How mysterious! All of the Addams family members seem to be missing! In the game of the same name for the SNES, we find Gomez all alone on his doorstep, familyless and confused. He’ll need to throw on his propeller fez and fill his pockets with golf balls in order to work his way through his own mansion to rescue his wife, kids, brother and mother-in-law in this slippery, controller breaking adventure game by Ocean Software. But was our experience with The Addams Family all that is creepy and kooky? Or was it altogether ooky?
This game was one of the few video games I actually owned as a kid. I don’t know what in particular it was that made my sister and I agree to drop our combined hard earned savings on this game but drop it we did and the rest is pre-OctoTako history.
One thing I do know is that it took my sister and I years of playing, getting frustrated, walking away, and then eventually coming back around to finally beat The Addams Family once and for all. Even as a much more skilled gamer today, and playing with a partner who is undoubtedly an even more skilled gamer, Patrick and I struggled with the challenge of it. Somehow though, as a kid I managed to see those end credits roll and it must’ve taken some hard-headed determination and a whole lot of Sunday afternoons to achieve that massive win.
Although I don’t have much personal history with the Addams Family game, ever since I met Charleen, it has become a fabled artifact from her childhood. Stories of its difficulty and of her and her sister playing it for months before they ever completed it, really had me intrigued! I mean, it’s a licensed game based on the Addams Family, how tough can it be? Then I remembered this was also an SNES licensed game, and flashbacks of games like Eek! The Cat, Home Alone, and Shaq Fu, started drumming up past video game rental traumas!
Despite my hesitations though, my curiosity got the best of me, and I was excited to experience a game that was heavily steeped in nostalgia for Charleen. So, I surprised her with a copy of it, and the rest was history!
To be honest, this is a complicated question! Addams Family does a lot of impressive things for a licensed SNES game, but also commits some game design faux pas. Although I found the character sprites to be squat and awkward, and the enemy designs, for the most part, felt a bit weird and out of place, the actual sprite work was very well done. All of which have a ton of detail and have impressively smooth animations. Especially when it came to the environments and backgrounds. I mean, none of it is jaw dropping or anything, but you can definitely appreciate the craftsmanship behind it. Musically however, Addams Family has about as much variety as a monochrome painting, with no more than two or three tracks used throughout the entire game. Kudos to the composer for making music that never really gets grating, but it certainly doesn’t help with the monotony of having to hear the same tracks on each and every stage.
Once you get in there and actually start playing the game though, that’s a whole other story. Primarily due to the fact that the game’s controls are horribly slippery and difficult to rein in. It’s almost as if the developers were working on an icey stage, and thought it would be a cool idea to just model all of the game’s physics on that premise. Which means you’ll be falling into pits, running into enemies, and missing jumps more often than not. That by itself is what made the game so difficult, and probably where its infamy, within our little circle at least, stemmed! The weird thing is, it never got too frustrating despite how much we failed and how much BS we ran into. That’s because the devs had at least enough forethought to give you infinite continues, a butt ton of extra lives, and they didn’t make you lose progress as long as you didn’t quit. Or at least remembered to write down the password codes.
From what I can recall when I played it as a kid, it holds up just about as well as I can remember. Super slippery controls, weird yet strangely satisfying sound effects, and just enough cheap deaths to make you question your sanity while still entering that continue door “just one more time”.
It’s a fairly straightforward platformer where all the enemies can be killed in one shot either by jumping on them, shooting them with golf balls, or hitting them with a sword. Even for an SNES game the hit boxes can be a bit off and hard to predict but it’s definitely the type of game where once you get used to how the enemies move you can dodge a bit better. However, you can NEVER get used to those slippery, slidey controls. Those are a recurring nightmare, especially in that dang ice stage. Why oh why Ocean? An ice stage? Really?
Obviously the best change would be to have updated physics mechanics put in place so that our dearest Gomez doesn’t slide all over the place making the smallest of movements, however, the ability to get more hearts would also be a really welcome addition. I think gaining an extra heart container after defeating each boss would be a big step up. As it stands you only gain 3 extra heart containers from side/secret bosses and for the amount of literal slip ups this game will have you making, more hearts would be awesome. Especially since some of these stages run on for-ev-er! You could easily make it to the boss with only a single life left, die and then have to trudge through a grueling 10 part level all over again. The oven levels where you can’t even kill any of the enemies is particularly tough since you can’t gain any points to earn extra lives or hearts.
My favorite thing about this game though is the plethora of secrets and alternate paths. I was quite impressed with myself to see just how many invisible doors, secret stashes, and hidden pathways I remembered as we played through. We only recently added this game to our collection and I haven’t played it in what has to be 25 years but I still remembered a ton of stuff. I guess I was just that traumatized, or had that much fun, who knows.
Addams Family may have suffered from floaty, slippery controls, and strange art direction, but after playing it for a while, you kind of adjust to its jank. One thing I couldn’t get over however, was its level design. Too often you find yourself in precarious situations where there’s little room for error in your platforming, or enemies are placed just outside your view, across a hazard, ready to steal a life or two once you land. Which is only made worse by awkward hit detection. The biggest offender though is how labyrinthine the stages can be. There are doors you can enter and exit all over the game that lead to various places throughout the multitude of stages, so you can find yourself going in circles. Compounded with the fact that there’s little to no indication as to where you’ve been and where you need to go to finish your objectives, and you’ll find yourself re-exploring areas when you don’t need to. Honestly, all I’d really want is a map of some sort, or at the very least for the area we’ve already explored and completed to be closed off.
Taking everything into account however, Addams Family was still kind of fun to play, in its own janky little way. I don’t know if it’s just because our BS tolerance is super high, or if there’s something uniquely charming about it underneath it all, but I ended up missing it after we completed it. That’s gotta say something right? Or maybe it’s just a classic case of Stockholm syndrome, who knows?
Being a single player game, we ended up passing the controller back and forth every time we lost all of our lives, or whenever we finished an area and defeated a boss. It was nice to have Charleen sitting next to me as I played, however, because she was able to dig deep into her subconscious where she stores all of her Addams Family The Video Game lore, and point out where secrets containing extra lives, health, and money were hidden. Which made our playthrough that much smoother! Plus it was super fun to see her face light up, each and every time she recognized a stage, a boss, or a string of Addams Family BS!
I very much enjoyed playing this with Patrick since it’s not often that I’m the one who has a long standing history with a game. I lost track of the times he struggled through a level and said “I can’t believe you beat this as a kid!”. At first Patrick was shocked with the amount of free lives you could collect before even entering a stage, but he quickly learned that you needed each and every one of them and then some to make it through. We would pass the controller every time we landed in that continue/quit zone. Sometimes you were glad it was your turn finally, and others not so much. We hit some high levels of frustration to be sure, but we still have a lot of fun playing The Addams Family together.
I for one am glad to finally have this childhood favorite back in our collection. I’m so glad I finally got to share my strife with Patrick when it comes to The Addams Family. While it only took us a few hours to complete I think it’s one game that will now live in BOTH of our hearts in infamy for years to come.