I could immediately tell Dr. Chaos is a horror themed game because, not unlike an Angelfire web page of the ‘90s, the title is written in blood. Dripping blood. Cheesiness aside, the title screen is actually pretty cool, with a nice tune and a dynamic haunted house full of things going on. Hi! I’m Stephen Hopkins, the guy behind the mostly dead Poverty Game Night, On the Stick listener, and, I guess, now contributor. I’ve written about the game before, because I think it’s an under-appreciated game, but seeing as it’s October and that means horror around here, I figured I could write about the game coming from a horror angle.
Don’t expect to get terrified while playing the game; it is an NES game from 1988, after all, but it is done in a horror style. If Castlevania is classic monster movies, then Dr. Chaos is classic haunted house/science fiction movies. It may not be a prototype of for the horror games that came after, but it does approach concepts that became part of the survival horror genre. There is inventory management, with a limited amount of ammunition, which encourages exploration to keep supplies stocked up, though I think some items respawn. Even so, ammo feels limited and it encourages the player to be conservative with the use of guns. There are also some jump scares that make the exploring more tense.
The structure of the game, a nonlinear sidescrolling action game blended with a point-and-click adventure, has a lot of potential that it doesn’t quite live up to. Exploring the mansion is not very linear, and it basically ends up being a search for a series of entrances to a long hallways, each leading to a boss. When exploring during the point-and-click portions the only thing to do is poke around to find ammo and potions (and monsters). The game could benefit from more fleshed out adventure game elements, with a system of puzzles to solve and keys to get. Basically, it could be like a 2D Resident Evil game (at least that’s what I think would’ve been cool). I can’t really blame the game for being what it is considering the context of when it came out. Still, it is a surprisingly cool game about a guy going to a creepy place to stop his mad scientist brother, stabbing and shooting a bunch of monsters, and smashing holes in walls.
- Released: November, 1988
- System: Nintendo Entertainment System
- Developer/Publisher: Marionette/FCI