Friday the 13th (NES) review
"At first, you’ll be reduced to throwing lowly rocks at a being so untouchable that, according to the films, shotgun blasts don’t even affect him."
The legend of Jason Voorhees is one of complication, mystery, obscurity, and levels of cheesiness beyond the comprehension of most moviegoers who are uninitiated to the 80’s series, Friday the 13th. Despite these untouched levels of cheese, though, the franchise has garnered ridiculous popularity through and through. Unfortunately, the video game is a mere rated-G interactive coloring book adventure with such tedious events as “run back and forth” and “do it again.”
The first motion picture tells the story of a young boy who, while swimming at Camp Crystal Lake, drowned despite the closeness of lifeguards in the area. His mother is infuriated, going on a mass murder spree of every camp counselor at the joint, except for one, who manages to end the rampage before her own number is up. This, of course, enrages the boy Voorhees, who just happens to be the walking embodiment of evil, undead and hungry. Now Jason will avenge his mother’s death by killing every camp counselor to work at Crystal Lake. Ever.
And that is how it has gone on with endless capacity. For every time a young woman has foiled the diabolical charge of Jason, he has again departed his various graves to haunt and stalk and kill once more. He’s a well-traveled indestructible mass murderer; it got to the point where one film featured him on a cruise liner bound for New York. You can bet the parties weren’t too hot on that ship after he had dismembered the captain. The beast can be tied to the bottom of a lake and only terrorize again once released by the experimental psychic powers of a young heroine of one of the later films. He is simply invincible, even during long hibernations.
The game Friday the 13th ruins any real mystique that the series has. Although it is certain that sooner or later the franchise will revive itself under the power of the cash flow of a director just foolish enough to taint his own career with it, the NES title does it in the form of a video game. Gone are the expected B-movie clichés that lend themselves to the movie version of a game like this: the blatant sex scenes which always, without fail, tell us that whoever gets lucky will parish; the silly semi-scares between actors who are creeping around in the dark and accidentally bump into each other; and the imbecilic foolishness displayed by the ‘manly’ types who only end up with their heads unaccompanied by their bodies.
All of that cheesy ambiance is gone, though, because a Nintendo game could not possibly feature such items. However, a Nintendo game could have interesting new features, plot-twists, and gameplay elements to make up for the lack of adult situations to keep the experience interesting, and to do the notorious monster justice.
This particular Nintendo games does not do that.
Instead of an amusingly absurd romp to destroy the inhumanly tasteless creature, this trite adventure will drag you along unwillingly, just to show you that controversial movies can always be made worse by games. In fact, LJN’s Friday the 13th actually adds stupidly to the cheese-factor that was already at a feverish pitch within the films. Now instead of just battling the imperishable Voorhees, you’ll be dealing with the less impressive members of the animal kingdom. Bats will swoop down at you; crows will chase you fearlessly; wolves will hunt you down; and zombies will challenge you. Levels of disgust and hatred should at this point be flowing through your veins. Jason and zombies at the same camp: it’s just not natural.
Your adventure is a 2D side-scrolling one whilst you are out in the wilderness of Camp Crystal Lake, and a putrid 3rd-person, forward-moving exploration when you are inside of cabins. You’ll always be in control of one of six camp counselors; consider these lives, for if they die, they aren’t coming back. Basic gameplay is walking around, punching bats, and waiting for a wretched ‘alarm’ to go off, signaling that a counselor you’re not in control of is being attacked. Because the only counselor that doesn’t go into a temporary coma is the one you’re controlling, you must constantly switch between counselors to save the one being assaulted.
Camp Crystal Lake is home to three sets of woods, a cave, multiple cabins and the lake itself. The child campers for the summer are safely tucked away in a small building across the river; however, Jason is capable of eventually finding them, and if he destroys them all, the game is over. You are given access to a map of the entire camp, as well as pinpoint locations of the other counselors, by pressing the start button. Believe it or not, there is a thin layer of strategy in selecting which counselor to control, as well as the placement of the others; you’ll want to have as many counselors in reach of each other as possible.
When someone needs help, that horrid noise will scream at you, alerting you to get moving. Once you arrive at the attack location, you will have to search the cabin for Jason himself, and when you encounter him, laughter will ensue. The once terrifying ogre is reduced to a hilariously obscure short, pudgy man who shuffles from side to side, trying his best to punch you. The damage he does isn’t so funny; a couple of left-hooks from the champ will down your counselor quick.
At first, you’ll be reduced to throwing lowly rocks at a being so untouchable that, according to the films, shotgun blasts don’t even affect him. Because you’ll never destroy Jason this way, you must discover more powerful weapons to use, such as machetes and pitchforks. Use of these weapons is carried out with the B button, while the A button presents itself as a useless jump function.
Technically, the gameplay is an annoying chase; you’ll be called for help when Jason appears, only to throw rocks at him. In the mean time, you’ll beat up zombies in search for better weapons and other inane items in the forest, such as vitamins. Instead of sticking together, this band of ragtag camp attendants will inexplicably split up, thus leaving all sides of their efforts more unsaturated than they should be. At least this much was done correctly in coherence with the films. The characters have slight differences, like some are slower than others, but that’s about it.
The actual event of watching the title in motion is a comedic masterpiece all of its own. Direct your pink-wearing blonde guy around and throw rocks at brown, furry zombies that materialize from dirt. That’s the name of the game, folks. The backgrounds are acceptable for NES fare, but nothing uproariously notable. There are trees, foliage, and the like. No real animation to speak of, though; your counselors glide across the ground, moonwalk style, as their legs shimmy needlessly. The act of throwing rocks just looks like some circular goobers are being hurled at incredible rates out of the characters’ noses.
The sound effects are appalling in tone. The aforementioned alarm noise is perhaps the most annoying sound in the world, and the abysmal “bing” noises that emit from you chucking stones are ludicrous. A punch to your face from Jason himself is accompanied by the sound of a far-off explosion. Also notably intruding is the background music, which instead of sounding dreadfully hopeful, is more of a leering vomit-type theme. A poor showing in an already forgettable experience.
Friday the 13th is transformed from a gory, amusing film franchise about an indestructible killing machine into a sickeningly uneasy trudge around a poorly depicted campsite. None of the needed nuances for a horror flick to be entertaining are present in this rough translation; not that Friday the 13th was a respectable brand to begin with, the movies at least had a purpose. This is utter garbage.
Staff review by K T (May 13, 2005)
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