Frankenstein: Through the Eyes of the Monster

Frankenstein: Through the Eyes of the Monster
Game Name: Frankenstein: Through the Eyes of the Monster
Media: 1 CD-ROM
Publisher(s): Interplay
Developer(s): Amazing Media
Genre(s): Adventure
Release Date: 1997
Serial Number: T-12511H-50
Region: PAL

This is something of an oddity: A PC point-and-click adventure ported only to the Saturn, and only in Europe, at that. It is, however, a surprisingly good port. Mind you, the FMV is horribly grainy, and it’s embarrassing to see it juxtaposed against the smooth photo-realistic scenery.

Moreover, during the storm at the end, every time thunder hits the game actually pauses to load the sound, which ruins the mood.
But the load times in general seem slightly shorter than the PC version’s, and though this game came to the Saturn before the mouse peripheral did, the developers found a way to enhance the controls which is arguably even better.

Namely, they employed the shift buttons, using them as hotkeys for turning left and right. It is impossible to relate how beautifully this streamlines the navigation, erasing the tedium of the PC version. It’s a nice touch that shows actual thought was put into bringing this game to the Saturn.

If you’re not in any way familiar with Frankenstein: Through the Eyes of the Monster, here’s a simple summation: Most point-and-clicks for the Saturn are split into two camps. One, comedic affairs with bright, cartoon-style graphics and lots of animation(e.g. Blazing Dragons and Discworld I and II), and two, austere works with pre-rendered photo-realistic graphics and occasional FMV(e.g. Myst, Riven, and Jewels of the Oracle). Frankenstein falls into camp two.

FRANKENSTEIN: THROUGH THE EYES OF THE MONSTER SCREENSHOT“Frankenstein” is a somewhat misleading title, since the story has nothing in common with Mary Shelley’s novel, and very little in common with any of the film adaptations I know of, either. Instead, the game simply borrows the concept of a scientist working independently to imbue inanimate flesh with life and uses it as the basis for a new story.

“Through the Eyes of the Monster” is a bit misleading as well; while the game does run in 1st person perspective, the protagonist, Phillip, never seems very monstrous.

In stark contrast to the dull-witted monster of the movies, Phillip is a well-spoken scientist.

The premise of the story is that Phillip is framed for the murder of his daughter, Gabrielle, and hung, only to be brought back to life by one Dr.Victor Frankenstein for reasons which the game never really explains.
Outraged by Frankenstein’s deranged experiments, Phillip begins seeking a way to stop him.

This sounds promising enough, and there are a few dramatic moments, but by the end the story as a whole has become a complete mess. There’s nothing complicated about the plot, but the writers did manage to create some doozies of plot holes: Gabrielle pops up, the writers having inexplicably forgotten that she’d been murdered, while the evil monster who hunts Phillip for much of the game is absent from the final acts, with no word of his fate.

Moreover, pointless backstory revelations are thrown in willy-nilly, and the tone keeps changing in irrational manner, as though the writers couldn’t decide what sort of tale they wanted to tell.

Yet most appaling of all is the lack of any resolution to the conflict between Phillip and Frankenstein, a conflict which most of the game builds up towards. It’s painfully clear that none of the writers had any experience in storytelling.

The acting does provide some saving grace. The main draw is that Dr.Frankenstein is played by the famous Tim Curry. To our benefit, Curry doesn’t take the story too seriously, and delightfully hams up nearly every scene he appears in. He has enough edge to make the doctor seem menacing, while using his madness as the motive for some zestful wit. His cutting humor is in such contrast to the stilted quasi-Victorian dialogue of the other characters that one can’t help but suspect that much of Frankenstein’s dialogue was ad-libbed by Curry.
The rest of the cast give more uneven performances, but they are mostly passable at worst, and with cringe-inducing dialogue like “Who is this evil man that would torture me so harshly?” and “The more I look at her, the more I am stuck by her beauty,” the occasional poor delivery is understandable.

FRANKENSTEIN: THROUGH THE EYES OF THE MONSTER SCREENSHOTThough the game does a fair job of integrating story with gameplay, including a few time-sensitive events, the meat of it all is the puzzles, which are rather lacking.

Though early on you can find a bag to carry items in, it’s rarely necessary, as the overwhelming majority of puzzles only use items which are immediately at hand.
Indeed, a shockingly high percentage involve simply taking the only item in the vicinity that you can pick up and using it on the only device in the vicinity that you can interact with. In one room you find a pair of scales with a rock on one of them; simply take the rock and put it in the other scale, and the secret door opens.

The puzzles are, in short, so overtly shallow that they at times feel an insult to your intelligence. Of course, stupidly simple puzzles are at least better than hopelessly abstruse ones, but Frankenstein isn’t a game you can finish with ease anyway. It suffers from lack of clear objectives at points, the non-linear gameplay can leave you stuck on “Where do I go now”, and there are even a couple points where you can unwittingly make it impossible to progress further.

These are mostly common problems in the point-and-click genre, and would all be forgivable if either the puzzles or the presentation were above average. Sadly, they aren’t. If you are fond of the likes of Myst and Riven and want more, give Frankenstein a try.
For all its flaws, it is quite playable and will give you your fix of realistic pre-rendered visuals, sombre mood, and surreal mechanical devices to point and click with. Otherwise, though, you should probably pass this one by in favor of a point-and-click with deeper and more engaging puzzles.

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