Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (NES)

Thoughts on Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde for the NES? Many people see this title as a prime example on how not to design a videogame.

I tried it out. Didn’t really get what was going on at first, some townspeople seemed to damage me, there were explosions. Then I turned into Mr Hyde and punched some people then died. Decided to read the manual, since a lot of games from that time period explained things in the manual.

Became pretty obvious. The idea is that Dr Jekyll is trying to go to the church (by moving right). The different townspeople have different behaviors that can hurt you, like if they rush at you, sling rocks at you, or leave bombs when you walk over them.

When you lose all your stress meter you become Mr Hyde and can only go back to being Dr Jekyll by defeating enemies in a scrolling shooter type of thing. You can move during this scrolling shooter, which accelerates the rate at which you move left in addition to avoiding enemies and obstacles. If you reach the end of the scrolling shooter, you lose the game. You can never completely stop your progress in the shooter and when you die, it’s game over. So you need to play really well to both avoid dying and get back to Dr. Jekyll, which is where you make progress towards winning.

Interestingly, the enemies in the scrolling shooter are set up so they’ll almost always hit you if you stay on the rightmost part of the screen (the part where your movement is slowest), so either you need to take them out before they can hit you there, or move out of the rightmost edge, speeding up the rate at which you approach

My biggest criticism is the framerate is shit. Like, really shit. 15-20FPS shit. And the Jekyll portion is rather uninteresting. There’s no platforming, a lot of enemy types are samey, and the guys that leave bombs behind suck because the hitbox is way bigger than the bomb.

Dogs interestingly will come at you from the front, then after they pass you, double back, and then once they’ve passed you again, double back again. Cats have a more boring behavior, walking from behind you, but not catching up with you, then doubling back until they touch the edge of the screen and just going straight across the screen. Birds shit on you. There’s diggers that pop dirt out of the ground which spreads randomly, so you just pray it doesn’t hit you. Villagers can behave a bit more unpredictably.

What I’d say is, it’s an inspired game with an interesting concept, attempting to make progress versus trying to avoid making progress when progress is inevitable and going slow is risky. The enemy design in the Hyde level is reasonably interesting. Jekyll has his moments. Yeah, the rules aren’t telegraphed amazingly, but it’s also not completely obtuse.

Have a speedrun, dude goes into Hyde mode at about 17:00. It’s honestly really impressive. A ton of people accused him of cheating in the comments, but I can believe it.

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