Re(?)Considered: Pugsley's Scavenger Hunt

The Addams Family (re-e)Value(ated)

There’s a new Addams Family movie that may or may not be in theatres (NOT theaters) near you now, and I have been paid sixty thousand dollars by its studio to write a promotional tie-in Re(?)Considered. (No you haven’t – Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer)

I’ve written about the terrific Addams Family game from Ocean before, but never its direct sequel Pugsley’s Scavenger Hunt, released in 1992 exclusively for the Super NES. Actually, that’s not strictly true, as games of the same title did hit NES and Game Boy, but they were compromised (but decent!) ports of the previous Addams title with player character Gomez replaced by his son, Pugsley. Not bad, but not the game I want to talk about. SNES all the way, folks.

Pugsley enjoys a sandwich. Yesterday.

Pugsley’s Scavenger Hunt eschews the Metroidvania-lite structure of the first game, but retains a degree of choice in which stage the player tackles first. The main problem being that no matter where you go, it’s incredibly easy to die. This game is rock-hard and no mistake. There’s barely room to breathe, with almost every space filled with enemies and hazards. It’s consistently difficult from beginning to end, demanding to the last in its utter relentlessness to the point that you might just chuck it all in. And I wouldn’t blame you. On top of this level of challenge, Pugsley himself is extremely slippery and has no means of attack besides jumping on enemies. Even the previous game had a sword and golf balls Gomez could throw, but not here. You’ve got to take it slowly and carefully or you’ll be dead in seconds. Methodical play is the only way to succeed in this Scavenger Hunt.

It’s all the more baffling that there’s no password or save system to speak of. While there are only six main levels, they’re each made up of many, many shorter segments – as many as fifteen or twenty. It can take well over half an hour to beat a single level even if you know what you’re doing. What I’m swinging at is it’s a long, hard game with no means of recording your progress. A baffling decision, though of course it is mitigated by the conveniences of emulation.

The entire level is framed like this. It's cool but a little unwieldy, like the rest of the game.

Despite this oversight and the generally heinous difficulty, I do rather like Scavenger Hunt. It’s a beautiful thing to look at with a fantastic use of pastel-ish colours, and the music is rather memorable. And, frankly, I enjoy how mean it is. There’s plenty of secrets to find and finishing a level – any level – feels like an achievement. While it’s very, very tricky I would hesitate to call it unfair; taking your time will usually yield a decent result and the controls are responsive despite Pugsley’s erratic movement. It’s just kinda fun to play something so utterly remorseless about destroying you, especially when it looks so childish on the surface (being based on the Hanna-Barbera cartoon, after all). You boot it up expecting a breezy time and just get your butt handed to you.

In fact, you could even describe it as the Dark Souls of (SHUT UP. – Everyone)