Frankenstein, Commodore 64

CRL Group‘s 1987 release of Frankenstein was part of its text adventure series, based on classic horror stories including Dracula and The Wolfman (it also included Jack the Ripper, but that’s not a “classic horror story” – it is an exploitation of a series of real-life grisly murders perpetrated by an obscenely rich and demented Freemason, but I digress…).

Frankenstein – the text adventure – is split into three separate parts. Part one is called “Hard Journey” and in it Dr. Frankenstein arrives at his father’s house in Switzerland from where he plans to hunt The Monster that he created four years previously. Part two is called “The Slaying” and begins after speaking to the old blind man and hearing his story about The Monster. Dr. Frankenstein then arrives in the village of Chamont and sets out to arm himself for the final confrontation with The Monster. Part two contains a conversation module and involves talking to people, and asking them questions, which is a fundamental part of the episode. Part Three is “The Monster’s Story” and is played-out from The Monster’s point of view. The Monster knows nothing about himself or his predicament, but must raise his IQ and quickly learn to survive. Part three is different to the previous parts and is only available once parts one and two have been completed. You can monitor The Monster’s IQ by typing that command into the parser and pressing Enter. A save disk is required to play all three parts – unless you play a cracked version.

Having played through this version of Frankenstein in its entirety I have to say that I was disappointed with it overall. While the writer has obviously tried to be reasonably faithful to Mary Shelley‘s novel – which is commendable – the execution of the game itself leaves a lot to be desired.

The text formatting isn’t very good, for starters. In places there are spaces missing, and spaces where there shouldn’t be any, which can make the text passages more difficult to read. A text adventure should have perfect, error-free text formatting – especially if there’s a lot of text in it, which this has – but Rod Pike (the author of this game) wasn’t too careful about it. I didn’t spot any spelling mistakes, which is one good thing at least. It’s also good that conversations are coloured differently to the descriptive text – which helps make the game easier to play – but Frankenstein is sloppily-programmed and the text parser is too niggly for its own good. Figuring out what to type to achieve the right results is very difficult without a walkthrough.

The small number of brief graphical images in Frankenstein are laughable, really, and this game would’ve benefited from a few more illustrations – especially since this series of horror adventures were supposed to be about animated images literally ‘forcing’ the publisher to apply for BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) certification. Which was bullshit, really – they did it only to stir up controversy and to help market the games based on this supposed notoriety.

CRL‘s Frankenstein is not really much fun to play through, although I do give it credit for at least trying to be different and interesting, from a literary point of view. I just wish the game had been better produced, and had a more flexible and lenient text parser. And – as I said earlier – a few more illustrations. The final of the three parts is the most interesting, though – playing the game from the point of the view of The Monster. The ending is abrupt and seems unfinished. Which it may have been. I dunno. Something about it just doesn’t feel right, though.

Frankenstein was also released for the Amstrad CPC and ZX Spectrum. I can’t see many people wanting to play either version in this day and age. Text adventures can be fun to play, but this one is distinctly lacking polish and playability. Which is a pity.

More: Frankenstein on CSDb

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