The Munsters logo

AMERICAN TV in the mid '60s was hot on cute spooks. Shows like Bewitched, where a puckish housewife did nothing more scary than twitch her nose, were all the rage. Another shadowy sitcom was The Munsters, a hit over there but never quite a cult on this side of the Atlantic.

However any famous TV show is worth hanging a licence on, and so we get, 25 years after the first broadcasts crypt out, The Munsters computer game.

The running gag of the show was that although caked in mad Max Factor and looking like death warmed up, the members of Famly Munster were nice guys and ghouls.

The game is based on the idea that as a punishment for all this niceness the Prince of Darkness has sent his truly evil mobsters to kidnap the one normal character, Marilyn. In order to release her from the demonic clutches, the rest of the Munsters have to wander through their house, collecting bits in the right order.

It takes three Munsters to get through the game, you control each in turn. First off is Lily, who gets this, that and the other and activates Granpa, who then has to head off somewhere else followed by Herman, who finally takes over.

Against the massed ranks of Old Nick's army you have spells. These look remarkably like glowing tennis balls - ever seen a glowing tennis ball? But lob them at the spooky sprites which ingest Schloss Munster and you won't go far wrong.

The house is depicted in two dimensions. You can walk along the floor up and down stairs, but that's it for manoeuvres.

The graphics are pretty, lots of background detail and interesting objects which, if you can't collect them, do absolutely nothing. Once collected, objects disappear for good and play no further role in the game beyond letting the character complete his, her or its part in the, erm, plot.

The ectoplasmic enemy swoop from out of the ceiling, behind the doors or from the stairwell. Some can be zapped by the balls, others have to be dodged. This isn't always possible, and close study of the perambulatory habits of the nastier customers is needed to prevent al all to frequent demise.

There's only one life per game, and this is lost either as a result of energy depletion by lots of small spooks, or by total lifeforce removal following a brush with a really evil entity.

This game is so scary that it frightened my Amiga into not working unless I took out its extra memory and hid it under the duvet. "Amiga - All Models" boasts the box. This is not true - only 512k machines will run The Munsters.

The fact that there is precious little to do is partially hidden by the way in which it is far too easy to die and start again from the beginning. Pictures are so-so, sound is minimal, as is the chance of this game holding any Amiga owner's interest for more than 10 minutes.

The Munsters logo

Again Again
C64 £9.99 cass, £14.99 disk

Don't expect too much from the claim that Again Again's The Munsters is based upon the 60's smash of the same name. The game shares little of the invention or wit of the original TV series. For an all edged piece of 'horribly good software' this, I am afraid, is more a horrible ham sandwich - stodgy, stale and liable to stick in your throat.

What makes this less-than-appetising arcade adventure so hard to swallow is its turgid, simplistic gameplay, so-so plot and decidedly average graphics. I cannot ever imagine getting excited enough to play this game time and time over.

'Blimey!' I hear you thunder, 'Here's one reviewer who's really got the bit between his teeth'. Well maybe. The idea behind the plot is actually quite neat. It is the way that this is interpreted so literally which makes The Munsters so dull.

Depending on which of the three levels you are in, you get to play Herman, Grandpa and Lily in their quest to rescue their oddball offspring. Eddie and Marilyn, from the clutches of the likes of Dracula and Satan, who have decided to teach the Munster family a lesson for being too damn cuddly for a supposed group of fiends.

Level one finds you wandering through the house, its chapel and graveyard in search of Eddie. You must defend yourself against hovering blue spectres. These can only be killed if you have the appropriate icon. Once you have managed to side-step Dracula (old twinkle-teeth is indestructible, so no touching please), and you have blown away a few ghoulies (ouch!), especially the spell-sapping darker kinds, it is off to the cemetery.

Zombies rise out of the ground à la Ghosts 'n' Goblins, so collect the lightning conductor and fry them as they rise. Rescue Eddie, encounter some jiggery spookery in the catacombs, and it is on to level two.

Here you control a dragon as it flies above the Munster-mobile. The idea is basic enough: kill obstacles and spinning discs which turn into werewolves. There are two ways of protecting the car: you can breathe fire onto the opposition or you can lift the auto of harm's reach.

The final level could have been a sort of Operation Wolfman. It certainly should have been a lot better. You have to rescue Marilyn by shooting three times the enemy as they emerge from the doorways of the room in which you are in: It is the simplest of the levels, and it is very much an anticlimax.

But it is the numbingly repetitious gameplay to which I most object. The action is slow and this is particularly the case with the first level, where in between killing the guardians of some very faint icons, you have to replenish your spell power by zapping minor ghosts.

This did not sustain my interest. The animation makes it look as if your energy bolts emanate from Lily's chest instead of her hands. By the time that you have come a cropper and you have run into your third or fourth spell-sapping ghost, you do not feel like starting anew. It is time to put bazooka boobs and the whole game to rest.

It could have been faster. There could have been more to the sound than just the endlessly repeated 'Munsters' theme. The graphics could be clearer and a more inventive.

It is a shame. The Munsters smacks of the Stock Aitken and Waterman 'get-'em-out-quick' approach to software publishing. This game should have been fun. With a little more though that might have been the case.

The Munsters logo

Again Again, C64 £9.99 cassette, £14,95 disk; Amiga £19.99

The Munsters aren't half a weird bunch. I mean, they walk around looking like death warmed up... OK, they look like death still cold, but that's not the point. The point is that they're nice! They don't go around haunting or terrorising, they just all look... weird.

Now Mr Pointy Tail himself, Old Nick, has decided that such a weird, ghostly looking family should be doing devilish things. To try and persuade them, he uses evil tactics to blackmail them, he kidnaps Marilyn, the pretty blonde one! Ooh, the rotter. The rest of the Munster family - Lily, Herman, Eddy and Grandpa - must go to the rescue.

You kick off as Lily, by zapping some of the ghosties that Old Nick has filled the house with to increase the spell level. The spell level is essential for destroying some of the more nasty creatures and for reviving the other members of the family so that they can help you. This isn't all you need though, since you must then collect various objects which will allow you to kill the ghouls and monsters and activate the family.

Walking around the house, you may bet the impression that some of the locations are inaccessible. Indeed they are, until you get the right object and build enough spell power to dispatch the spirit guarding the door or stairwell, allowing you to search other rooms. But beware! Any touch by a member of the underworld saps your energy, eventually causing death. Gasp!

The family must rescue Marilyn! They can't fall ill to the will of the Devil and turn to the ways of the underworld! Or can they...?

Gordon Houghton This is an extremely poor rendition of the TV programme. Even though I can't really profess to being a fan of The Munsters series, I can still spot a bad game when I see one. This is a bad game and I've seen it. Playing for about half an hour gives the initial impression that the programmers have just made the going very unfair instead of making the puzzles mind taxing, but since it's an arcade adventure I thought I'd better persevere. It didn't get any better, though. It got to the point where I just threw the joystick across the table and gave up in sheer frustration. Yeuch.
Maff Evans I got the impression while playing this that the programmers of The Munsters haven't been keeping up with the pace of arcade adventure development. It looks ancient in all respects: dull graphics, awful sound and archaic puzzles. The Amiga's graphics are marginally better - you can just recognise the characters portrayed - but they're still well below the standard that the machine is capable of. The first half dozen or so games are taken up by aimlessly walking around getting killed by all manner of annoying ghosties; even when you do work things out it hardly seems fair or logical. Oh, and you'd think that 16-bit users would get more puzzles for their memory - but no, the game's exactly the same. Oh dear.
Zzap's Front: Come on! Zzap's Back: I can't go on anymore!