From Interplay and We2 Productions
An interactive movie. Tim Curry plays the role of the mad Doctor Frankenstein extremely well. You are Philip Werren, the naturally somewhat confused monster, newly resurrected in the lab. The game is first person, 3-dimensional and parts of it are real-time (hint: move quickly when guns are pointed at you.) A lot of game time is spent exploring the castle for clues, notes and secret passages. The game has two alternative endings (you can succeed or fail in the end) and you will probably be shot at least once before you finish.
You are trying to find come to terms with who you are, how and why you died and what you will do now that you are alive again. To do this you wander around the castle. There are many secret passages, and there are times when you should look at a scene from several angles because things aren't obvious from some perspectives. The castle and environs are beautifully done, the stone walls in the castle look as though they must have used a set (other items, such as the trees are obviously computer generated). The videos are embedded cleverly in the game to take a minimum of space and memory so they run very well. The gadgets that Frankenstein has are one of the high points, these weird and wonderful machines and how to operate them are quite important to the game.
The game does not depend your knowledge of the story of Frankenstein, nor is it meant for horror fans. There are some creepy moments, but I believe the box rating of ages 13 and up is quite right. Nor do you have to be a fan of Tim Curry when you start, though this may well be a consequence of getting through the game.
Best actor of 1995, Computer Game Review
Best actor of 1995, PC Game Magazine
From what I've seen of the competition, this is not surprising. In 1995, there were a lot of games that either used little-known actors or better known ones were mentioned on the game box but barely showed up in the game. Tim Curry well and truly stood out in his performance in this game.
The game has a one-cursor-solves-all interface. You can make the game easier by using the help cursor (the hand grasps object you can manipulate) or turn off this feature. The menu bar lets you set a few preferences up but there are not many options. The menu bar is also necessary to save and load games.
There are times when the game gets linear (you must solve this to do x). At these times, rooms will be locked and your choices very limited, but most of the time you are quite free to roam the entire castle at will. There are a number of rooms you have to find 'alternative' entrances to, others will become unlocked as you progress. It can be difficult to find out where you should be going, I know of at least two people seriously annoyed by this. I didn't mind, mostly, it seems appropriate not to know where to go, given the monster's situation in the world. Death is not uncommon, though you usually have a few moments of warning before you die.
Pick up and examine every scrap of paper. These are your clues on how to operate the machines and who Frankenstein, Judge Rothenbush and Vladmir really are. You can operate the machines without the clues, but they are much easier when you have found the instructions. The instruction manual suggests that you should avoid carrying notes, etc. since that antagonises the Doctor, but you will rapidly find that a certain amount of grabbing stuff is necessary to get anywhere. Yes, it does antagonise the doctor, but there is only one place he will kill you out of hand for it, and there you have to persist. (For those who like being shot, pick up either the notes or the lifestone crystal up in the first room by the window. Turn so you can see Frankenstein writing at the table. He's friendly enough the first time, but keep picking those objects up...)
Well, no, there aren't any. Philip is a monster of few words (there is only one scene in the entire game where you know he has spoken.) At that point, you are given no chance to select what he will say. You're limited to occasionally turning away from someone to get the conversation moving again. This was odd.
There are several characters that you get to react to. Tim Curry is the egotistical and somewhat mad Frankenstein. He is quite convincing as you stumble through his lab. There are some wonderful lines in the game. "Perhaps, the cat's got your tongue?" He snickers. "You have no idea how close to the truth that statement is." Just before you are shot, "Oh don't worry, none of you will go to waste. Except for that useless brain of yours." and one last quote "I wouldn't be too quick to point a finger. Especially one that doesn't belong to you."
They should not have used the same person to play the butler and the gardener, though this isn't an important point. Their appearance is very limited. It's just weird not to be able to tell once you've turned your back which is following you. Just as well, the appearance is very limited, so is his acting ability.
Another main character is Sarah, who will turn up toward the end of the game. Not a bad performance but not anything to rave over.
The last important actor in this game is the voice of the monster. There are points in the game where he is doing a splendid job - the desperation of the monster when all the doors are locked (again) was very real. For the most part, the performance was good but not spectacular. Then again, with Tim Curry as his primary competition, it would be difficult to be too noticeable without going over the top. The balance is right, in this case.
Either they need longer pieces of music, or they should have given you the option of turning the music off. Some pieces of music are very short and when they endlessly repeat, you may rapidly grow tired of it. I think the worse was in the wine cellar, mapping a maze when you were sick of the music two minutes after it started is not fun.
There were a number of times when I pick up an item which was difficult to determine what it was. Philip could at least describe what he has in hand or perhaps we could get a closeup view of it. One object in particular in the catacombs off the garden and a closer look at it would be much appreciated.
The game is so dark, with my monitor, it was best to play it in a dark room with the contrast and brightness controls all the way up. This makes writing notes a real pain. Though I have discovered that this may also have to do with my monitor thinking about dying. Two other games have also been very dark.
For whatever reason, most times when I start the game through Windows, the first time it will not find the CD in the drive. This may be my driver and not a bug. Also occasionally the game freezes, but if I use the program manager to "End Task" for Frankenstein, it unlocks and the game resumes. Very odd behaviour.
I did very much enjoy this game even with my gripes above. The puzzles were an integral part of the castle, they didn't give me the feeling of being added on like 7th Guest. The atmosphere and graphics would be hard to beat. The ending was satisfying, unlike that of Myst ("was that really the end?") and in fact, I've ended the game two ways. I find that I have a deep desire to try one part again and see if another part of the outcome can be changed. Once you've done this one, you may have to try Mummy: Tomb of the Pharoah by the same people.
Tim Curry wins high voice recognition at my place of work. Several people entered the room while the demo version was running and immediately knew who was talking. (I'm sure he'd rush to north Queensland if he heard this news...then again, maybe not.) Other games he's in include Gabriel Knight (voice only), Toonstruck (voice only) and Muppet Treasure Island.
It should be possible to restore a save game from the opening without having to either listen to or interrupt the first video. Frankly, it's only fun the first half dozen times or so. After that, you may start growling back. I didn't like setting the game to interrupt videos as a preference because that caused me to lose information at least once.
Save games are nice and compact but it's the first game I've had in a while that made you type an 8 letter name (PC version) instead of a game description.
Every time I hear the Judge pronounce sentence, I feel like someone is about to sing "Worm, your honour."
The scene in the dungeon could have been made much more convincing. Whoever named the character doesn't know what "whipping boy" actually means...
Oh, and I'd love to bean Frankenstein with the crowbar and steal his set of keys... (Philip, you're such a disappointment. He even had his back to you and you only threw papers at him.)
If you like this game, try Mummy: Tomb of the Pharoah. Same sort of game, done by the same people. I think, having played both through, Frank is my favourite. One, I like the atmosphere a bit better. Two, much stronger end. Three, the dialogue had me laughing much more. Finally, if you have to have someone lurking in your computer, I'd rather have Tim Curry.
Fun and games with your CDROM. All the resources are sitting right there. Yep, with patience, you can cruise through all the movies (how do you trigger that?) and even do weird things. I have created a couple of new system sounds for the work Mac and the home pc from this game. Amusing for me and will startle anyone else rather completely.