Dr. Franken II, Game Boy

Dr. Franken II is the sequel to the Game Boy platform game, Dr. Franken, and is once again a satirical take on Mary Shelley‘s classic horror story, Frankenstein. It was developed by Motivetime and published by Elite Systems in 1993 (some sources online say “1997”, but that doesn’t seem to be right; it doesn’t make sense that a sequel would be released five years after the original game, on a time-limited handheld console).

In Dr. Franken II, The Monster has been living in peace and harmony with his girlfriend Bitsy in the late Dr. Von Frankenbone‘s castle for a number of years, but the electricity bill hasn’t been paid and the power company are about to shut them off. So The Monster decides to do something about it and sets out to collect all the pieces of a priceless golden tablet, which he’ll then sell to pay the bills.

Dr. Franken II starts off well enough. The Monster is in the castle hallway and the man from the power company is banging on the door to issue them a final demand for payment (his knocks are so hard that they make the castle shake). Since the front door is locked, you can’t answer it, so your only option is to go deeper into the castle, and to even escape it.

Like the first Dr. Franken, this sequel is a platform game with traps and enemies that must be avoided, and with atmospheric monochrome graphics and an element of humour. You control The Monster, who can run, jump, duck and attack (by throwing a ball of some sort of), and who has limited health (represented as “energy”). The Monster’s energy can be topped-up by plugging into a recharge station, which are occasionally found as you explore. There is one near to where you start, but it needs a fuse to get it working properly. If your energy reaches zero you’ll lose one of your three “Franks”. Lose all of your “Franks” and it’s game over.

The Monster can actually walk up stairs properly this time, rather than by jumping up them, by pressing the d-pad diagonally in the appropriate direction. Which is a welcomed new feature.

Pressing Select brings up a menu from which you can view a map of the current area and also see The Monster’s energy and oxygen levels. The oxygen is used while swimming, which occurs occasionally (there’s also an entire level called “Sea World”, which you visit later in the game). You can also view your inventory from this menu, and use the Transporter (which you get access to once you’ve found the Teleporter Globe in The Village, and which allows you to teleport back to the globe if you drop it somewhere). There’s also a “save game” option that doesn’t actually save the game, but it will give you a restart code that you can enter in the password menu to start back from where you left off (which thankfully doesn’t lock the game like it did in the first Dr. Franken).

When you leave a room or an area and re-enter it, all the monsters will re-spawn. There are power-ups that you can collect that are helpful, such as the shield, which will give you twenty seconds of invulnerability. Shields re-spawn when they expire, so you can pick them up again if you go back to where you got them from. Some enemies are indestructible, and others – like the grabbing hands – will come out of walls and floors to try to sap your energy, so you have to be careful when moving around.

Some of the platforming sections (like, for example, jumping on the branches of the trees in The Forest) are ridiculously difficult. One slip and you’re back to square one, which will drive most players mad. Judging jumps is not easy at all, and it really shouldn’t be this difficult. If this were a Mario game I’m sure the jumping mechanic would’ve been much better.

Backgrounds and animations are very good, but arguably not quite as good as those in the first game, and the main character’s movement is still a bit jerky. And The Monster looks like he’s wearing a Roger Federer all-white tennis outfit, rather than his usual garb.

Overall, Dr. Franken II is more varied than the first Dr. Franken, and is not a bad game at all. It does have a few nice touches, and is reasonably challenging, but it’s not sufficiently different to the first game to give it a glowing recommendation. It’ll probably appeal to people who really liked the first game.

Note: some online sources claim that there’s a Game Boy Color version of this game, which is simply not true. A Game Boy Color version of Dr. Franken II does NOT exist and loading the OG Game Boy version of the game into a Game Boy Color does NOT result in enhanced, coloured graphics (as some Game Boy carts do). This “fact” – as well as the sources stating that Dr. Franken II was released in 1997 (as mentioned above) – are examples of online misinformation. There’s a lot of it about… I’ve even seen people mistakenly list the OG Game Boy version of this game as “Game Boy Color” on eBay, which makes me shake my head in disbelief. Believe me: there is NO Game Boy Color version of Dr, Franken II. I’ve checked! 🙂

More: Dr. Franken II on Moby Games

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