Hey, remember that old Genesis game The Addams Family? I used to play the hell out of that game when I was a kid. I still have it, you know. I thought I'd play it through again and see how well it holds up.
The first thing you do in this game is go into the secret room. What, you didn't know about the secret room? Well you'd better go find it then, because it has 23 extra lives in it, and you're going to need those extra lives. Seriously.
After that, Step 2 is to climb the tree. Climbing the tree is very important--you won't get far otherwise.
Why? Because at the top of the tree there's an extra boss fight. Defeat the bird at the top of the tree, and you'll be rewarded with an additional heart container, and believe me, three is a lot more than two when it comes to heart containers.
Heck, you know what's better than three? Four. You can get one more heart container by exploring the freezer and defeating the snowman.
Anyway, this is a nonlinear platformer. You can do the levels in any order. The object is to rescue all the members of the family. They've been kidnapped by, like, a lawyer or something? I dunno. Gomez has to rescue them because...whatever. Pugsley is in the arcade. Wednesday is in the crypts. Granny is in the stove. You get the idea. Rescue them in whatever order you like.
As far as gameplay is concerned, well, the difficulty level is certainly on the "brutal" side. Obstacles and enemies are all over the place, and you need sharp reflexes and precision timing in order to survive. Gomez is a slippery fellow too--he has a tendency to slide around, so it takes some practice to get the hang of the controls. Some of the jumps require pixel-perfect accuracy; others require careful timing to avoid getting hit by moving obstacles; and hey, sometimes you get a little of both.
The enemies are a hodgepodge of absurd, non-sequiturish weirdness. Floating teacups, goldfish bowls with legs, floating heads, little walking trees, bouncing sumo cows? Who knows where these guys came from.
One of the nice things about this game is that secrets are scattered everywhere. There's lots of hidden 1ups tucked away in secluded corners of the levels--behind false walls, on top of difficult-to-reach platforms, inside secret doors, and so on.
This, plus the open, nonlinear world, gives the game a great exploration factor--you're always on the hunt for those elusive secret treasures.
So this is a hard game, but it's got a lot of upside, too. I've been playing through it all day now, and from where I'm standing, it holds up very well. On the condition, of course, that you know about the secret room with 23 extra lives, and the extra heart container from climbing the tree. I'm imagining playing the game without those...
...Yeah, it would just be this screen constantly. That's a frightening prospect.
There is a case to be made that a good game wouldn't require you to know these secrets in order to have a reasonable chance at, like, playing it. I think that's a fair argument. The game would have been better if they'd been in plain sight. You wouldn't feel like a ninja for finding them, but you also wouldn't feel like throwing your controller across the room if you tried to beat the game without them, and that's more important. Luckily, I do know about those secrets, and now you do too! So it shouldn't be a problem for us, right?
So, bottom line: as long as you know the two main tricks, this game's not bad and it holds up nicely.