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Frankenstein's Monster - Atari 2600 Game Review

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Frankenstein's Monster - Atari 2600 Game Review
Screenshot © Data Age

Dr. Victor von Frankenstein is up to his corpse reanimating tricks again, and it's up to you to strop his creation from coming to life by building the monster's only weakness, a brick wall. Frankenstein's Monster is a short, but surprisingly fun action platformer mixing Mary Shelly's classic horror novel with elements of Pitfall!

The Basics

  • Publisher/Developer: Data Age
  • Year: 1983
  • Platform: Atari 2600
  • Genre: Platformer

The Good:

  • Nice mix of the best elements from Pitfall! and Journey Escape.
  • Solid action, never gets slow.
  • Funny interpretation of the Frankenstein novel.

The Bad:

  • Extremely short game.
  • Only two gameplay modes.

History:

Data Age was an independent developer and publisher, opening their doors in 1982 to cash in on the craze of making unlicensed Atari 2600 games. In their brief two year existence they created and released 8 titles, including Journey Escape, the oddball game starring the rock band Journey.

Their final and finest game was Frankenstein's Monster (FM), a two stage platformer inspired by horror's most famous movie and literary monster. Unfortunately, the quality and fun of FM was a rarity in the video game market when it released in 1983. That same year the video game industry crashed and took many game companies with it. Data Age closed its doors soon after making FM their final release.

The Game

As a stranger wandering through the castle of Dr. Frankenstein, you discover that he's hooked up his unfinished creation up to machinery designed to harness the power of lightning and bring the monster to life. Luckily it looks like the good doctor set the thing on auto-reanimate and slipped out to run some mad scientist-type errands. All you need to do is build a stone wall around the beast before he comes to life.

The only problem is that all the good building stones are located in the castle's basement. You've got to go down and bring them back one-by-one, braving horrific obstacles such as ghosts, bats, a giant tarantula, enormous spiders and a pool of acid. If you build the wall before Frankenstein's Monster is fully charged, then you've destroyed the practitioner of evil's sinister plot, but if your time runs out the creature will come to life and destroy everything in its path.

Gameplay

The overall goal is to build a wall around the monster before he comes to life. Starting out with 3 lives and 500 points, the ghouls of the houses are bent on lowering player's scores and slowing them down. The Ghost, Tarantula and Spiders take the score down 20 points each time they touch the player, and bats cause a loss of 10 points. If players lose all of their points, they go down a life. Another, more common player fatality is falling into the pool of acid.

The game is played across two screens, both of which were inspired by previous games.

  • Gameplay Screen 1:

    In play reminiscent of Pitfall!, the primary screen has obstacles and enemies that are evaded, by running, jumping and climbing. Once the stone is reached the player must journey back and place the stone below the monster. This raises the wall up one level higher with each new stone.

    The screen is split into three platforms, each representing one of the floors of the castle. The top shows the monster getting charged up by lightening, with a patrolling ghost pacing back and forth. The middle platform contains the giant tarantula along with some trap doors that drop into the acid pool below. The bottom is the castle basement, home to the pool of acid, a wooden raft used to cross the pool and huge spiders that drop down from above the acid. On the other side of the pool sits the wall building stone.

    As the levels progress the difficulty increases with the ghost and tarantula growing in size, faster, more frequent spiders, and holes in the raft as the acid eats it away.

  • Gameplay Screen 2:

    Once the stone has been placed on the wall the screen changes to a mode right out of Data Age's most notorious game, Journey Escape. A shower of bats falls from the ceiling and descend on the player, slowing them down and draining points. The goal is to evade the bats and make it up to the top of the screen without draining your points or your time. Once you've reached the top it's back to Screen 1.

FM can be played in single or two player modes with two levels of difficulty. In Beginners the timer is set at 8 1/2 minutes, Advance mode decreases the timer to 5 minutes.

Final Thoughts:

The familiar gameplay fits in well with how the game is structured and hold up surprisingly well without feeling repetitive or tedious. The graphic presentation of the Frankenstein's Monster shown as a series of green blocks adds to the humor and personality of the game.

While this isn't the most difficult game to beat, you definitely want to let yourself loose at least once, otherwise you'll miss the treat of the blocky monster coming to life and stomping its way towards the screen until it is filled with green.

Any fan of platformers and old-school 2600 adventure games will enjoy Frankenstein's Monster, and as for us Frankie fans, it's refreshing to see at least one good game based on the classic monster.

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