The Rube’s Review: Friday the 13th – The Video Game (1989 NES)
Whew… even though it’s a lot of fun for me to (re)watch and review all of these Friday the 13th films, the Rube needs to take a well deserved break from decapitations, topless teens, and masked boogiemen. It’s time to unwind with a nice big bowl of Crystal Lake Crunch brand cereal… oh wait? I forgot, Kellogg’s never made that shit, but shouldn’t they have? When I was a kid, the only movie franchise that was ever mass-produced to children was Star Wars.
There were Star Wars toys, lunchboxes, shrinky dinks, posters, watches… but what about the kids that didn’t give two shits about a whiny desert kid that loses his foster family, his hand, and his real father by being an enemy of the state? What about the kids that were raised on horror movies, where’s our stuff? Where were my Jason bedsheets? Where was my Jason motorized toothbrush? Where was my Jason action figure with chopping Machete-Action™ grip? Where’s my bowl of Jason-Os with franks?
Well, I guess the powers that be thought it would too risky to make a merchandising juggernaut out of the second longest running film franchise… so yeah, I might not have had a morning bowl of machete-shaped oats (ironically, which would have cut the roof of your mouth), but there was one thing that we did get: a Friday the 13th Video Game for the Nintendo Entertainment System.
Even though I didn’t have this game back in the 80’s, I remember seeing ads for it in horror magazines. Of course it was a game that I wanted, but even growing up with the “cool parents” in very liberal 80’s California, this video game (based on an Rated-R franchise) never made it to the shelves of my local Sears. So, about 25 years later, while purchasing a starter box of Nintendo games to be sold at my arcade, I was very excited to find this sought after “diamond in the rough.” Not only was it the first copy that I’ve seen in my life, but [it was] the first cartridge that I took home to rebuild my current NES collection (which is 200+ STRONG!).
After two days of gameplay, I have come to the scientific conclusion that Friday the 13th the Video Game does indeed SUCK DONKEY BALLS! Before I get hands deep in this steaming shitpile, I would like to quote the introduction that is found in the game’s instruction manual:
It’s a pretty typical summer at Crystal Lake. There’s a group of happy children staying in the camp. You and your five Camp Counselor friends are watching over the kids while enjoying the lake and the wilderness. The days are bright and sunny. The nights are cool and clear. And Jason is on a rampage.
It’s up to you to stop him, but it’s not going to be easy. You first fight your way through forests filled with man-eating wolves, cave covered with blood sucking bats and hordes of mindless zombie everywhere you turn. You must also help any friend who is in danger, or else you can just kiss them goodbye. And hiding in a cabin or staying adrift in a canoe won’t keep you safe- Jason will find you anywhere. The only way to survive is to challenge Jason face to face, and destroy him.
Now, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Hey, that sounds like a pretty sweet game. Can’t wait to play it!” I thought that too, especially when you see the cool opening animation of a hunter’s knife flying through the air to stab the eye of the famous hockey mask… hey, isn’t that the opening credits to F13 Part 5? Yeah, the one with Corey Feldman, that one was pretty good so how could the game possibly suck?
After pressing start, you go to a map screen of Camp Crystal Lake (see above) and choose a Counselor to play as which, if you don’t have the instructions (I ended up printing via the interweb), you’re already looking at the game screen saying, “What the fuck is this garbage?” I know that it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the map screen, but how would you know that you have 6 counselors to choose from, with all different degrees of (limited) abilities or that the little baby head with the number 15 is supposed to let you know how many kids you have to protect if you didn’t have the booklet? (And you wonder why the Rube has a screaming pillow.)
Anyway, after you pick your Counselor, the next screen tells you to “USE THE TORCH TO LIGHT THE FIREPLACES.” Why… huh… what? I thought I was supposed to find Jason and DESTROY HIM, not to make sure the gas pilots work in some rich family’s summer cabins! Yeah, for those that don’t have instructions, you need to go to the Big Cabins (not the small ones) to find a fireplace to light with your torch. By “torch” the game means the lighter you find after throwing rocks at zombies(?).
Ok, so to play this game properly you need to read 13 pages of helpful hints that are not helpful at all, kill zombies, find a lighter to light fireplaces… WHAT HAPPENED TO FIGHTING JASON? I thought that was the whole reason we were playing this game in the first place! Suddenly, things get derailed by a *BUZZ! BUZZ! BUZZ!* noise. Turns out, while you were dicking around with the controls and getting your ass kicked by zombies, Jason is busy taking care of business – machete style. Your “Jason Meter” goes off (located top left of your screen) and now it’s time to stop him before he kills one of the counselors/kids. FINALLY, we get to kick some ass!
…well no, not just yet. First, for you to find out where Jason is, you have to hit the start button, look at the map, find the blinking cabin, and then go back to the previous side scrolling screen to get there within 60 seconds. Yep, all you get is 60 seconds to dodge zombies, crows, and wolves to get to the house which is sometimes all the way across camp. Fuck, might as well be in France at this point. How in Satan’s crotch are you supposed to make it there in time? Even if you’re close by, chances are that your going to show up after times up. The only thing that makes the futile trek from Point A to Point B even more unbearable is the cabin screen.
It’s this weird first person quest mode that you use to explore inside the cabins to find fireplaces to light, find objects, or fight Jason. You’re always getting lost in the confusion of empty rooms as you randomly hit the control pad in hope to find ANYTHING of interest. I swear, if I wasn’t a big fan of Goonies II (one of the few NES games that uses this explore mode well), then I would be screwed. Oh, BTW, if you have never played Goonies II, then you might as well just pull this cartridge out of your NES and chuck it into heavy traffic… just to save you time and frustration.
If you’re lucky and get to the right cabin in time, you’ll be greeted by a faceless counselor (nah – not creepy at all) before stumbling through a few more rooms to find… a hobo in a purple jumpsuit with a diamond shaped mask! Really, the fine people at LJN couldn’t spend a couple of more days on the mask at least? Anyway, when you do find Jason you have to fight him Punch-Out style, while chucking rocks and dodging blows. If you get hit too many times by Jason or lose all 5 counselors, the screen goes black and reads:
You and your friends are dead. Game Over
Really? After all of that “fun” gameplay of chucking rocks, lighting fireplaces, and getting lost in cabins the game ends with the message above, mocking you to the point that you’ll never want to pick up the controller ever again. REALLY?! Like an idiot, though, I hit the reset button and start again. Currently, I’ve been trying to explore the cave and forest areas before Jason kills my last camp buddy. The instructions hint that you can find weapons or – at least – fight Mrs. Voorhees flying zombie head but so far I haven’t found dick. There’s also supposed to be a way to switch between counselors and give them medicine and weapons while not in use, but I haven’t had time to explore this option.
Overall, this isn’t the worst game that I’ve ever played and, since we have the invention of Youtube, I know that the game is winnable which gives me continuous hope of one day declaring victory over that masked man. No matter how pissed off that I get at the screen, I know that giving up is for the weak and that the quest will continue… or I’ll just find movie on Skin-a-max and take a “nap” to truly take my mind off things. Stay tuned for my next review, when we get back to the film franchise and see Jason’s “rebirth.”