky’s death animation is a little unnerving the first few times I saw it. As with many Super Nintendo games, extra detail went into the background landscapes, and they are very much appreciated.
The music is very good as well. They aren’t spooky or evil sounding, but rather upbeat and gets you pumped for action. Tunes do get recycled throughout the game, however. I wish each stage had its own unique score. Unfortunately, the sound effects are nothing to write home about, but the little that you get serve their purpose.
My first impressions weren’t very good. If I played it for only a couple hours and did a review on it, I would’ve given it a bad score. However, I stuck with it and found an enjoyable game here. There are no bosses, instead choosing to focus on exploration and problem solving.
The biggest negative this game has is the unusual controls. The majority of people will be turned off by them. Other issues are the enemies return after you defeat them, which is a pet-peeve of mine, and reused level designs. But if you stick around long enough to master the controls, you will find a good sidescroller that forces you to think.
Four stars out of five.
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