Fester’s Quest on the NES has got to be one of the oddest concepts for a video game. Uncle Fester from the Addams family saving the world from an alien invasion. Yeah… it really doesn’t get any better from there.
In Fester’s Quest, Uncle Fester is equipped with a gun that looks like a horn. At first, the gun shoots a few shots straight forward, but Fester can pick up upgrades so the gun does more damage. Unfortunately, the gun upgrades also come at the expense of being able to aim. The first upgrade makes your shots shoot in a wave pattern, so you have to be at the right angle in order to hit anything. And the next upgrade makes the gun shoot bullets that swirl around in circles, often leading them to circle around enemies instead of hitting them. To make matters worse, if your shots hit a wall, they stop. And this is a game that includes many cramped corners, so good luck trying to hit an enemy who’s right in front of you if you’re in the middle of a hallway.
Another great flaw in the gameplay is just how slow Uncle Fester walks. Good lord, he is so slow, it makes the simple act of movement feel like a chore. He just never picks up any speed, and you just sluggishly slump around the city looking for a place to go. Sometimes, you’ll even run into a random dead-end, leading you to trudge all the way back and doubling up on the agony.
Uncle Fester can pick up some items from defeated enemies, which include keys to get inside of buildings and lightbulbs so you can see where you’re going in sewer stages. The items are a thoughtful attempt at giving a little substance to the game, but they ultimately don’t work. Many of the buildings you enter just lead to pointless, quasi-3D mazes, and the sewers are filled with obnoxiously difficult enemies that keep multiplying (not to mention these sewers have the tightest of hallways, so your gun “upgrades” are particularly useless here).
The enemies as a whole are another of the game’s big problems. No matter how many times you kill them, they immediately respawn (sometimes in greater numbers) every time the screen scrolls back to their location. Respawning enemies are common in games, but here it’s just taken to ridiculous levels, made all the more aggravating by the aforementioned gun mechanics and slow movement. Every enemy in the game moves faster than Uncle Fester, so good luck trying to get away from them if you just want to hurry up and move on.
This leads to another of the game’s major drawbacks. Fester only has two hit points to start with. It’s just so incredibly easy for Uncle Fester to get killed, especially since he can’t outrun anything, and actually hitting an enemy with your gun seems like a rare occurrence. It is possible to gain more health, but you never have enough to really make an improvement. What’s worse, if you die you have the choice to start over or continue, with the only difference being that continue keeps all the items and upgrades you’ve grabbed, but it still sends you back to the beginning of the game!
Just in case this all wasn’t enough, Fester’s Quest is also one of the ugliest NES games. The flickers are constant, the character models often get blurry, and when the screen scrolls and tries to load the next area, it looks like the environment is at war with itself. Not to mention the game has some of the worst examples of slow-ups in the NES (and moving slower is just what Uncle Fester needed). On the bright side of things, the soundtrack is decent enough. Perhaps nothing really memorable (and maybe a tad too energetic, given the pace of its main character), but it can be pretty catchy.
Fester’s Quest is a game that’s as bad as its concept is baffling.