Halloween

The Halloween Grab Bag!
Dr. Chaos: The NES Game!
by: Dr. Boogie

I sometimes like to revisit old NES games I couldn't get anywhere with back in the day, just to see if I was simply too young to figure them out, or if they were just shit. All too often it's the latter, but once in a long while, it turns out to be the former. Dr. Chaos is somewhere in the middle:

You don't actually play as the titular Dr. Chaos. Instead, you control his brother, Michael. I assume Michael holds some kind of degree himself because the story is that his accredited brother was sending Michael his research notes on warp zones for review, then stopped all of a sudden. Sadly, Dr. Chaos' doctorate in Physics did not prepare him for living creatures mutated by the warp zones he was leaving all over his house. Now it's up to Mike and his giant knife to beat back these creatures by reassembling the pieces to a device he's never seen before and use it in some way that he could not possibly know about.

It's Nintendo. You didn't need to have a whole lot of exposition back then. Then again, how much backstory do you need when you've got a title screen like this:

Look at that! Dripping blood, a dark mansion, some guy lurking around the windows, and a laughing skull. All it needs is a badly-digitized woman's scream and it would be the perfect opener to a horror game!

I'll admit it's a bit discouraging to start the game up expecting horror and getting a house full of vermin, but you just need to stick with it. You see, Dr. Chaos' experiments have left warp zones all over his house, and you'll need to gather up whatever supplies you can find before you face them. Thankfully, in addition to being a clumsy scientist, Dr. Chaos is also one of the world's most prolific gun collectors. Pistols in cabinets, machineguns in closets. Hell you can find grenades hidden in picture frames! Seems like he was preparing for armageddon.

And that doesn't even make sense!

Once you've got enough guns 'n ammo, you have to do the same thing, but looking for warp zones instead of firearms. Even a nondescript cabinet could hold a pathway to another dimension, so you've got to case this joint like the world's most put-upon cat burglar. Every room has to be searched from the smallest cabinet to...

HOLY FUCKING SHIT IT'S DISCOUNT FRANKENSTEIN! GET THE HELL AWAY FROM ME YOU GODDAMN FREAK!!!

One of the drawbacks to having a house full of interdimensional portals is that heinous monsters can come charging out at you at any moment while you're busy searching for stuff. In addition to "Franken", you could also be attacked by "Omen":

Or "Big Lady":

All three do more damage than the rats and bats you're accustomed to fighting outside the warp zones, and Franken has the added bonus of slowing you down when you first exit the room in terror when it "warps the space." Getting chased out by a monster that appears from nowhere is freaky, but trying to run away and succeeding only in scooting along the ground is terrifying in it's own right.

Eventually, you'll get things back on track and enter a warp zone:

It's a jungle in there. And also a corridor. And sometimes an underwater cave.

Warp zones are where things get serious. No more bats and rats, oh how you'll be wishing for the days of bats and rats. No, now you've got slimes, killer fish, skulls, and the occasional sub boss-type monster like this Flying Skeleton:

Or this...

... this... what the hell is this thing!? Long, spindly limbs, three rows of breasts, and a face like it just smelled a particularly eggy fart. What does the manual say...

"Elephant"? Well of course. That's exactly what I was going to say... if you were to ask me, "what trunk-wielding mammal does this grotesquerie in no way resemble?"

And how about bosses? Oh, we've got bosses.

Each one has a specific way they have to be attacked in order to kill them. Or you can just try to stab them to death with the knife, if you don't mind having to inflict as many as 60 stab wounds on a boss that may only need to hit you five or six times. Some, like the skull dragon boss, actually become more difficult as the fight goes on if you don't attack them in the specific way needed to bring about their swift end. And when/if you finally beat them, you'll still need to make it all the way back to the start of the zone without dying.

Dying is where the game starts to blow a little. When you die, you come back to life at the front door to the mansion with all the parts you've found, and nothing else. Between levels, you want to peep in each and every room to grind up weapons and health for the next zone, but having to start from nothing and build it up just so you can fight a boss that just kicked your ass can be a bit of a drag. Plus, once you beat a zone, you still have to find the next zone. Once you have the special items that let you jump higher and breathe underwater, it doesn't really matter which one you pick, but up until that point, you really have to do them in order.

Back then, it made sense to pad out a 45-minute game with extra errands like that, but now it just kind of seems like busywork. The kind of thing that gets between a guy who just wants to machinegun freaks in his brother's wormholes.

Supposing that you do gather up all the parts to Dr. Chaos' mystery device, you'll discover that it's a laser. Then you'll discover that you can't actually use the laser, and this will all seem pointless. It's not, though; you just have to save it for the only boss who has an official name: Canbarian!

You can visit Canbarian anytime you want, but if you can't jump high enough to stab him, then he just plain doesn't give a fuck. And if you can, but you don't have the laser fully assembled, then he'll give just enough of a fuck to blast you with fireballs until you die or run off in terror. And if you DO have the jumping boots and the laser, then he'll... pretty much sit there while you drill him in the head with laser blasts. Not exactly an epic climax, but it's supposed to be about the journey!

So you defeat Canbarian, and it transforms back into Dr. Chaos. The two brothers share a warm embrace, and that's it. I wasn't hoping to see them spoon, but a little more would've been nice. Maybe Michael could tell his brother to get a smaller house. And then Dr. Chaos would get super defensive and start criticizing Michael for never finishing school, reminding Michael that he's just "Mr. Chaos." Michael would be furious, but deep down, he'd know his brother was right.

And so, Michael would return to school to finish his doctorate in Theoretical Monster Portals. After school, he'd get a job working at a biotech firm. The work would be stable, but he'd always have that itch in the back of his mind telling him that things could go wrong at any moment. Consequently, he'd start stashing guns in the break room and hiding grenades above the fluorescent lights. This would come to HR's attention thanks to some jealous coworker, but Michael would never find out who because shortly thereafter, something would go terribly wrong.

Meanwhile, Dr. Chaos returns to his research, only without Michael to review his notes. His work gets increasingly sloppy until one day, he just gives up. He realizes that Michael's help was important, but that he also really misses his brother. The two of them had a real rapport that few people in this world have, but Dr. Chaos wouldn't understand that until it was too late. He'd try to call Michael, but would get no answer, and so he would go to his lab to try and meet with him. Instead of his brother, he would find a lab filled with annoying vermin, but also dangerous mutations. "Full circle," he'd say to himself with a wry grin, as he bolted down the hallway in search of cabinets and picture frames to plunder.

That's how I'd expect the ending to go. It would be a nice lead-in for Dr. Chaos 2: The Doctors Chaos.

Have any questions or comments about this piece?
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS IN THE READER COMMENTS SECTION BELOW!

 

If you enjoyed this piece, be sure to check out:


Beetlejuice: The NES Game!

and


Night Slashers!

Reader Comments

Forum Virgin
Sep 25th, 2013, 03:36 PM
I am pretty sure that after this game, Michael learned Kung-Fu and used it to save his girlfriend Sylvia from Mr. X!

Dino Doctor
Sep 25th, 2013, 04:39 PM
Apparently some of the monsters in this game are ripped off from the movie House. That frankenstein monster is actually supposed to be Big Ben the zombie vietnam veteran.
Forum Virgin
Sep 25th, 2013, 04:49 PM
Wait, so the final boss is King Moon Racer?
Pickled Patriarch
Sep 25th, 2013, 05:26 PM
I thought it was Simba the Lion King.
The Medium-Height Man
Sep 25th, 2013, 08:12 PM
Doctor Allosaurus, I was about to say the exact same thing. It seems like a lot was directly ripped from the movie House. Not only Big Ben, but the Big Lady, the flying skeleton and even the warp settings, like the jungle and the cave. There's even machine guns and William Katt beats Big Ben (Richard Moll) by shoving a grenade into his exposed ribcage! Sadly, it doesn't seem like George Wendt is anywhere to be found, eating beans or not.
The Medium-Height Man
Sep 25th, 2013, 08:38 PM
And this page actually has a comparison image : http://www.listentome.net/stuff126.php
Sympathizes with the foo'
Sep 25th, 2013, 09:39 PM
Hardcoregaming101.net has another review that also touches on the similarities to House. It's possible that the game was at one point going to bear the movie's license. Who Knows?
Dino Doctor
Sep 26th, 2013, 12:08 PM
Yeah, that's where I learned about it by listening to one of the podcasts they had about it.

Interestingly enough Pony Canyon had actually made a game for House on the MSX, So I'm not entirely sure if they just liked the design of the monsters or figured they could just stick them in because they still had the license, kind of like how Spider-Man was in Revenge of Shinobi. Here's a video of the MSX game:
Legendary From Hell
Sep 27th, 2013, 03:28 AM

Dr. Chaos: The NES Game!

I saw this game reviewed on another site years ago, but the review wasn't very good and didn't inspire me to try the game. But this is the first time I've ever seen a detailed review of this game and I think I just might try the game now. I do like games of this kind. Thanks for the review, Dr. Boogie.
Forum Virgin
Oct 2nd, 2013, 01:54 PM
Yup...Dr. Chaos, The movie House...Deff some way too obvious comparisons there for sure. Another Great article from the Doc!!!

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