Wednesday 27 October 2021

Halloween On The Saturn 2021 - Frankenstein: Through The Eyes Of The Monster

Introduction - 

The game will cost you between £100 - £300!

I'm not sure why I associate Halloween with the Saturn. It could be that it's because we relaunched the Saturn Junkyard about this time in 2017... I remember writing the "Halloween Saturn Games List 2017" and posting lots of photographs of people involved in less than impressive Saturn themed cos-play, the Junkyard littered with lots of pumpkins (carved with a Sega related themes)  and actually getting my Saturn light-gun out to play House Of The Dead for the first time in years...  Great times!

Halloween Pumpkin carved in honour of our leader Segata Sanshiro

Whatever the reason, Halloween always inspires me to put pen to paper, and churn out a horror game-themed article, to celebrate the season! The one issue I've found challenging in the past, when writing subsequent Halloween articles, is finding Saturn games that have been seldom reviewed or written about. My one rule when writing about games, is that I must have played them, usually on the original hardware, and I must have drawn my conclusions, from my own experience with the title. in 2021, I think I've found a perfect game for the time of year, that has been largely overlooked by the Saturn community (as far as I know...) 

 Welcome to "Frankenstein: Through The Eyes Of The Monster."

How most of us think of Frankenstein's monster...

Frankenstein In Our Modern Consciousness -

 Okay, so when we think of Frankenstein, we usually think of the monster - as played by Boris Karloff in the 1931 movie version - flat head, sunken eyes, bolts in neck, built up shoes - Herman Munster type vibes. But Mary Shelley, the author of the book back in 18-- had a very different (opium induced) dream of  the monster, less of a hideous creature and more as a "reanimated man". One with a brain, a consciousness and a soul. For Shelley the monstrosity was in man's desire to play God and flout the laws of nature in the process. The game draws far more on the original gothic novel for it's source material rather than any particular Hollywood re-telling. Central to the story, of course, is Doctor Frankenstein - played by the legendary British actor, Tim Curry (more on him later). We don't get to see the monster, apart from "his" arms and hands, so we don't have to critique his visual appearance.


The Frankenstein's Monster we love the most... 

Boring Game History - 

The game was developed by Amazing Media and published by Interplay Entertainment Corps for PC, in 1995. The game was ported to the Saturn in 1997, towards the end of the Saturn's life-span. The game is a 'point and click adventure', made using CGI backgrounds and full motion video clips, which are triggered, as the player clicks on various items. As such, the game is a slow burner, requiring patience and detailed exploration of the environments, in order to progress steadily through the narrative. This type of game was extremely popular in the mid 90's and for many game developers, the quest was to make an "interactive movie". Frankenstein TTEOTM, is very much trying to be this form of entertainment. As well as the scene stealing performances of Tim Curry, we have the monster played by Robert Rothrock, Rebecca Wink as villager Sara and Amanda Fuller as Gabrielle, the monster's daughter. 

The Story - 

The story begins to unfold, as soon as the title screen commences. As the opening credits roll, we hear the dialogue of an arrest and subsequent judgements of a murder trial. It seems a man has murdered his daughter, but the details are unclear, as we do not know the story's protagonist yet. As the opening titles fade, we see the view seen by the monster. You are lying on a platform suspended by four chains. The doctor is standing over you peering down. He immediately proclaims "LIFE! I have created life!" he gloats and crows, then seems to remember his 'patient'. "Here, this'll make you feel better..." He injects you using a syringe, which he then proceeds to stab into his own neck, with a celebratory: "A toast!"  YIKES! This doctor is clearly deep into some serious mal-practise! 

It doesn't take long for the horror to unfold... As you look at your arms (one familiar, one not so much...) you exclaim "Good god my hand! ...Its the hand of a woman! What has this vile bastard done to me?!" Dr. Frankenstein begins to cackle evilly and gloats - he get's stuck in there straight away, cracking sick jokes, indicative of his sick nature... "What's the matter? Cat got your tongue?" (sniggers) "You have no idea how close to the truth that statement really is..." Clearly this man is no family practitioner. He is the true monster in the original story and the game... But in the game they've ramped (camped?) his diabolical nature to 11.

And so the story begins to unravel, as you point and click away. The dialogue is camp, over the top and very theatrical. The conversations between the characters, flesh out the story and background in a wholly unrealistic way, speaking line after line of a narrative, that would only be necessary if trying to squeeze a long and drawn out Victorian novel's plot, into the two hour time frame, of a point and click computer game.

You are scientist Phillip Wren and you've been framed for the murder of your daughter Gabrielle. You've been tried, found guilty and hanged by the neck until dead (by the mysterious  Judge Rothenbush). As if that wasn't enough, you've been brought back to life with a hodge-podge of other people's bits, and are now trapped in the laboratory of the evil genius who has reanimated your ravaged corpse. Not a great predicament to begin your quest, but the one you are faced with, nevertheless. 

Your mind in turmoil -  "I'm an experiment!" -  you begin to explore, further and further into Frankenstein's castle. This is how the game starts and represents the stage of the game, where I became unable to play without the help of a Youtube playthrough guide.

The views from the castle are to die for...

Without wanting to spoil the whole plot, you make some gruesome discoveries as you explore the fortress and suffer further persecution for your trouble. The game involves you stealing your way through the castle, solving puzzles, collecting notes and moving both physically and temporally through the mystery of your current circumstance.

The Gameplay - 

The style of game is exactly what western game developers thought would be the future of gaming. The "interactive movie". There were thousands of dollars and pounds invested in these FMV games. The irony is that these titles, at the cutting edge of technology back in 1995, as games passed from cartridge to compact disc. The best Saturn games used FMV for cutscenes and intros only. Very few of these video based titles, have stood the test of time. In fact they seem to be amongst the most dated and least enjoyable titles available for Saturn gamers and retro gaming in general.

The Good - 

We'll start with some of the supporting features, before we get to the main draw. First of all, the acting. As well as the talents of the start of the show, the supporting cast of actors do a pretty good job of guiding you through the castle and reacting to the spooky sights and shocking surprises you uncover as you make your way though the castle. If we are kind enough to suggest that the title fits the interactive movie slot, in the way it was intended, then the acting has to be pretty good. When we think of titles such as Deep Fear, Resident Evil, House Of The Dead or Corpse Killer, we are not looking for Oscar winning thespians doing Royal Shakespeare quality performances, we are looking for campy, over the top, slightly "hammy" acting. If that is the case, then Robert Rothrock, Rebecca Wink and Amanda Fuller do a more than adequate job as a supporting cast. The CGI "scenery" and "sets" provide the right atmosphere and background for the action, and the letters, diagrams, notes and plans you discover on your journey are well made and convincing. The music by David Dvorin,  is atmospheric and fitting. However, it can become rather grating, as it loops around again and again whilst you struggle to find the way out of your current setting. And, that's about all that can be said about the game other than... 

TIM CURRY!!! TIM "FRANKENFURTER" CURRY!!! TIM "SCARY MOVIE" CURRY!!! TIM MOTHER-FREAKING CURRY!!! He is literally the main draw for this slow moving, rather turgid game. You're not going to be enthralled by the action, you're not going to be absorbed by the plot or transfixed by the atmosphere. But you can drink in, devour and satiate yourself on every over-pronounced syllable, every rich, chocolatey vowel, every twisted muttering and snarkily delivered snigger, from one of the finest actors the world has ever seen! Curry burst onto the British acting scene in Richard O'Brien's cult, musical homage to 1950's suspense and science fiction B Movies, The Rocky Horror Picture Show as the "sweet transvestite, from trans-sexual, Transylvania" Dr. Frankenfurter. This was a fabulous role, that allowed Curry to preen, pout and generally flounce about as he sang, stomped and smashed his way into our consciousness. Twenty years later, Curry was either at the cutting edge of video entertainment, or making a fast buck by selling his acting prowess, standing in front of a green screen and rasping out hammy dialogue for a fairly uninspiring video game. If I was hooked in by one thing, it was the appearance of this legend on the box. Not the only time that a video game has been sold on the inclusion of a Hollywood star. The latest Far Cry release has been sold on the inclusion of current Hollywood favourite, Giancarlo Esposito. But once the lure of Tim Curry has begun to be eclipsed by the lame gameplay, the game has very little to redeem it. As with many point and click adventure games, the ending you see, depends on the route you take through the game and the actions you perform and the choices you make. This allows for a degree of re-playability, that wouldn't exist without it.

The Bad - 

This is a very dated game. A very slow moving, plodding title. The one trick pony of  FMV video games IS the reactive FMV scenes triggered by your actions. These can be so finickity to find and trigger, that you can easily become bored or frustrated very quickly. In order to progress I had to watch a video on Youtube, showing an entire playthrough of the game. I then had to keep pausing the game, trying out what I had seen in the video and this made the playing of the game even MORE slow moving and plodding -  as if the title wasn't already tortuous enough to play through in 2021... . And as usual, certain actions which worked in the video DID NOT work on my Saturn - this is a phenomenon I've noticed more and more. The execution of  certain actions within games seem to not work form machine to machine, from disc to disc. Recently I've had to source new copies of Casper and Exhumed, in order to get them to work on my machines. and I couldn't get the game Tunnel B1 to work on any of my Saturns, despite trying three different discs of the game...Very frustrating.

In the end I just gave up and watched the game unfold for the person creating the Youtube video. The experience was basically the same as if I was triggering the cutscenes. It just involved far less faffing around and frustration. Although there are a couple of alternative outcomes, I defy anyone to enjoy the game enough to give it a second spin...

Spoiler alert!

Conclusion - 

If you're looking for some Halloween fun on the Saturn this year, you could do a lot better with some of the console's other offerings. There are a plethora of horror, monster and sci-fi themed games on the Saturn that will scratch your itch... Deep Fear, Vampire Savior, Resident Evil, House Of The Dead, Exhumed and of course, the big daddy of them all, Casper. Unless you want to be bored rigid in some kind of masochistic indulgence of tortuous, snail-paced shite, avoid this game like the plague. As if God is taking a hand in saving us from this nightmare, the price of this turd of a game has sky-rocketed in recent years. A copy of Frankenstein TTEOTM will set you back between £100 and £300, depending on where you source it. Only the most ardent of Saturn completist, should fork out silly money for this game. I got a pristine "repro" of the game from the excellent Nightwing Productions (shout going out to my man Marvin Macias!) which enabled me to experience it without losing the shirt off my back, I'd have been pretty sorely pissed, if I'd splurged out top dollar for this dollop of doo doo. 

My advice? Avoid this game at all costs... if you really want to experience this game for yourself, emulate, burn a disc, buy a repro or simply watch the Youtube video below... the one thing that did give me a laugh, was Victor Frankenstein's OTHER creation, but you have to get pretty far into the game to see it! Other than that leave it alone, Games which are comparably bad? Corpse Killer, The Crow and Alone In The Dark, If the comparison to those three nightmares doesn't give you a scare this Halloween, nothing will!  


Peter said...

Excellent write-up as always, Father K!

fatherkrishna said...

Thank you sir!

fatherkrishna said...

Thank you sir!

fatherkrishna said...

Thank you sir!