The Game: Find Jason Voorhees and destroy him before he slaughters your friends in this game based on the popular horror movie franchise. People will definitely die; the only questions are who, when, and by whom. (Dormark, 1985)
Memories: I can still remember the night I got Friday The 13th for my Commodore 64. My friends and I were big fans of all the big ’80s horror icons such as Jason (Friday The 13th), Freddy (Nightmare On Elm Street), and Michael Myers (Halloween). The thought of playing a videogame based off of one of those movies at that time was both exciting and a little scary for us young’uns. Fortunately for our young minds, the scariest thing about Friday The 13th for the Commodore 64 was the actual gameplay.
Players begin the game as one of ten kids stuck at Camp Crystal Lake, Jason’s stomping grounds. Unfortunately for you, one of the kids isn’t a kid at all; it’s Jason in disguise (gasp). Your mission is always the same – find Jason and kill him before he kills all your friends and comes after you. To do this you’ll need a weapon. Fortunately for you someone has littered a dozen or so weapons including chainsaws, daggers, pitchforks and axes around the Crystal Lake campgrounds for the children to use.
The game’s screen is divided into halves. The top half shows the area you’re in. The bottom shows you useful information. Of course your score and current weapon are listed, but there are a few other items of use to you here. On the left is your “Scare-O-Meter”. The more scared you are, the higher your hair stands up on your head (seriously). Next to that is your health meter, measured graphically with a barbell. To the right of that is the creepy Jason Face-O-Meter. (I don’t know if these things really have names or not; these are simply what I call them.) Jason’s Face-O-Meter slowly fills in each time he kills. I’m pretty sure this represents how close he is to winning. On the right is your roster of friends. Those who have taken an axe to the face or a chainsaw to the gut are replaced with cute little tombstones.
What a great place to drop your kids off for the summer!
The game field consists of about a five by five matrix of screens. You’ll pass the church, a field, the cottage, another field or two, and then the church, field, and cottage again. There are three buildings you can enter: the church, the barn, and the cabin. Logically, the game plays a lot like Superman for the Atari 2600, except the playing field is much smaller. There’s no way to actually get lost in this game – not that you’re going anywhere specific, mind you. Your goal is to wander around, looking for Jason, who is disguised as one of the other kids.
So, how do you find Jason? The easiest way is to start attacking the other kids. When Jason is hit, the graphic will change from the kid’s disguise to Jason (who looks like a regular person wearing a black jumpsuit). Many of the other children are so are wimpy that once you’ve hit them in the head two or three times with your weapon of choice, you kill them instead of Jason! Oh well. The game ends when either Jason kills all the other kids, or you. The round ends when you kill Jason. Each round is basically identical, except you alternate between two different playable kids which look different but play the same.
To throw some shock value into the game, occasionally when you stumble across a corpse the game will randomly flash a gruesome picture on the screen for about 2-3 seconds, along with a (badly) digitized scream. It seems to happen about once every ten to twenty corpses. The first time you see them they can catch you off guard, but after that they just kind of make you laugh. I spend more time trying to get these to come up than anything else in the game.
Friday The 13th includes some fun musical tunes. Depending on where you are in the game, the songs will change from “Teddy Bear’s Picnic” to “Old Macdonald” to other classics. They all relate to where you are, and are funny if you get the jokes. For example, the lyrics to “Teddy Bear Picnic” go, “If you go out in the woods today / You’re sure of a big surprise / If you go out in the woods today / You’d better go in disguise.” Of course the songs don’t have lyrics in the game, so you kind of have to know them to get the jokes. In general the songs are so upbeat and happy you would never know you are playing a horror game. There’s something weird about stabbing a dude while “Old Macdonald” plays in the background.
Every time I pull out my old Commodore, this is one of the games I play. It’s got fun music, fun graphics, and allows you to throw hatchets at small children. Friday The 13th isn’t hard to learn how to play or master, but it’s mindless fun and always reminds me of the good ol’ days. For such a silly game, you’ll find yourself playing Friday The 13th longer and more often than you probably should.