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, didn't come here to hear stories of Christmases long ago, you came here to read about more 8-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.., 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!


  1. It's awesome how all of these old horror movie video games all kinda look the same. Of course, all games from this era kinda look the same. This one reminds me of Pitfall. I wonder why, given how much more could be made of a game from these licenses now, no one takes another stab at this? I never owned any of this old games, but I recognize the ad copy for each from the Fangoria ads of the day.

    1. Very true...the Atari 2600 was quite limited in what it could do. I should point out that I erroneously stated that these games were 4-Bit. In fact the Atari 2600 was an 8-Bit system with lower processing power than something like a C64 or Nintendo.

      I would love to see someone take another stab at games like this. In this day and age of hombrew retro games, surely someone out there must be up to the challenge of creating a new line of classic movie based games. Of course there IS a mobile game based on Manos: The Hands of

    2. I assume there can't possibly be any way to win that game beyond resisting the morbid curiosity that might lead you to play it in the first place. lol

  2. You assume correctly sir. As a matter of fact there is nothing that you can do to stop from the gas in your chainsaw from running out. You get three fuel tanks and after that it's game over. Basically you are trying to top your score in the limited amount of time you're given! Still, it's a novelty and it's worth checking out!