I'm not sure if this happened to everyone, but when I was a kid sometimes it seemed as though the hand of fate simply placed cartridges in my NES collection. I didn't recall buying them or asking for them, they were just there. Sometimes I found a wondrous treasure in these foundling games, like Life Force. Sometimes I found something that should have never been found. Things no human being should have ever been exposed to, especially at an early age. One of those awful things was Fester's Quest. The basic concept of this game is pretty unclear going by the opening sequence,but it seems Fester is moonbathing on a clear night when a flying saucer comes by and starts abducting the townspeople including his brother Gomez. Naturally, Fester has no choice but to go out and kick some alien butt and embark on an epic Quest.
It's an NES pad and a standard adventure style game so they're simple enough. Move with the D-Pad. Shoot with B, context sensitive actions with A. Get into your inventory screen with Start. In spite of that simplicity this game manages to control terribly. The controls are very clunky and fester is pretty darn unresponsive. It would be ok that he moves like a tank if he could stand up to damage like one, regrettably nothing is further from the truth so you're going to get hurt fairly often because fester didn't move when he should have.
Graphically it's a bit substandard. It isn't terrible, but the limited color palette in game play screens really brings already mediocre graphics down a notch. The character sprites are a mix. Fester seems to be constantly suffering from some sort paralysis. If you've got the gun the only part of his sprite moves most of the time are his feet, if you've got the whip one of his arms moves. The alien bosses seem to be suffering from a similar affliction, though some of them can move both arms! Woo! The normal alien enemies on the other hand are actually pretty well rendered, fluid and very mobile.
The music is one of the best parts of the game. Like all NES games it can get incredibly annoying and repetitive after awhile. Barring that, it's actually quite catchy and enjoyable most of the time. It's much more complex and interesting than your standard fare, perfect fodder for an OC remix if only someone would get around to it.
You start off on the street with a what the game calls a gun, but looks like a gramophone horn. You wander the alien infested streets killing aliens and collecting power ups for your gun and whip. This is a lot easier in theory than it is in practice. The aliens are quite strong and a lot quicker than Fester is and it takes quite a few shots to take even the weakest creature down if you don't have any powerups for your weapon and of course to get those power ups you need to kill them. If that's not annoying enough on its own there are negative powerups that decrease the power of your weapon when you pick them up. Given that items drop almost every time you kill an enemy and that it's very easy to position yourself at an enemy respawn point, it can be neigh on impossible to avoid picking these bad drops up which is a cause for great agitation and swearing.
The other things the aliens drop are:
Money, used at hot dog stands to replenish your life
Light bulbs , used to light things up
Keys, open locked doors.
They keys and light bulbs are one use items so if you leave an area and backtrack you'll have to use one again so it's a good idea to keep an eye on your supply of them.
Additionally if you visit the houses you'll occasionally meet other members of the Adams family who will give you stronger special power ups which are:
Vice Grips, which bring you back to normal speed after being slowed
Potions, which bring you back to full health
Missiles, send six missiles out towards an enemy.
Noose, summons Lurch to clear the screen on enemies.
TNT, which explodes on your enemies doing a lot of damage.
Invisibility potions, which make you invincible for a short period of time.
The special items are a rarity so it's best to conserve them for bosses or emergencies.
The streets are full of large gaping chasms kind of like an early version of the Silent Hill maps. So also like Silent Hill, you're going to need to find away to get around, in this case it means going underground. The underground levels are labyrinths of varying complexity and difficulty and often have stronger more troublesome monsters. Additionally if you haven't picked up light bulbs they're pitch black, save for a small pool of light around Fester, making a difficult situation worse.
Once you get through the underground you'll find yourself back on the town streets where you'll continue in the same fashion until you come to a building larger than most where you'll walk through another a classic corridor labyrinth until you find the door the alien boss is hiding behind.
Each boss has it's own specialty and a pattern it always follows. Once
you've figured it out you're pretty much home free, though sometimes Fester's lack of maneuverability will get in your way. Most of the bosses honestly aren't much harder than the normal aliens you see around town, they just take a lot more hits to go down, but it's easier to avoid them too. Though the bosses holding shields take an almost inhuman amount of patience to finish off without getting hit.
Once you defeat the boss you're rewarded with a clue piece and find yourself outside with full health. From there you continue on your quest which in the same fashion, wander the streets, kill the aliens, find the alien boss, kill, continue, repeat. When you've defeated the 5th boss you complete the clue which shows the UFO, you know in case you forgot what it looked like from the opening sequence... Anyway, you walk around exploring for a bit until you come to a park where you'll find the flying saucer which beams you up.
The interior of the space ship plays like one of the underground levels. It is essentially a maze-like gauntlet of booby trapped, monster packed hallways leading you to the boss. The Aliens here are even stronger and faster than the ones before, so it's going to take a small miracle to get to the boss. Once you get there things just get worse for poor Fester as this boss is quite a challenge. It has two secondary guns to distract you while it fires a volley of energy blasts which home in on your position and are quite a chore to avoid. Hopefully you've been saving your special powerups because you need them if you want to finish the battle with any sort of sanity intact.
Once you beat the final boss you get to see a loving reunion between the brothers, which consists of two, maybe three frames of animation. Enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Fester's Quest could have made a mediocre game at best, nothing about it was great and nothing about it was awful either, at best it could have been forgettable. What pushed it into the realm of bad games is the difficulty. If you're going to make a game so unforgivably hard you've got to make it fun or interesting or pretty. Sunsoft neglected all of that with Festers quest. However for those of us who foolishly played it as children, you can't help but have developed a vendetta. You just keep coming back for the punishment, convinced that this time will be the one where you'll finally be able to get past it and put the unpleasantness behind you. With enough patience and skill you can, but I can tell you from experience it's hardly worth doing so.