Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Halloween: The Video Game - The Night HE Came Home in 8-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

6 comments:

  1. Ha! It still boggles my mind that this got made. I've played both the Halloween and Texas Chainsaw Massacre game, and Halloween is infinitely more playable. TCM always reminded me of another 2600 game called Rodeo...but instead of capturing runaway cattle with a lasso, you're capturing runaway victims with a chainsaw. Neither of them hold up to extended plays, but definitely worth checking out for the sheer novelty and historical value of it. It's a shame that Wizard got out of the video game business so early...I would have loved to have seen their take on the Hills Have Eyes.

    --J/Metro

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    1. I'm going to be covering the Texas Chainsaw Massacre game next and I absolutely agree. It's like Rodeo with Leatherface. It's an incredibly frustrating game as well. Who knew that just slightly touching a wheelchair could incapacitate Leatherface! Sheesh!

      I have often wondered what would have happened if Wizard had stayed in the game.business. So many horror flicks would have made amazingly ridiculous video games! Of course there IS a pretty major retro game movement......perhaps Charlie Band should jump back on the bandwagon!

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  2. I never knew this existed! Amazing!

    Did the programmers insert Easter Eggs like "The Dot" in Adventure?

    That's so great that the life meter happens to be jack o' lanterns. And the fact that one could evade Michael Meyers ("The Killer") merely by doing a Tecmo Bowl juke on him has be in stitches.

    The decapitation scene is something that will scar my Atari memory forever.

    Thanks for bringing this game to light, Matt!

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    1. Yeah man, there's a bunch of movie based video games from the old days. There's also a metric shit ton of more generic horror games that are absolutely bonkers. I'm going to be shedding light on a lot more of these (the video game reviews seem to be quite popular!)

      I haven't found any Easter Eggs a'la "The Dot"....but hey.....an Easter Egg in the Atari 400 port of Donkey Kong stayed buried for 26 and was only discovered when someone pulled apart all 25,000 lines of code....so I suppose anything is possible!

      Stylistically there's nothing that I don't love about this game. Everything from the Jack O'Lantern life bar to the bloopy theme song that plays every time Michael enters the room. Something I forgot to mention in the review that you can see in the video is that some rooms emulate a thunderstorm. The lights go out and lightening flashes are the only time you can see.....which is actually kinda creepy when you're playing alone at night!

      I couldn't believe my eyes the first time that I saw the kid get sliced up and then when your sprite gets decapitated! Pixelated blood! Holy hell! It's awesome on so many levels I don't even know where to start!

      Glad you enjoyed and I hope you like the games I've got coming up!

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  3. i'm not sure what you're talking about, the Atari 2600 is 8 bit not 4. There were no 4-bit consoles.

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  4. Yep, that was a typo. Thought I had fixed it. Good catch, thanks for bringing it back to my attention!

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