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Up from (Super) Obscurity

So, some might say that this whole Pseudo Frankenstein's Monster month has been something of a sham -- I've spent .66667 of the first three weeks talking about games that only had limited connections to Tall, Green and Neck-Bolted.
But last week? Big Frank showed up in person (driving a muscle car, no less!). And this week? Let's just say, it doesn't get any more Pseudo than this:
Spare the "-Stein", Spoil the Copyright-Infridgement Case!
And after some nifty rotating-cogs background and "jazzed up" versions of classical music, we're presented with a barely-there Menu screen and the crinkliest map I've seen since Legend. After that, Dr. Franken's adventures begin!
And who is this "Dr. Franken" who's having all these Adventures?
Why, it's THIS GUY:
Remember when I said, "jazzed up version of classical" up above? Well, that's that's the attitude (or should I say, 'TUDE?*) presented by the whole game.
*: no, no I should not
Frankenstein's Monster (Karloff Edition) may be a menacing green giant of a man, stitched together from corpses, with metal electrodes protruding from his neck. But Dr. Franken (MOTIVETIME Edition)? He's a menacing green...average-height of a man, stitched together from corpses, with metal electrodes protruding from his neck...WHO'S HERE TO PARTY!
Just check out his attitudenous Sunglasses, his beach-ready flip-flops and colorful Bermuda shorts!
What's Dr. Franken's Story?
Evidently he's dressed to travel because he was planning on going on vacation with his girlfriend/wife/BRIDE OF DR. FRANKEN, who is named "Bitsy". For reasons known only to MOTIVETIME, Dr. Franken could only afford single-airfare around the world, so rather than buy double-airfare to fewer vacation spots, he unstitched Bitsy into her component stitched-together-corpse pieces and mailed them ahead to their travel destinations.
Miracle of Miracles -- something goes wrong (in this plot that would make Boxing Helena look staid), and Bitsy's...bits (OIC WHUT THEY DID THER) get sent all over the globe. Now Dr. Franken has to visit each of his travel destinations (blowing air-fare repeatedly if you lose a life and have to re-visit them) and gather all 4 sub-pieces of the packages containing Bitsy.
I don't know about you, but I'm finding some plot holes in this story...
But fortunately, the story barely intrudes on the game
There are three important things to know about how this platformer works:
  1. Your attacks are short-ranged with counter-intuitive button configuration
  2. You have an extremely brief 'post-hit period of invulnerability'
  3. You get 3 lives and NO CONTINUES
These all combine to make this a pretty punishing game to play...so let's look at these design bloopers one by one, then I'll talk a little about the game's good points, and why it's a shame that these flaws ruin what could otherwise be a fun platformer.
Problem A: He's got a Ph.D. in Attacking Weakly!
Sad to say, the game designers seem to have mistaken Frankenstein's Monster for Jean-Claude Van Damme: the primary attack at your disposal is a kick. And a "bicycle kick:"
Dammit Frank, I'm a reanimated corpse, not a ninja!
Like most platformers where you have a melee attack, your range isn't very good; by the time you've stopped moving and deployed your kick, more often than not the enemy shambling up has bumped into you.
The spin-kick has even shorter range, but it's more of an "Anti-Aircraft" attack: it hits primarily ABOVE you. Normally, this wouldn't be very useful. But because you have limited hitpoints, very limited lives, and tend to get hit multiple times (because of your insufficient post-hit invulnerability period?), you're always desperate for more energy...and for whatever reason, killing enemies with your Spin-Kick seems to increase the chances that they'll drop the game's most treasured power-up: a car battery.
And because the enemies constantly re-spawn the moment their point-of-origin scrolls off-screen, you may end up trying to harvest these batteries to keep Dr. Franken alive and kickin' (the fact that you usually end up taking more damage than you find power-ups is beside the point).
To try to make up for your weak primary arsenal, the "L" and "R" shoulder-buttons give you limited-use ranged attacks:
"R" for 'fireball', which kills enemies,
and "L" for 'shout', which stuns enemies...
Your limited stock of Fireballs must be recharged by picking up teeny toxic waste barrels(?):
But that's not the case with your Shouts. In a pretty slick move, your stock of "Shouts" starts at four, but if you have less than four, you get one back about every 10 seconds.
I guess one could say that you're supposed to use "Shouts" to overcome your kick's short range by stunning fast enemies...but then again, they could also have made the kick suck less.
And speaking of kicking being needlessly sucky...
Remember the other week when I was talking about Renegade, and its confusing "B = ATTACK LEFT, A = ATTACK RIGHT" button control scheme? That's back here, and worse than ever: NO MATTER WHICH DIRECTION YOU'RE FACING, one button makes Dr. Franken kick left, and another button makes Dr. Franken kick right. In an attempt to make things better, the spin-kick button will ALWAYS make Dr. Franken attack forwards...IF you're moving or jumping (if you're standing still of course it makes him spin-kick).
Just another needless complication: if you're playing a melee platformer with short-range attacks, you're in a world of hurt...and when you get hurt once, you BETTER have enough invulnerability to run away or else...
Problem 2: Enemies will drill right through you
This being a Super Nintendo game, the sprites are big: Dr. Franken is big. The enemies are big.
You move moderately quickly, but if you bump into someone, your hit-boxes are going to overlap for a while.
Add to this the fact that you don't bump off eachother (you stay overlapping), and your (short-range) kicks only attack in FRONT of you (they won't hit someone embedded in the same space that YOU are), this means you'll frequently stop being "invulnerable" in time to be hit by the same enemy again. And again. And maybe, also, again! (It seems to be pretty generous about dishing out a second hit INSTANTLY if you're still moving "towards" the enemy and its still moving "towards" you)
After three or four hits, you run out of energy and lose a life.
And when you lose a life, not only are you 1/3rd closer to having to re-start the game at the very beginning, but also THIS happens:
and it is very irritating.
Problem iii: Wait a minute...1/3rd closer to having to re-start the game?!
The Adventures of Dr. Franken is one of those games caught between NES-level of brutal challenge and "modern gaming cakewalk." It's not overly-challenging by itself, but it is when you only have three lives and no continues. While you can gather 1-Ups in set locations,
and you can try to farm respawning enemies for energy-boosts, it would have been a lot more fun if you didn't have to guard your lives so jealously.
And it's really a shame, because there's definitely some fun ideas here...
...for example:
The first level takes place in Dr. Franken's home castle(?), as he tries to gather the pieces of his passport. What is it with this guy cutting everything up into 4 chunks?
And many of the monsters guarding Dr. Franken's house (from Dr. Franken?) are mutated Frankenstein's-Monsters, themselves:
Meet...FRANKENCOPTER and FRANKENJANITOR!
And after you beat a level, it opens up TWO different choices of where to go next. Making it ALMOST level-hub-like, and we all know how much I love level hubs!
Also, as befits a globe-trotting game like this, each country usually has its own look and enemies.
Ok, I get the "1980s London Punk Rocker" guy, and the muppet-like guy wearing a helmet and dragging a vacuum cleaner I'll give a pass...
but I'm not sure if the British are well-known for their love of those bouncy-ball riding things and/or pogo-sticks; or for French poodles peddling themselves along on skateboards. (I'll have to double-check with VGJunk on that)
And in case it wasn't clear, the backgrounds and graphics are quite cool, detailed and atmospheric...and so is the music.
So, it's really quite a shame...
That you have to finish the game in one sitting with a ridiculously limited pool of lives (all energy-problems aside..did I mention that many levels are bottomless-pit-heavy? So, 3 missed jumps = GAME OVER).
It turns this could-be-fun into a might-have-been. But before I go (and before I wrap up my first and worst Halloween Theme Month here at GameWTFs.com) I'd like to point out one very important detail: When you "PAUSE" the game...
LITTLE KITTY-PAWS APPEAR UNDER THE TIMER!
...and it's that kind of pointless, miniscule sight-gag that makes Dr. Franken (and his short-lived adventures) -- my 2013 King of the Pseudo-Frankensteins!
— carlmarksguy, 2013-10-25
1
As soon as you started this Frankenstein thing, I'd wondered if you'd get to this game...and as soon as I saw this game here, I wondered if you'd make an ani-gif of the death animation.
2
Yeah, I got this game before I got Street Racer; and when October rolled around and I saw there were only 4 Friday (article days), I realized I could kinda pull it off. However I almost wanted to feature Dr. Franken in another article: character death animations that make you want to stop playing :P
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