Yes, retro gaming fans, it’s another “Revenge of the License” column. Last week we checked out the first James Bond adventure for the home computer, A View to a Kill. Today we’re jumping into the horror genre to look at Friday the 13th. But not that one. Nooooo. As much as I love the NES Friday the 13th as one of my horrible guilty pleasures of gaming, we’re going even more old school than that; four years earlier than LJN’s 1989 abomination. Back to 1985, when Starship built a city on rock and roll, Madonna described what it was like to be a virgin, and Hall & Oates explained the method of modern love. Back to the O.G. Friday the 13th license. Back to the Commodore 64. Right…back to the column. Sorry.
Domark caught all kinds of hell for its marketing campaign for this game. The box art and magazine ads depict the now-iconic image (from the movie poster for the fourth film) of Jason’s goalie mask sitting in a pool of blood, a large knife jammed through the left eye hole. They partnered with Video Games + Computer Entertainment magazine to run a contest that involved UK readers calling “The Horror Hotline”, listening to a litany of different horrifying sound effects, and detailing what each of those effects was on a mail-in form. “THE ONE YOU’VE BEEN SCREAMING FOR…..” announced the ad copy. The game even shipped with a pair of those foaming blood capsules from your local Halloween store: bite down, mix with saliva, and you too can spit blood like your favorite stabbing victim! Sure it’s tame by today’s standards (not even one goat was sacrificed for the press), but Domark proved if you were going to go low brow, you might as well aim for the nose.
Sadly, the game’s as tame as a kitten despite its premise. There’s no blood, no gore, your dead friends are represented as little cross-shaped headstones…the worst thing you’ll hear is a high-pitched digitized scream which will have you scrambling to turn your speakers down every time a buddy bites it. But what should you expect for a lousy nine quid?
The premise is familiar to anyone who’s seen a slasher film: a group of friends decide to gather at Camp Crystal Lake (which strangely contains a large church, a farm, and a graveyard but not one single lake) for the party of all parties, and along comes Jason to wreck everybody’s shit. Well, kind of. Jason himself, per se, never puts in an appearance. That’s right: no hockey-masked zombie will be chasing you despite the box art. Jason has instead disguised himself as one of your friends (WTF?), so you have to play a vicious game of deduction to figure out who’s the bad guy. We, uh, we’ll just go with the assumption it’s Jason’s ghost possessing your friends, making them pitchfork-wielding maniacs, because that makes better sense, OK?
The game plays out over a series of rounds where you play one of the ten party-goers who has to defend his (or her) friends from the disguised Jason by grabbing the best weapon you can find and playing a live-action version of Whack-A-Psycho. The faster you deduce Jason’s identity and put him out of his misery, the more points you score. Each character has a different background and stats which determine how strong they are and how apt they are to panic. Jason, true to form, always goes after the character who panics the easiest and then carves his way through more steel-nerved partiers as the game persists. The game ends when Jason has managed to run everybody through with his machete, when you manage to kill Jason ten times, or when the madness finally overtakes your character because you took too long to find your nemesis.
It’s an intriguing premise, and with better presentation, more weapons, and a more robust combat system this game could be a serious contender for title of earliest Survival Horror title. Unfortunately the game gets boring quickly, with the biggest challenge coming from controlling the weakest characters who require far too many hits to dispatch Jason. Also the herding mechanic of trying to establish a sanctuary via the sacred cross, then getting all your friends to gather there in order to figure out who Jason is (he’s the one who won’t go near the cross…maybe he’s become a vampire in this incarnation?) is utterly absurd and wasted here.
Domark’s Friday the 13th is of interest only to the hardest of hardcore collectors, either of classic computer games or Friday memorabilia. Feel free to ad our obligatory retro ad goodie to your collection though, completely free of charge: