Retro Review: Fester’s Quest

Here is TransGamerSociologist’s first ever Guest Post.  This review is by my good friend Hjort.

Uncle Fester: Explosives aficionado, human electric generator, general weirdo and quite the untraditional choice for a video-game protagonist, even by Addams Family standards; The man is old, pasty, fat, and dressed as if he’s on his way to expose himself to women outside the public library. The exposing part might not even be necessary since the getup itself in combination with Fester’s bald head kind of makes him look enough like a penis as it is. So, the dear uncle might not exactly be a Bill Rizer or Simon Belmont, but as we all know, being a hero has nothing to do with appearance, and everything to do with rising to the occasion. Yes, I’m aware that there is another penis joke in there, but one will have to be enough.

According to the game’s story, aliens have come to town for some good ol’ human abducting and, one can only assume, anal probing shenanigans. Thanks to a spell cast on the Addams’ mansion by Grandma, the aliens are unable to spot the life signs coming from the family, and it’s now up to the quirky clan, spearheaded by Fester, to save the kidnapped townsfolk.

Upon first inspection, the game-play seems to be a cousin of The Legend of Zelda, with an open-ended, top-down perspective world to explore and plenty of collectible items to help you on your way, but after a couple of minutes it becomes apparent that things aren’t quite what they seem. Most of the suburban roads you stroll down will lead you into dead ends, and as you progress the subsequent maps will leave you with increasingly less potential routes to take. The streamlining is also evident in that any important items will be hidden – and I use that term loosely – in houses on, or in close proximity to the correct path, making them hard to miss.

The different street areas are connected through the local sewer system, which, while sometimes featuring new enemy variations, mainly serves as a change of scenery and an excuse for the programmers to squeeze in another kick-ass tune by 8-bit legend Naoki Kodaka. A more interesting part of the game-play would be the buildings hiding the bosses. In an ambitious move for an 8-bit action game based on a 1960’s sitcom, your perspective changes from third- to first-person as soon as you walk in the door. There are no enemies to fight in the corridors and no puzzles to solve, basically reducing these sections to a rudimentary maze game, but the change of pace and perspective makes for a welcome break in between longer periods of relentless running (read: waddling) and gunning.

Speaking of the gunning, when a game’s manual gives you the advice to get a turbo joystick, you know your B-button is in for some punishment. If you’re not used to blasting the crap out of stuff with an NES controller, Fester’s Quest’s endlessly re-spawning monsters will tire you quite quickly, but if you’ve got a few hours of Mega Man and Contra under your belt, the game won’t be half as mean as some may have you believe. Any given enemy – including bosses – can quickly be convinced to pursue a career of daisy pushing as long as you never stop firing.

However, your gun can sometimes make hitting your mark a tad harder than it should be. Most of the eight different gun variations will shoot their projectiles in a wave formation, which means that there will be potential blind spots in-between the bullets, leaving openings for aliens to swoop in and smack Fester over his shiny dome. While this contributes to the hectic nature of the shooting, it’s always disappointing to find new weapon upgrades, hoping for some sort of assault rifle equivalent, only to get stuck with something that feels more like walking an unruly snake with a poor sense of direction.

Fester’s Quest isn’t one of the NES’s all-time greats, and not even one of Sunsoft’s better titles on the system, but it is nevertheless a somewhat enjoyable if mindless little blastathon for those of us who want to practice our button pressing endurance, or merely embrace our inner weirdo.

You can listen to some music from Fester’s Quest here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EW8byCf_Crw

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4 responses to “Retro Review: Fester’s Quest

  1. I kind of wonder who the heck this game was made for. At the time, I don’t think there were any “Addams Family” related shows on the air, so kids wouldn’t have heard of Uncle Fester, and people old enough to have seen the sitcom probably weren’t playing Nintendo. I guess that’s why the box art doesn’t directly reference the Addams Family– It could just be a stand-alone horror game starring some weird, bald pasty guy. Which, honestly, would be pretty cool on it’s own.

      • I feel like somebody must have been rerunning Addams episodes. The game came out when I was six, and I actually had vague knowledge of who Uncle Fester was. I think maybe Nick at Nite had some episodes? I used to watch that channel when I was trying to fall asleep.

        Of course, Nintendo also did a video game based off Little Nemo, a comic strip from the turn of the twentieth century that, while really really cool and groundbreaking, was probably only known to people who were into obscure comics history. So maybe they were just playing around with whatever source material they could get their hands on. I’m surprised they didn’t make a game based on the Yellow Kid or the original Outer Limits show.

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