It’s a bit of a hot take, but Outright Games, makers of The Addams Family: Mansion Mayhem, don’t get the credit they deserve. When they get their children’s games right, and it’s a bit of a coin flip when they do, they can be among the few who understand what a young player needs from a video game. It’s absolutely not long cutscenes, time limits, complicated puzzles or sprawling level-up trees. It’s being able to play as your favourite characters, pulling off fabulous moves without the fear of failure, and – often – playing with friends and family. Paw Patrol: Mighty Pups Save Adventure Bay and Trollhunters: Defenders of Arcadia are good examples of when they’ve got it right.
There are examples of Outright Games getting it wrong – the recent Paw Patrol The Movie: Adventure City Calls is a car crash – but The Addams Family: Mansion Mayhem keeps getting decision after decision right. Bravo, Addams Family: we weren’t expecting it, but this is an example for how kids games should be made, and you don’t have to be an Addams Family fan to enjoy it.
Reason #1: The Addams Family: Mansion Mayhem is built from the ground up for four-players to play locally. Not every family is going to have four game pads lying around, but for those that do, there’s an undeniable joy from being able to play The Addams Family: Mansion Mayhem together. You each get a member of The Addams Family, and you’re merrily barreling around linear levels, collecting coins and defeating enemies.
The secret to the multiplayer success here is that, unlike a lot of cooperative platformers, there’s no reliance on a particular character or player. There’s no special Wednesday or Gomez special move, for example. It means that any player can overcome any obstacle, which leaves it down to your own couch politics. When we play, our youngest MUST be the one to finish the level, and The Addams Family: Mansion Mayhem is fine with that.
Reason #2: it makes you feel incredibly super-powered, no matter your ability level. The Addams Family: Mansion Mayhem’s crown jewels are its weapons. There are four, unlocked over the course of the game, and they’re incredibly varied and fun to use. You start with the Mazurka Saber, a sword that can be used to one-hit almost all enemies in the game, but it also gives you a tornado-like spin that allows you to float across chasms. When the two biggest threats in the game are enemies and falling off platforms, the Mazurka Saber gives you a safety net for both.
But it’s all about the Baller Bomb. Even the name’s great. This is an ability that turns you into something like a Monkey Ball, rolling around the arena on a bomb. You’ve got an infinite number of them, but while you’re riding you are effectively immortal. You can ram into enemies and they’ll explode into a shower of coins, and then you can pump out another bomb before you’ve even hit the floor. The same goes for blocks; what once took several hits is destroyed in one single Baller Bomb. It’s overpowered, but who cares? Younger players will feel great as they zoom around the levels, obliterating everything in their path.
If there’s a criticism it’s that the last weapon – a little octopus that sits on your shoulder called the Octo Stream – can’t hold a candle to the rest. It’s a bit of a Super Mario Sunshine rip off, squirting ink like a hose and using it as a jetpack to higher levels. But the octopus jetpack is extremely similar to the Mazurka Saber tornado, and the hose effect is weak and hard to control. On levels where you get to sporadically return to older weapons, it only highlights how limp the Octo Stream is in comparison.
Reason #3: Failure isn’t a thing. Not really. Sure, there is combat in The Addams Family: Mansion Mayhem, and some of the enemies can be belligerent. They will hassle and keep hitting you until you lose all three of your hearts. But they are all killed with a single hit, and the Baller Bomb in particular makes you a rolling god.
But if you do die – and it will happen – then you just have to wait a second or two to come back. If all of you wipe at the same time, that’s fine too – you will all appear on the closest platform. There are no time limits and nothing that will panic your little tykes. At no point – outside of some rather challenging robot knights in the final chapter – did our six-year old ever rage quit or ask us to do something for her because she couldn’t. And that happens all the time in other games.
Reason #4: it keeps giving you joyful things to do. Forget all of the important, completing-the-level stuff: it’s all about the detail. Grab skulls and you can pop them on headless skeletons for coins. Find shredders and you can dump nuts and bolts into them for cash. My daughter loved the Spider Sling, which allows you to grab things and put them on a leash, so she traversed entire levels with a bad guy as a pet. There’s no real need for these joyful bits and pieces, but we were glad they were there.
The Addams Family: Mansion Mayhem is by no means perfect. There are four worlds to play, with roughly eight levels in each, and eight feels too long. By that point, you’ve grown a little tired of the same enemies and platforms, and hanker for a new skin on proceedings. The story is hokey and unmemorable, and boy do they keep chatting. It’s fair to say that you can skip it and lose nothing.
Skim down to that 4/5, and you may well wonder if The Addams Family: Mansion Mayhem is a platforming gem. Well, not exactly. This is a game aimed at kids and their families, and it nails that target with pinpoint accuracy. It’s not a revolutionary step in platforming. It’s not a Mario Odyssey. It’s not even a Super Mario Bros 2. It’s just a kooky, spooky playground for up to four players, designed by people who know their audience and what they want from their video game thrills.
My daughter shouted “this is the best game ever!” multiple times, mostly while surfing on a bowling bomb. That’s a better poster quote than we could ever give it.
You can buy The Addams Family: Mansion Mayhem from the Xbox Store for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S