Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a NES game whose very existance is baffling. Why does this exist? Who thought, hmmm, let’s make a game based on this old story – but not even follow the book at all? And then who decided to make it one of the most brutal games in history?
This title has some infamy thanks to the Angry Video Game Nerd who extensively raged on it, and honestly that does paint a decent picture of the game and its frustrations. But I am going to go through my personal experience, and how I have seen hell, and am a different man for it. This will probably turn super ranty, but it needs to come out while the horror is still fresh in my mind.
These dudes just waiting to spring for the attack.
You star as Jekyll and you must make it to your wedding without getting really pissed off, because when Jekyll gets mad he turns into the terrible Mr. Hyde and is transported to the demon realm where he…shoots fires balls and punches monsters. Huh!? Or is it the real world and he’s goin ham on civilians he thinks are monsters…!? Dat’s some Silent Hill level shit right there. In any case, Jekyll is going to have a hell of a time not getting mad because the streets of London (?) are a fuckin’ warzone of bullshit. Kids running around and shooting at you with slingshots, bees buzzin all over, mad cats and dogs, spiders, barrels, birds shitting everywhere, dudes riflin birds from the sky en masse, horrible singers spreading sick notes like a broken fountain, and the biggest demon of all: the red suited man, who is bombing the streets – literally! Even regular passerbys go insane and tackle you, but only when the bomber scares them into a panic. Everything is out to fuck up Jekyll, the entire world is against him, an otherwise regular walk to the church turns into a battle of survival, and what makes it worse?
Jekyll is absolutely useless.
He moves incredibly slow, has a slow crappy jump, and a cane attack that does nothing to anything except to bees, which upon contact makes a sound like he is grabbing the bee for his collection. Okay? With all the stuff on screen piling up it turns into a random bullet hell, except you are as nimble as mud. And the enemies? Completely ridiculous.
- The child that shoots at you, his slingshot can be ducked under and is generally not much of a threat. However, he shoots literally randomly. He does things differently every time, sometimes not shooting at all even. With all the other crap going on in the screen, his randomness makes it difficult to keep a hawk-eye on him while trying to avoid everything else.
- Bees move completely randomly. Sometimes they will just not get out of the way. Sometimes they are easy and just fly atop the screen. Sometimes, they just come down on you. Luckily, they can be killed, but again, they often make bad situations worse by creating a floating barrier and fuckin up your jumps.
- Birds are probably the easiest, they just poo on you and can be avoided left or right. However, what they often do is force you into certain positions against other enemies, causing you to be hit.
- Rifle men are similiar, they shoot birds out of the sky that drop on you. These guys have gatling guns apparently because the birds drop at a rate that’ll see them extinct. These are harder than the poo cuz they come down fast, and at weird spots sometimes.
- Grave diggers will shoot dirt up in random directions; not too bad, interestingly.
- Cats are docile until they get startled, then it’s a simple jump. Not bad on its own, but their volatility make them like the kids where you gotta be real careful.
- Dogs are brutal. They charge at you at seemingly random (sometimes they never get up from sleeping at all!), then are a bitch to jump over, because they’ll turn right back around after they pass under you, then turn back again to go off to the left of the screen. The super floaty jump Jekyll does makes it extremely difficult to jump dogs without landing on them or having them tackle from behind without guesswork, because their turn-around distances are also fairly random.
- Singing ladies spew notes all over the place, sometimes sniping you from a distance. It is a shower of projectiles, that can be carefully traversed like a bullet hell maze on its own, but she is almost always with other enemies that make it rough.
- Spiders are just walls, essentially. The block your path until they move up and you can pass under them. Are very annoying when they block out your dodges.
- Barrels are in the last level, and they just move along the ground, but two at a time and at different, again, RANDOM speeds. Sometimes you gotta do two quick jumps, sometimes you gotta time a jump to clear both, always different.
- Bombmen….fuck. These guys waltz up and drop a bomb before running away. It is nearly impossible to just walk past and get out of its range, more often than not you have to run backwards to avoid it, making progress difficult because he likes to show up a ton. What’s worse, is that its range is seemingly random like everything else. What didn’t hit you one time suddenly hits you another. I found a way to consistently avoid the blast, but with all the shit going on screen, it’s tough.
- Townspeople only are enemies when a bomb is dropped. Then they go ape shit and speed by, tackling you. You gotta try to jump all these random people while also avoiding the blast and kids and bees and and and…
Now take all these enemies, and put multiple of them on the screen at any given time. Progress is at a snails pace, especially in the last level, where the bomb guy has endless barrels coming at you, all the while he immediately respawns the moment the bomb goes off. It is a incredibly long dance of inching forward, running back from the bomb, and inching more, all the while praying your jumps don’t get owned by the random barrels.
What you get is that Jekyll will get mad and will turn into Hyde. The enemies, their hitboxes and behaviours – everything is not just hard, but seemingly random as hell and thus sometimes completely impossible to avoid. And it can snowball fast, one hit by some bee can turn into you getting Tekken comboed back against the left wall by all the other crap coming in for the kill as you flounder in vain.
Brain frogs and fireballs were Robert Louis Stevenson’s original intent.
So you’re Hyde. What he do? He goes from right to left, reverse of Jekyll, and goes through the same levels but demon world version. You can punch and shoot a fireball with the most weird garbage trajectory ever, and collect coins. The coins let you pay off bad singers to get by them slightly easier. The enemies are mostly harmless, but if you lose all your life, you die. You can luckily continue, as Jekyll, with full HP at the last level you were on. There is one enemy that shoots a spread shot at you, and is super hard to dodge sometimes because it comes out super fast, has a weird hitbox, and, you guessed it, sometimes feels pretty random.
More enemies you kill, the more you restore your anger meter and can be Jekyll again. You want this. Because, ironically you do NOT want to actually progress to the end of the level with Hyde. It is a constant chase; you need to make more progress as Jekyll than Hyde. If Hyde catches up to Jekyll in the game, it’s game over. Maybe it signifies Hyde has officially consumed Jekyll? Either way, it is a very interesting concept I will admit, and is a way to show the struggle against your evil side, which plays a lot more fast and fun than Jekyll. Hyde gets to kill stuff, moves faster, and is overall more competent. You almost want to be Hyde, even though it makes you lose. Again, it’s a good way to represent that struggle with Hyde that Jekyll himself has, where it gives him pleasure, but will lead to his demise.
Sounds cool, but eventually it just becomes frustrating how much of a piece of stale bread Jekyll is. I am almost convinced this game is intentionally hard, frustrating, and atrocious to play through, as some sort of early NES-era artistic expression. Even though that still doesn’t explain away how everything in town is out to get him and how he has to actively, stressfully do acrobatics just to avoid being touched by things that might piss him off. Hectically avoiding being shit on and bombed in public doesn’t get him stressed, he’s only stressed once a bee or whatever actually physically touches him. I imagine him straight-faced-cool as he hops barrels, smacks bees, leaps dogs, dodges hysterical people, and avoids confrontation after confrontation with a mad bomber only to suddenly go into a fit of rage the moment a spider taps him on the shoulder.
If you don’t have an absolute boat load of patience, you cannot beat this. The constant barrage of insanity against a dud Jekyll make this game painful to get through. At the end when I saw the church gates and the bomber for the last time, I made my dodge, headed to the pearly gates and awaited with joy my text and/or cutscene. And this is all I got:
That’s it. That’s the end. No shot of Jekyll with his gal, no story text. Awesome. Thanks. All that work and hell for a one screen ending. Help me. Apparently there is an alternate ending, where you get to the last level as Jekyll, and then let Hyde catch up to you and enter the church, but ’twas not for me at the time. Seems easier to do that, though, then try to beat the nightmare that is the last level of Jekyll.
In the end, it’s a walking simulator with a lot of stress. It makes a Jekyll out of all of us, the players, and sees if it can turn us into Hydes, as well. But not today, foul demon, not today.