Monday, October 20, 2014

Hugo's House of Horrors - Haunted House of DOS

Back in the early 90's my Dad got our first IBM PC Compatible and a whole new world opened up to me.  One of the earliest games I remember playing was Hugo's House of Horrors, an adventure game utilizing a combination of keyboard controls and text input.  So basically you would control Hugo's movements using the arrow keys and then you would type in simple commands such as "Look at the door" or "Tell Igor to press button".  

Hugo's House of Horrors is a simplistic game that takes only about 15 to 20 minutes to complete if you know what you're doing.  That's the operative phrase, however....IF YOU KNOW WHAT YOU'RE DOING!  


Much like many adventure games of the 80's and 90's it was sometimes extremely difficult to figure out what to do next.  This was back before there was a walkthrough available online for every game known to man.  For a good part of my younger teenage years I was stuck at a certain point and I could not figure out how to proceed.  This was largely in part to slightly wonky controls and the fact that there are several points in the game that a point of no return so to speak.  If you don't save your game before you try certain parts and screw them up, there's no way to move forward.  I hate that and I think it's a cheap way to make you start all over.  

Okay that's enough backstory, I'm sure you're here because you want to hear about the game itself!  Hugo's girlfriend, Penelope has been kidnapped by a mad scientist and is being held captive in a spooky old house.  It's up to you and Hugo to make your way through the house, solve it's puzzles and save your girl.

Looks like a nice place......*GULP*

....yeah.....I get the feeling this isn't going to end well....

The house is populated by the mad scientists, a dining room full of monsters having a dinner party and one very mean dog!  Your adventure will take you underneath the house as well, which is where things will REALLY start to get difficult for you!

The game starts you off just outside the house.  The door is locked and you must find a way in.  A good many of the puzzles are either logic based or just a matter of looking around.  In this case, there is a jack o'lantern sitting on the front porch if you break it open, you'll find a key inside.  Fairly easy stuff.  

Once inside you'll find yourself in the main foyer.  You can either go upstairs and explore the rooms up there or you can explore the rooms downstairs.....when you're playing for the first time you are more than likely going to check out the first floor.  Makes sense right?  Why would anything deadly be in the immediate area when you first start playing?  Well, I'll tell you what....if you walk into the room immediately to the left you'll find an entire room full of monsters having a dinner party.  Guess what?  Now you're the main course.  The end.

 It's a monster dinner party!  Swell!  Anybody wanna do the Time Warp?

Yep, you even get to visit the haunted house's shed! Ooooh!

After cheap death number one, you're back outside and starting again.  You decide to trying the other room down stairs.  Turns out it's a kitchen.  Nothing to see really....it's your standard kitchen...although it IS a ghastly green color that will make you question the owner's interior decorating skills.  Say, what's in that room to the left of the kitchen?  You walk in and........are immediately eaten by a dog.  Son of a bitch.

Cheap death #2 and you're back in front of the house.  Hopefully by now you've learned to save your progress before venturing into any new rooms.  Yes, it's tedious, but it sure beats starting over every damn time you take two steps in the wrong direction!  I'm not going to run through the entire game here, I just wanted to give you an idea of how the game works and give you a feeling for the frustration level that will inevitably occur as you play.

Now don't get me wrong, it's a fun game and it's a good time going through the house and trying to solve the puzzles....but just remember that back in the day these games were made by a small staff of programmers....sometimes only one.....and what makes perfect sense to them as a puzzle may have you scratching your head for hours, days, weeks or in my case a few years!  Although in my case it wasn't so much a puzzle that did me in as the wording that was expected to be used.  That will get ya sometimes too....so be sure to CAREFULLY read every bit of text the game throws at ya!  

This guy is really wrapped up in himself........

This is what happened to Karnov when he got old and found he couldn't retire:  Henchman Duty.

After you manage to make your way through the house, you end up in the basement and then into conjoining caves full of bats and another one with a mummy in it!  Things get even more bizarre from there. 

The graphics are simple DOS 8-Bit style graphics but they are charming and do a good job of evoking a spooky fun Halloween vibe.  There are some fun monsters to check out and some fun environments to "sort-of" explore.  If you like adventure games of this ilk, then you'll dig Hugo's House of Horrors.  I would recommend it to anyone looking for some retro Halloween fun on their PC.  If I'm not mistaken, the game is available as Abandoneware through several websites....so fire up your DOSBox emulator and get in the house to save Penelope!

I should also mention that there were two sequels to Hugo's House of Horrors:  Hugo II:  Whodunit and Hugo III:  Jungle of Doom.  Just as they sound, the second is a murder mystery and the third is a jungle adventure.  I do believe these are also available on Abandonware sites, so if you dig the first one you may want to take a look at the other two!

If you should want to see the full game without having to go through the motions of playing yourself, I went ahead and included a video of the full playthrough.  It only lasts about sixteen minutes so it's a good way to see the full game.  I did all the hard work so you don't have to!  Enjoy!

video

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Spook Busters - Haunted House of Laughs

Spook Busters
1946
D: William Beaudine
W: Edmond Seward &Tim Ryan 

S: Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall & Douglass Dumbrille
Unrated  - Approx 68 Min
Monogram Pictures

Taglines:
None

Alternate Titles:
Ghost Busters (Working Title)
Cientista da Fuzarca - Brazil
(I could not get an accurate translation of this)








"Run for you life!  Charlie's got an ax!"
                                                             - Sach



If you listened to Episode II of the Midnight Cinephile podcast (you DID listen, didn't you?) you may have heard Doc Terror and myself discussing the programming on Turner Classic Movies this month.  For my money, TCM has THE best Halloween programming bar none across all channels.  Every year they sport a specific theme (one year, as mentioned by Doc, they showed all Hammer horror films!) and this year is no different.  This year's main theme is ghost stories....and they're digging up some great stuff that I've either never seen or haven't seen in a long time.

Secret passages that lead into a graveyard!  YES!

Tonight's offering, Spooky Busters is an old favorite of mine.  I remember watching this one as a kid on local cable late at night and even on the occasional Sunday afternoon.  It is the fourth film in The Bowery Boys series, which had a total of FORTY-EIGHT films!  More on the staggering number of films later.  The Bowery Boys were an incarnation of the original Dead End Kids, who then became The Little Tough Guys and then The East Side Kids before settling into their final incarnation. Terrence Aloysius "Slip" Mahoney was the leader of the gang which also consisted of Horace Debussey "Sach" Jones, Bobby, Gabe, Whitey and Chuck.  Each flick had them hanging around Louie's Sweet Shop until adventure came calling.  In this case, Slip & The Boys had graduated from Insect Extermination School and set up their own extermination business in the back of Louie's place.
Just as they are about to tear the place apart looking for a mouse they are summoned to Brown's Real Estate office with the promise of an extermination job.  Upon arrival they are informed that an old abandoned mansion is in dire of extermination.....from ghosts!  Slip, never one to turn down a job assures Mr. Brown that they can take care of the problem with no fuss.  Off the boys go on their first real job, completely oblivious to the danger they're in.

"Hey Buddy...lemme AX you a question!"

See, the mansion isn't abandoned at all.  There's a mad scientist who's conducting mad experiments in the basement and will do anything to get rid of the boys....including making them think that the house is haunted....just as he's been doing to keep everyone else out.

If you're a fan of the old school haunted house flicks, this hits all the tropes.  Secret passageways, hands reaching out of doorways and grasping, lights turning on by themselves, things moving on their own, etc.  It's all played explicitly for laughs as the boys bumble their way through the house.  Oddly enough there is a room full of magic and illusion props, such as a magic cabinet that makes Sachs vanish.  Slip goes in to look for him and a 5 minute coming and going schtick takes place.

Never trust a magic cabinet in a haunted house!

When the boys reach the basement and discover what's going on, Sach becomes and unwitting participant in the mad doctor's schemes.  See he wants to take Sach's brain and transplant it into a gorilla that he has caged up down there.  Yep...there's even a gorilla!

At a mere 68 minutes, you really can't go wrong with this flick.  If you're a fan of old dark house flicks and you like 40's style slapstick, then you're in for a treat.  To me this kind of flick screams Halloween and  I had a really great time with this one.  I haven't seen it in probably 20 years and had forgotten most of it, but I'm inspired to dig in and check out more of The Bowery Boy's films.

I don't imagine this is going to end well for her!

Before sitting down to write this review, I had been aware of some of the other Bowery Boy's films.  I had no idea that they totaled forty-eight though!  As I had mentioned before The Bowery Boys were originally known as The Dead End Kids andtseven films were made under that moniker for Warner Brothers.  After their contracts were expired, Universal hired most of the original cast and made The Little Tough Guys series, which featured twelve films and three 12-Chapter serials.  At the same time the Universal were making their Tough Guy films, Monogram hired several other of the Dead End Kids and created the East Side Kids series.  A total of twenty-one films were made under this moniker.  Finally, in 1945 The Bowrey Boys were formed when Leo Gorcey quite The East End Kids, effectively ending the series.  Gorcey, Bobby Hall and Jan Grippo formed Jan Grippo Productions and started up the series again under the final moniker of The Bowery Boys (or as it was sometimes known, Leo Gorcey & The Bowrey Boys).  If you've been keeping tally of all the films made from The Dead End Kids through the final Bowery Boys flick....that's a total of 88 films!  That's pretty damn impressive!

All of the Bowrey Boys pictures were released by Monogram Pictures, which as you may know released a good many potboilers in the 30's through the 50's.  Bela Lugosi starred in quite a few Monogram Pictures as well.  The studio was known for it's low budget features and was part of the studio collective known as Poverty Row, which were a group of B-Movie Studios that were active from the 1920's through the 1950's.  Monogram is perhaps the best known of these studios, along with Republic Pictures.  Other studios included Tiffany Pictures, Mascot Pictures, Grand National Films among others.  Interestingly, CBC Productions (which would become Columbia Pictures) was considered part of Poverty Row from about 1919 until around 1924 when it was reorganzied!

The gang regroups and gets their wits together

Gore
No sir!  Not here!

T&A
Sorry to disappoint again, but no.

Creatures Featured
While it turns out there are no ghosts in the house, for your money you get a mad scientist and a gorilla in a cage!  Plus you get all the spooky atmosphere!

Final Thoughts
I'm not going to lie, I'm quite biased when it comes to stuff like this.  It reminds me of my childhood and it reminds me that Halloween is a fun & spooky time that should be enjoyed by all ages.  If you're inner child goes wild for the simpler pleasures of spooks, scares and laughs and you (like me) have a soft spot for classic films, then do yourself a favor and give The Bowery Boys a call!

Final Rating
Four out of Five Pizza Rolls

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Video Game - The Saw Is Pixelated

Picture it:  It's Christmas Eve 1982.  You're sitting in front of a toasty fireplace drinking Hood™ Egg Nog and chowing down on gingerbread cookies while you flip through Issue #24 of Fangoria (ya know the one with Xtro on the cover) which just came in the mail the day before.  As you peruse the issue, the rest of the family is watching the Christmas episode of Family Ties that your Dad recorded with the VCR he got for his birthday a few months before.  The show finishes and your mother realizes that she has more presents to wrap.  So in an effort to keep all the kids occupied and out of her hair, she lets you and your siblings open one present each.  She hands you a beautifully wrapped box and you tear it open with fervor.  Your heart skips a beat.  You are now holding in your hands The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Video Game for the Atari 2600!  HOLY CATS!
I would like to believe that the above story happened to someone, somewhere.  I know it's Halloween and almost blasphemous to mention Christmas, but ya gotta admit...that's a pretty damn great little Christmas Story, no?  Okay, okay...you didn't come here to hear stories of Christmases long ago, you came here to read about more 4-Bit carnage courtesy of Wizard Video Games!

Unlike Halloween....this one even has a Title Screen!

Yep.  That's you.  Leatherface.  Look at you all scary 'n' shit......

Texas Chainsaw Massacre is the only other video game produced by Wizard (though they did have plans to release a third game based on the 70's soft porn flick Flesh Gordon!!!)  Much like Halloween, this is an "endless" game in which your only goal is to rack up as high a score as possible.  UNLIKE Halloween, this game has something of a timer on it.  I will explain.

In the game, you control Leatherface.  The goal is to hunt down and kill as many teenagers as you can.  You've got several things working against you however.  First off, you're chainsaw runs on gas.  There is a fuel gauge at the top of the screen.  You're fuel slowly and constantly depletes....when you use your saw the fuel depletes even faster.  Secondly the landscape is littered with cow skulls, fences, barbed wire and wheelchairs (In what I can only assume is an homage to poor Franklin).  The bitch of it is that if even so much as one pixel of Leatherface's sprite touches even so much as one pixel of one of the obstacles, he becomes stuck on the spot.  You can either rev up the chainsaw to get yourself unstuck faster or you can sit there like a jackass for a few seconds.  Either way, it's fuel wasted.

All right!  Time to carve some girl meat!

Um.  I don't know exactly what the hell that is supposed to be....other than this game's interpretation of a chainsaw victim. 

When you come up on a  teenager they will try to evade you.  I don't have it down to an exact science, but it seems that if you come up behind them at an angle, you have a better chance of getting a kill.  Many times if you come up behind them straight on they will magically teleport behind you.  I'm not kidding!  They just vanish and then POOF they're behind you and running the other direction.  Apparently you are hunting down David Copperfield's magic assistants.  I have only seen two types of teenagers, both female and they are really nothing more than palette swaps.  One is wearing a yellow & green outfit while the other is white & pink.

As I mentioned before you are ruled by the fuel gauge.  You have tanks of fuel.  Each time it runs out you start anew and the screen will clear of any teenagers that may have been in the vicinity.   When your last tank of fuel runs out, the screen turns black and one of the teenage girls runs up behind Leatherface and kicks him right in the ass, sending him off screen.  Apparently Leatherface is completely defenseless against a girl without his trusty saw.  I find that rather hilarious.  

Wheelchairs!  Watch out, they move by faster than the other obstacles and will stop you dead in your tracks.

Ooooh, a different girl to get acquainted with my saw!

Speaking of hilarious, let's talk about Leatherface's sprite in the game.  It's pretty awful.  You've got a tan face, which is cool....I get it....kinda looks leatherish.  The rest of your body is their weird teal color.  Your chainsaw is too.  So it looks like it's part of your body.  It's kinda positioned over the stomach area, but to me it still looks like he's got a massive mutant dick, running around after girls.  
The play area and backgrounds really aren't that great.  The game takes place during the day..,...blue skies, green grass and green leaves.  There's a tiny house and car in the background, which I assume is the Sawyer house.  I think that palette swapping and having the game take place at night would have done quite a bit to improve the atmosphere.  There is no music, either.  Just the electronic "Grrrr" of the chainsaw and an ear piercing electric beep that is supposed to be the teenagers screaming as you chase them.  While we're on the subject of negatives....this game doesn't have the gore that Halloween did either.  When you manage to kill a teenager, their sprite inverts (which I'm assuming is supposed to be them falling to the ground) and they turn kinda white and maroon....but I don't know if the maroon is supposed to be blood or if it's just a palette swap to differentiate live teens from dead ones.  The bodies also vanish immediately.  It would have been really cool if you could leave a trail of dead bodies behind you.  

That's really about all there is to it.  I would say that this one is a bit less enjoyable than Halloween.  Though it's really fun that you get to play the killer, it's lack of atmosphere and wonky hit detection does it no favors.  Would I recommend you play it?  If you are fan of the movies and a retro gamer than absolutely.  This game, just like Halloween, has historical significance and it's fun to give it a go or two around the Halloween season....but this certainly isn't a game that you're going to spend more than five to ten minutes on.  After you've gotten yourself stuck on a wheelchair or a cow skull for the umpteenth time you'll want to move on to something else.  

Aw, nuts I'm completely out of fuel!  What was that?  I think I heard something behind me.

Talk about getting an ass-kicking!

Like with Halloween, it's all fine and good to tell you about the game and show you some screen shots, but to really get a feel for it, it's best if you get to see some video.  So for your entertainment pleasure, here is one complete go at TCM:  The Video Game.  It only lasts a couple minutes so watch till the end to see Leatherface get his ass whooping!

video

Halloween: The Video Game - The Night HE Came Home in 4-Bit

A few nights ago, I took you back to my childhood with
Friday the 13th:  The Computer Game for the Commodore 64.  It was a nostalgia fueled look back at a simpler time in horror gaming.  You may have thought that was as far back as horror movie tie-ins went with video games, but you would be gravely mistaken.

See back in 1983, Charles Band's Wizard label decided to try and cash in on the video game market (before ET ruined it for everyone).  Thus was born two video games that I still can't believe actually got made:  The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (which will be reviewed soon) and Halloween.

Shit!  Things start off with a bang when Michael appears IMMEDIATELY and chases me! 
Following typical slasher movie tropes, he's already in the next room.  I spy a kid that needs saving!

The box art for both games showed the movie posters and most game retailers kept these games behind counters and out of sight of minors.  Yep.  Back in 1983, you had to go to the store and ask for the game by name at the counter....while the store clerk probably looked at your disapprovingly.....as if you were asking for porn!  Speaking of which, there are pornographic Atari 2600 games as well.....but we're not here to talk about those.  We're here to talk about Michael Myer's one and only foray into the realm of video games.

I never played this game until well into adulthood (sadly it never appeared under my Christmas tree as a child).  I didn't even know of it's existence until about fifteen years ago when a friend of mine happened to own a copy and showed it to me.  So how does this ancient bit of obscure video gaming history hold up after all these years?

Just as I'm about the grab the kid, Michael appears and starts slashing

Through blind luck we both escape without a scratch!

Well, as far as games for the Atari 2600 go, it's quite playable.  You take on the role of Laurie Strode (referred to simply as "The Babysitter" by the manual) and it's your job to protect the children in the house from Michael Myers (referred to simply as "The Killer"),  So what you have here is a split level screen showing the two floors of the Doyle house (I assume it's the Doyle house....where else would Laurie be babysitting that night?).  To go between the two floors you must use the doors that appear on some screens.  You can walk from left to right and up and down (you can only go so far down as the middle of the screen) on each screen.  You must search the house for children and bring them to safety....which means bringing them to one of the two rooms on either end of the house.  Apparently Michael can't get them there.

Meanwhile, you must watch out for Mr. Myers as he stalks you through the house.  When he appears his familiar theme song will start to play in that glorious bleepy-bloopy atari soundchip style.  If he catches up with a child, he will stab them to death and blood will spray out across the floor as they fall down dead.  NO SHIT!  If he catches up to Laurie, he cuts her head clean off and she runs across the room, headless with blood spurting out of her neck stump!!!!!!!!!  HOLY HELL!!!!!!!

Bringing my first child to safety, I net myself 675 points!  WOOT!

After saving another kid, I find a weapon!  Awww yeah....bring it!

That's really all there is to it.  Games back then were primarily played for scores and typically did not have endings.....so you will just continue to rescue kids and rack up a score until you tire of it, or until you lose three lives (which are kept track of using three jack o'lanterns on the top of the screen.)

Is it fun?  Yeah, it's fun for a few minutes...and every Halloween I put in a few plays.  If you are a retro game fan then you will dig it simply for it's historical value.  Let's not forget that they also GRAPHICALLY MURDER CHILDREN IN A VIDEO GAME!!!!!!!!!!  That's quite trippy the first time you experience it, I'll tell ya what!

Well, that didn't go so well.  That blood is never gonna come out of the carpet.

....and now I'm decapitated and running with blood spurting from my neck stump.

It's one thing to read about this and see the screen shots, but to really appreciate the ridiculousness (especially of the kills) you need to see actual gameplay footage, which I've provided for you below!  Enjoy!

video

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Fingers at the Window - Ax Murder Lunacy!

Fingers at the Window
1942
D: Charles Lederer
W: Rose Caylor & Lawrence P. Bachmann

S: Lew Ayres, Laraine Day & Basil Rathbone
Rated PG - Approx 80 Minutes
MGM

Taglines
 - DANGER AT NIGHTFALL! 
ROMANCE AT DAYBREAK! 

Alternate Titles
Dedos Diab√≥licos (Diabolical Fingers)  - Brazil
Schatten am Fenster (Shadow at the Window)  - Germany

Follia scatenata (Madness Unleashed)  - Italy







"Very pretty shot, Inspector.  A bullseye!"
                                                          -Dr. Cromwall


Turner Classic Movies never ceases to astound me.  There I was searching for Halloween goodies to stock up the ol' DVR with and while searching through the listings, I happened across this interesting title:  Fingers at the Window.  "Gee, that sounds like it could be a horror flick" I said to myself.  Was I right?  Well, no....not exactly....I certainly would not classify this as an outright horror flick.  More like murder-mystery noir with horror overtones.

See there's been a rash of ax murders in Chicago.  Now before you say "1940's Slasher Flick" (which is what I thought I had stumble onto at first) I should tell you that these murders are not all committed by a single homicidal maniac.  In fact each of the six murders were committed by six different men.  Each of them highly mentally disturbed.....and I do mean DISTURBED....we're talking One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest here.  So what's tying it all together?  Why are mental patients suddenly taking up axes and chopping up the good citizens of Chicago?  Ah, well, therein lies the mystery.


I don't think it's really a spoiler to tell you that it's the work of a single mastermind who is manipulating these men to murder.  That we find out quite early on.  It's the who and it's the why that make up the mystery.

Our two main protagonists, Edwina Brown and Oliver Duffy meet one night when Duffy spies a man with an ax following Edwina down a darkened street.  Oliver being the wonderful and caring fellow that he is escorts Edwina home and watches over her from the fire escape.  Seems like sticking your neck out quite a bit for someone you just met....but hey, what do I know.


As you may suspect a romance begins to brew between the two as the mystery deepens and another madman tries to turn Edwina into chopped liver (and intestines....and pancreas....and spleen).  Duffy is on the case and (much to the chagrin of Inspector Gallagher, the lead homicide man on the case) starts to play detective himself.  

The acting is delightfully over the top in typical 40's fashion.  Duffy (played by Lew Ayers) isn't exactly a dashing hero but he's quite amusing and clever.  Edwina  (played by Laraine Day) is quite beautiful and their chemistry on screen is warm yet a bit wonky.  Though it's played for humor, their banter back and forth is at times funny yet off putting as he outright calls her an idiot or tells another character that she hasn't got the brains of a pancake.  You get the sense that they were attempting to make them something of a comedy team with Duffy as the partner with the one liners....but it adds unintentional humor where it doesn't belong.  Edwina doesn't help matters much with some of her dialog either.  At one point confessing that she'd been lying about important information before because she was afraid that he wouldn't be romantically interested in her anymore.  I'll tell ya what....if someone's trying to chop me up with an ax....I'll worry about romance after the stalker and potential killer is taken care of.


Likewise the police and the psychiatrist they hire to help profile the killer are some of the most gullible and dim witted I've seen in some time.  A psychiatrist who is supposedly one of the most respected and renowned in the entire world was easily fooled into thinking that Duffy was mental patient simply because he emulated what he saw another mental patient doing a few hours before.  No examination.  No Rorschach Test....no nothing.  Five minutes of conversation and BLAMMO!  He's got a full diagnosis for his "disorder" and not only that, allows him access to patient files because he believes him to be harmless!!!  The police go along with whatever anybody tells them without much investigation or examination.  It's a bit frustrating at times, but ultimately it all adds to the films wonky charms.

Gore:
Are you kidding?  This was made in 1942!  No gore.

T&A
Once again....nope.

Creatures Featured:
No creatures....but you do get several ax murderers stalking the streets of Chicago and an evil mastermind!


Final Thoughts
Don't let my small rant before sway you.  The character flaws with the protagonists, psychiatrist and police are really minor grips in the long run.  If you are a fan of classic films and noir films in particular then I think that you'll have a lot of fun with this one.  There are some great uses of light and shadow in the cinematography and the revelation and resolution of the mystery at the end are quite satisfying.

Final Rating
Three out of  Five Pizza Rolls

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Midnight Cinephile Podcast Episode II - With Special Guest Doc Terror!

At long last, the wait is over.  The Midnight Cinephile podcast is now free to be consumed by the masses.  I truly hope that you enjoy listening to this episode as much as I had making it.
I started out this episode with the thought that there would be a structure to it.  Instead what came out was a very candid and energetic conversation between two horror fans that was nothing short of epic.  We span the universe of horror covering everything from new VOD and theater releases to haunted houses, Halloween TV programming, to our love of VHS.

Nearly two hours of solid horror entertainment all for the incredibly affordable price of free!
The podcast can be downloaded from Lybsyn.com HERE

For those who would rather listen to it right here on Midnight Cinephile, just press play below!





A huge thank you to James Harris for being a guest on the show!

Enjoy!

Friday the 13th: The Computer Game - Pixelated Vorhees





Tonight, dear friends, I thought that I would try something a little different.  Besides being a cinephile and having a deep and profound love of horror films, you may have surmised (if you've been a longtime reader) that I am also a gamer.  One of my biggest passions besides horror, is retro-gaming.  Now, you may think that a strange thing to be talking about with Pre'Ween going on and all, but I'm here tonight to tell you about a game the scared the ever lovin' shit out of me when I was knee high to a ghoul.  
Say, that looks familiar!

Is it just me or does Amanda Baxter look deformed?

Help us Gerry!  You're our only hope!


That game is Friday the 13th:  The Computer Game.  Not to be confused with the terrible (yet still pop-culture-riffic Friday the 13th for the NES by LJN.  I know that the purple 8-Bit Jason has become something of a cash cow as of late.  As incredibly awesome as purple Jason and the NES are, I want to tell you about what came before.  

Picture it:  It's late at night, 1985 or '86.  A young me is sitting intently in front of the family Commodore 64.  I say it's the "Family" C64....but c'mon.....we all know that I ruled over that thing and was constantly on it playing video games.  I digress.  It's nighttime.  The rest of the family is in the living room watching The Facts of Life or something.  I'm sitting in the dark in the computer/dining room intently starting at the computer monitor.  The sound is turned up.  A digital scream shatters the silence and I jump half way to mars with a startled yelp.  Jason has slain another camp counselor.  


I've currently got the chainsaw (that's the thing that looks like a cross between a rocket ship and a key where it say WEAPON on the bottom........

Just taking a stroll through the cemetery....nothing to see here!

Friday the 13th:  The Computer Game was released in 1985 for the Commodore 64 and in 1986 ports for the ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC are released.  For those of you keeping track, that's a year (Or two years in the later case) after Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter hit theaters.  Speaking of which, that film is exactly where this game took it's box art and C64 loading screen from!  

The object of the game is simple.  Hunt down and kill Jason all the while keeping your friends safe and alive!  This, however is easier said than done because Jason has gone and disguised himself as one of the counselors.  The only time you see Jason's true form is when he is attacking someone or when he himself is being attacked.  Jason's true form is bound to piss off just about every person that plays the game.  No hockey mask.  No one-eyed potato sack.  Nope.  What you get is a dude with black hair wearing a black halter top and black pants!  Seriously!  WTF?

What the HELL????????

Slashing away at Jason with the machete.  Sadly I lost two camp counselors along the way.

Even more fucked up is the way in which you must hunt Jason down. which is by attacking your friends with one of ten weapons that are strewn around the semi-quasi-isometric game world.!  Wanna find Jason?  You best whack your buddy with a machete and give your best girl a slice with the chainsaw!  If they're normal kids, they'll kinda lean back (as folks are likely to do when assaulted with a deadly weapon) and then just keep on keepin' on.  Jason however will change into his black breakdance outfit and start to attack you.  At this point it's kill or be killed.

So for the most part, you will be walking around in a flick screen environment, which includes spooky woods, an archery range, farmland, a cemetery, a cabin, a church and even an old barn.  Each of the buildings can be entered as well, each having multiple rooms.  

The church oughta be a safe place, right?     RIGHT???

Hmmmm...decisions, decisions.....do I want the hatchet or machete.....

Something strange is going on in this cabin.....

The soundtrack is pretty decent for chiptune melodies.  The opening screen starts with Bach's Tocatta and Fugue in D Minor.  Once game play starts, the several different tracks are looped, including a generic chip tune, The Wedding March & Teddy Bear Picnic!  I'll tell you what....there is something a little unsettling about walking around whacking folks with an axe while listening to Teddy Bear Picnic.  Hell, one time I had an epic fight with Jason in front of the church while The Wedding March played.  Seriously weird stuff.  Speaking of sound design, one of the most effective bits occurs when Jason kills a counselor:  a digital scream emits from the computer while the image of skulls, or a guy getting a machete to the head flash across the screen.  I'll tell you what...for a little kid, that shit's terrifying!

Upon replaying the game for this review (via a C64 emulator), I've gotta say.....it still has the power to make me jump.  I'm once again sitting up alone in the dark.  The Mrs. went to bed hours ago.  It's just me and my laptop with my headphones on.  Damned if I didn't jump straight up every time Jason killed a counselor.  

First time Jason killed, this screen assaulted my retinas while more

What the hell?  They actually allowed stuff like this in video games back when I was young!  This image is forever burned into my brain.

So if you're looking for for good Halloween fun and the retro bug has been nipping at your heels, give Friday the 13th: The Computer Game a try.  Once you get in there and start hunting for Jason, you want want to stop!  As far as I know, this game has no actual end....it just keeps looping for you to play with new counselors.  Still, don't let that sway ya.  If you've got a hankering for some of the pixelated red stuff, you can't go wrong with this little hack 'em up!

AH CRAP!  There's a dead body under that tree!  I must be getting close to Jason!

If a psychotic undead wraith kills you in the woods....do you still bleed?

My final showdown with Jason was (fittingly) in the graveyard!