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The Attic: Friday the 13th for Commodore 64

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Hey there, Attic-dwellers. Welcome back to the Attic.

Yes, yes, I understand, I’m not your precious Dark Princess.  I am, however, the law, and I will be your host for this week’s edition of the Attic.  While my forte is more along the lines of superheroes, I believe I’m certainly superstitious enough for the Attic.  And I grew up in the eighties, the golden age of campy horror.

With that in mind, I’d like to take you all on a little trip back to 1985.  It was a different time.  We had Marty McFly going back in time to ye olde 1955 in a DeLorean.  We had New Coke (and we’re still really sorry for that.)  In terms of PC gaming, the Commodore 64 was the king.  Okay, maybe not the king, but it’s what I had, so king it shall be for the purposes of this article.

Also popular in 1985 were slasher, boogie-man style horror films.  While there has been much contention among horror aficionados as to which “boogie-man” was the best, there’s little doubt in my mind that the scariest one for Li’l Judge Greg still in the single-digits of age was one Mr. Jason Voorhees.  Now that I’ve set the scene, let’s explore the very first horror video game I have ever played, Friday the 13th, for Commodore 64.

The game is obviously based, rather loosely, on the Friday the 13th film series.  Not the first film as much, since Jason’s mother is not mentioned or seen or in any way relevant to the story.  The enemy is Jason and Jason alone.  The setting is Crystal Lake.  Or, I suppose I’m just assuming it’s Crystal Lake.  There are definitely campers that need to be saved, and that would suggest to me this was set at Camp Crystal Lake.  However, there’s not a lake or body of water to be seen.  There’s a church and a barn, that I do know.  I understand it’s been a while since I’ve seen the original run of Friday the 13th movies, but was a church all that prominent?

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The purpose of the game seems simple: to kill Jason before he kills off the campers.   It seems simple, because it is simple.  This is a Commodore game, after all.  The trick is, Jason isn’t just wandering around dressed as himself.  Oh, no!  He’s in disguise.  So how can you tell if the individual you’ve just encountered is really a sweet, innocent camper or Jason Voorhees, evil incarnate?  There’s an easy solution.  You simply take an axe, sword, pitchfork, or any convenient weapon, and attempt to embed it into the sternum of the individual you have just encountered.  Shoukd this be a lowly camper, he/she will simply shrug off your felonious assault and mosey on their way.  If it’s Jason, then he will reveal his true self (that being, a man wearing black clothes, but still no mask?).  At that point, honestly, you can just stand face to face with the man and hack at him with your weapon.  All the player characters have significantly higher health than Jason, so dying isn’t really a concern here.

You can also happen across Jason in the act of murder, in which case, he will not be in disguise.  I’ve often happened across Jason in the act of killing somebody with a machete.  I’m assuming it was a machete.  It was a long white block, so it was either a sword, machete, or the Tetris line piece.  Tetris was released originally in 1984, so it’s within the realm of possibility that Jason played Tetris and got inspired.

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Now, thus far, I understand that none of this seems scary.  By today’s standards, it isn’t.  By adult standards in 1985, it also wasn’t.  But as an early elementary school child, having your game interrupted to show you an image of a man with a machete in his head can turn a handful of pixels into a scary encounter in a hurry.

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As far as the music goes, it’s an arbitrary hodge-podge of what I have to imagine is whatever music was found in public domain.  Old McDonald, Teddy Bears Picnic, and the Wedding March all made equally inappropriate appearances.  Call me cynical, but Old McDonald should be for kids, not for murder.  I do remember sprcifically that when Jason finally decides to take a break  from wondering aimlessly like Kwai Chang Caine in the desert to attempting a murder (a precursor to Assassin’s Creed multiplayer), the music would take a darker tone.  This was essentially the only time the music seemed to actually fit the game I was playing.

There were several other game mechanics that didn’t seem to be fully fleshed out, which I find absolutely shocking in a movie tie-in Commodore game from the 1980’s.  There was a sanity/fear meter, a mechanic that would have some degree of success decades later in titles such as Eternal Darkness.  In Friday the 13th, however, I never did get to see what happens when it is maxed out.  I never could get it up that high.  I did note that the meter went up whenever a camper was killed, so I killed a few of them myself.  Yes, you can kill campers yourself in this game.  They can’t shrug off a pitchfork to the face forever.  While I didn’t max out my fear meter, the unintended side effect was that Jason apparently gets really jealous when you start doing his killing for him, because he polished off five campers in under a minute once I got going.

I seem to recall some other mechanic where the player could set up a sanctuary in one of the buildings where Jason couldn’t kill them.  A review of the documentation from the game states that by walking into a camper, they’ll go to the sanctuary and wait there.  In practice, however, I remember the campers just wandering aimless regardless of anything I did.  I’ve seen FAQ’s that suggested that Jason would not head to the sanctuary, and that was his reveal.  However, since even the normals couldn’t seem to find their way to the sanctuary, I don’t think this is a very helpful suggestion.  I always just axed anyone I saw in the head.  It’s a video game habit that has served me well in the last 30 years.

All in all, this is a game that I admit may only have replay value if you have fostered nostalgia by playing with it during its original release.  While I can’t honestly recommend the game, and I have no idea how you’d get your hands on it if you even wanted it, I can say it might give you a small glimpse into what could have possibly happened to me in my formative years to turn me into the man I am today.  It may also give you some perspective the next time you’re inclined to propose that the NES Friday the 13th game is the worst horror video game ever.

And as always, stay scared, my friends,
Judge Greg

 

3 Responses to The Attic: Friday the 13th for Commodore 64

  1. Dark Princess says:

    From the confines of my sick bed, I thank you for filling in. Great post, sir.

  2. Roberto says:

    Recently i played the game and i have to say its very mediocre but it takes a hour of my horrible life… It can be worst! (Sorry for my horrible english!) great post! I come three years later but great post!

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