Dr. Franken, Game Boy

Developed by Motivetime and published by KEMCO in 1992, Dr. Franken is a platform game based loosely on Mary Shelley‘s classic horror story, Frankenstein, but delivered in a satirical, humorous manner.

In it you control ‘The Monster’, who has been created by Dr. Von Frankenbone, and who is on a quest to put his monster girlfriend – called Bitsy – back together again. This means having to explore seven floors of Dr. Von Frankenbone’s castle and find all of Bitsy’s parts.

Before you begin exploring you’re shown a map of the floor you’re on (you start on floor three) and a big question mark indicates a location of interest that you should make your way toward. You can bring up the map of the current floor at any time by pressing Start.

The Monster (ie. you) can jump and shoot (well, throw cheesy electricity ‘zaps’…) and can walk through doors by simply moving into them. Whenever you see the word “exit” on-screen it indicates that there’s a door leading out of the screen that you can use. To use them you simply face outward and press down on the d-pad. Likewise, you press up on the d-pad to use doors that lead into the screen.

The castle is swarming with enemies and hazards, from ghosts and skeletons, to rolling barrels and falling boulders. Some enemies, like ghosts, re-spawn soon after you’ve destroyed them, and some – like the skeletons – are indestructible, so must be avoided or jumped over. Your health isn’t shown on-screen during the game, but if you press Select it’ll show both ‘Energy’ (your health), and the level of oil in your lantern, which is needed to light up dark levels. From here you can also view your inventory, and turn the music on and off. Beware, though, because choosing “save game” here will simply give you a password and the game will seemingly lock. For some stupid reason you can’t return back to the game and continue if you choose this option – you have to reset the Game Boy. Which is a dirty sh*thouse trick…

Occasionally you’ll come across a room with a recharge machine, which you can stand inside and use to re-charge The Monster’s health by pressing up on the d-pad.

When you find and collect one of Bitsy’s parts, an operating table screen comes up that shows where that part goes, which is both funny and gruesome.

Graphically, Dr. Franken looks excellent, but The Monster moves a little jerkily, and the scrolling isn’t too smooth either, but thankfully these minor faults don’t ruin the game. The backgrounds are especially well-drawn and are varied and atmospheric. The artist who created them did a great job with just black and white and a few shades of grey. The animation of The Monster is decent too.

Overall, Dr. Franken is an absorbing platform game with enough features to keep most players happy for a while. The game is a little generic, it has to be said, although the visuals and features do elevate it to above average.

A Super Nintendo version of this game was released, called The Adventures of Dr. Franken, although it is considerably different to this version. A sequel, called Dr. Franken II, was also released for the Game Boy in 1993, and it plays similarly to this game, but isn’t as good.

More: Dr. Franken on Wikipedia

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