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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Retro Review Tuesday: Friday the Thirteenth

Once again I have to apologize for the lack of entries I've got fun stuff it's just that we were without internet access for awhile last week.

This is another awesome classic review written by my awesome brother. Enjoy.


Nearly thirty years ago, Paramount produced a move that would forever staple the "Summer Camp Horror" cliche into our hearts. Only a very special film company can turn a story about a vengeance-seeking homicidal mother of a dead mentally retarded boy into a never-ending series about an undead, invincible, hockey-masked super-human killing machine. It takes a very, VERY special video-game development company in LJN to turn this killing-machine into an 8-bit, blue-masked-purple-jogging-suit-wearing juggernaut squaring off against six faceless "counselors," while at the same time turning this into a zombie invasion. Can such a video game really exist? Why, yes, it does. And what can you do to be a part of the magic? Well, first you can read this ironically elaborate review.

Sarcasm aside, let's get this's an LJN game - it's terrible. That aside, it is actually one of LJN's better put-together games, and one of the first-ever survival horror games. And with the way Jason is usually presented to you, the game actually manages to "scare" you, when the masked maniac suddenly appears on screen with little to no warning, in many instances. And let's not forget the game's infamous difficulty.

Once the game is started, it goes right to a well-rendered intro sequence, which is an animated throwback to the famous cover design of the Part IV movie case, where a knife flies in from God-knows-where and sticks into the eyehole of Jason's Hockey Mask. Then the screen flashes violently. While you sit there, noting how they must have blown their entire budget for the game on that opening sequence, the title screen will appear. You push start, and after it tells you to light the fire places, you select your first character.

Your goal in this game is to destroy Jason before getting all six of the counselors killed off. Likewise with the fifteen children, whom were looking forward to an enriching summer of hiking, rowing, singing, not getting slaughtered, and fishing. You kill Jason by using six different weapons of differing strengths and uses (and by uses, I just mean strength.) When you hear the alarm, indicating to you that Jason is either attacking a fellow counselor in their cabin, or the campers, you race to the cabin, and have one of many, many battles with the Demon of Crystal Lake, until you finally put him down once and for all (or, at least until the next sequel).

Graphically the game is actually pretty well rendered. The backgrounds even change, in the distance based on your location, IE: changing to trees when you're getting near the woods, rock when you're near the cave, and water when you're approaching the lake. They are rather simplistic, but get the job done as far as clarity of the situation, except for Jason of course...nobody's every going to understand that.

Sound wise the effects are pretty crisp, although nothing resembles anything close to a realistic sound. All of the sound effects are your standard, classic electronic sound of some sort and notably missing is Jason's trademark sound (if you're familiar with the movies you know what I'm talking about.) The music is like most any other NES game, it is obnoxiously repetitive yet strangely intoxicating. The music that plays while inside of a cabin is especially notable, for its distinct sound and ambiance.



I could get extra analytical about this and scout each and every character's strengths and weakness...or I could just put it like this - use Mark. Crissy and Laura are okay too, but Mark is who's going to do this for you. Avoid doing anything with Paul, Debbie, or George. Eventually it will become a necessity to use these three, but until that time comes, put them away in the closet, and take care of Mark and his girls. Okay, so maybe there's need for SOME analytical crap...

Mark - Moves fast, rows fast, jumps high, he's your guy.Take care of him so that you may make him last for the entirety of the game. Make sure he gets all the potions he wants and give him the Sweater (both of those things will be discussed, below).

Crissy - Also moves fast on land, jumps high, she's just about the female equivalent to Mark and you should also take care of her, as well.

Laura - She moves quickly, but sucks at jumping. She's still a better choice than George, Debbie, and Paul but only because of her speed.

George - is a useless cretin, he excels at absolutely nothing. Also, he's also the least attractive one, so it's a pretty standard notion than you want nothing to do with him.

Debbie - She's pretty much just female George, although when he throws a weapon, she really whips that thing. Still, with a name that even SOUNDS slow, Debbie is definitely on the reject list.

Paul - Paul's only better than Debbie and George because he's black. But even so, how black is he REALLY? His name is Paul, for crying out loud and he can't run OR jump. But you have to cut him some slack - he's the one most likely to die in this situation.

-Playing the Game-

You wander Camp Crystal Lake, wondering how a place that frequently experiences mass murders can STILL be a problem, looking out for goodies, and Jason. To keep you busy while Jason's deciding who to kill, you battle yellow and blue zombies, who even walk with the outreaching arms. They, of course, are the most annoying part of the game, however, killing them will give you the invaluable lighter (which the game refers to as a "torch" ...perhaps LJN are a bunch of bloody wankers from England?) and killing enough of them may even grant you a special weapon. Every now and again, Jason will appear, generally indicated by whatever zombies that are on screen walking off the screen and by the screen halting its scroll, as you move. When Jason appears he will throw spinning axes at you, which are rather hard to dodge. Hit him enough times with your weapon, and he will run away. The game is slightly realistic in the sense that if you follow him you will likely end up fighting with him again in a moment. Also, if Jason leaves and suddenly the alarm sounds, it will probably be very close to where you two had just battled.

Once the alarm sounds, you look to the status bar atop the screen, and see which indicator is flashing. If it is the Counselor Indicator (The one next to the potentially changing number of unhappy-looking faces) you then press start to see which cabin it is that Jason is occupying (it will be green and flashing). A timer will appear next to the flashing indicator, giving you sixty seconds to reach the cabin. It is pertinent that you get over there as fast as you can - the longer you take, the more Health the counselor inside loses. And you may need to use this counselor at some point. If you're dawdling, indifferent, or more likely - lost in the woods, and time expires, Jason will slay the counselor inside, effectively costing you one life, and the use of that character. GOD HELP YOU if it's Mark.If the Children Indicator is flashing, then you've got slightly more of a chore to deal with, as the only way to reach them is to row your boat across the lake to their cabins, all the while getting attacked by zombies, birds, and Jason, an attack which you can do virtually nothing about except wonder how it is that he's in the water attacking you while he's supposed to be killing the campers. The more time you spend dawdling on the way to the campers the fewer of them there will be. Once Jason has wiped out a cabin full of children he will move on to the next cabin when he strikes again. If all your children are wiped out it's game over so as much as you might like to, you can't ignore them.

Once you've entered a cabin, the screen switches to a pseudo "3D" screen, with very limited movement and excruciatingly slow progression. If there is another counselor in the cabin, you can switch weapons with them by pressing select and choosing the "PASS" option. Though leaving them with a weapon, no matter how nice it is, doesn't seem to help them fend of Jason's wrath without your help. You can also switch places with each other with Select-CHANGE. If you having a potion, cure them with Select-CURE. If you find a weapon or note on the cabin floor, take it with Select-TAKE. If you're in an empty cabin and press start you can choose a new character and you'll start from their cabin, if you do this in an occupied cabin, the cabin's original counselor will move to an unoccupied cabin.

While in a cabin, you can tell if Jason is there with you because his life bar appears at the bottom of a screen. Occasionally you will enter a cabin that Jason is randomly occupying, even if there's no alarm. If you are attacked by Jason in a cabin, you square off with the purple-suited psycho while he attacks with either his fists, a machete, or what you may at first think is a hair brush, but is really most-likely an axe. You throw the weapon you have at Jason with the B button. Jumping is disabled in the Cabin Mode. By pushing down and over in any direction on the D-pad, you can dodge Jason's attacks when he steps in front of you. Sometimes Jason will attack you twice in a row without moving, so stay on your pixelated toes. Once you've hit Jason enough times, he will flash and disappear like any other NES sprite, and a message will display on the screen, reading "You win...for now." Ominous, no? However, if Jason's Health Bar is low enough, he will fight you until it depletes entirely, something that really sucks if you only have one of the first two weapons. Jason's Health Bar depletes over the elapse of several different battles with him, so depleting it entirely can take quite a while. Jason may also try and fight to the death when he attacks you on the path, but here, you cannot see his Health Bar, so you just have to keep fighting until he flickers.

Once you've depleted Jason's Health Bar, you will get a less-than-congratulatory message, and you will find yourself having to kill him again - only now everything's harder.


The game spans three "days," each new day starting when you deplete Jason's health. Each day follows a cycle, starting off in daylight, turning to dusk and then night, the progression being completely dependent on how often you enter and leave a cabin.

Day One - Everything's standard, Jason's at normal speed, takes off normal health, zombies are at normal's normal.

Day Two - Zombies are faster, and Jason is stronger and every now and again takes a snort of crack and starts really flying, making his attacks nearly impossible to avoid, completely.

Day Three - Zombies are still fast and possibly more frequent,  and crows appear on all the roads. Making matters worse it that Jason has become a non-stop speed-demon making every encounter with him a real labored attempt.


Aside from the cabins, there are four different areas to scroll, each of them exhibiting their own special traits and enemies.

Road/Path - The normal screen of the game, you can use the map to navigate this and see which cabins are where (although sometimes the distance between you and other cabins can be less-than-accurate.) If you happen upon a new, alternate path leading into the horizon, or one at your feet, you can press up or down to travel them, which may lead you to the perimeter of the cave or lake, into the woods, or into the cave or lake.

Woods - Taking on Labyrinthine qualities, it's very easy to get lost in both wooded areas, traveling up and down paths that don't always lead to the same place twice. However, the Woods do hold secret cabins housing secret items and they also yield an abundance of potions.

Cave - Dark and...scary? This area has bats and holes for you to fall down and die in. It's a bit hard to tell where some of the alternate paths are (the ones in the backgrounds are almost invisible their location hinted only by the crumbled rocks on the ground in front of them, among the other rocks), but once you collect the flashlight, it's much brighter and the paths are easy to see.

Lake - Here, you row your canoe to wherever you're going (the camper's cabins being the only non-pointless destination), while trying to avoid zombies jumping out of the water, birds, and Jason. It takes a little while for your character to accelerate the canoe to max speed, and the maximum speed is dependent on the character you're using (although honestly, in this situation, wouldn't you think that they'd use a motor boat?)


All weapons are projectiles. Nice that picking up just one gives you and endless supply.

Stone - Your default weapon, it takes five hits of these useless things to take off a single pellet of Jason's life...Jason having thirty-two, randomly-numbered pellets in total. (I don't mean to mention crack again...but these ARE big, white rocks...)

Knife - You get this, along with many other items, by jumping in certain areas, triggering their appearance. You are guaranteed to have at least once instance where you accidentally lose a great weapon by picking up one of these by mistake. Four hits to a pellet, it's not a whole lot better than the Stone but it's still an improvement.

Machete - You can get this either by defeating Jason's mother in the Cave, finding it in a cabin in the Woods, or killing fifty zombies. Usually when you earn this via zombie-death, you're not ready for it, and either would have to downgrade your weapon to get it, or gain nothing, having already acquired a Machete. It's too bad to see it go to waste, as it kills zombies in one hit, and takes only three to take off a pellet of Jason's life.

Axe - A strong weapon, but slower compared to the others, you throw these spinning, just like Jason does on the road. This can only be acquired by defeated Jason's mother under certain circumstances, or finding it in a secret cabin in the Woods. One hit for zombies, Two-per-Jason pellet.
Torch - The most useful weapon in the game, this one can even be used to hit Jason in the Lake, making it a little more fair that you can do nothing to avoid the Lake attacks. This weapon drops to the ground when you throw it, burning for a second, and killing zombies that absent-mindedly run into it. This one only takes merely one hit it take a pellet from Jason, and it is acquired by lighting certain fire places and then finding it in a cabin by the lake, or by getting it from Mrs. Voorhees. It may also be available in a secret cabin.
Pitch Fork - Possibly the hardest weapon in the game to acquire, it is only available by killing Jason's mother on Day Three. It's very fast, and passed right-through zombies, killing them instantly. This one also takes off one pellet per single hit on Jason.


Items can only be collected by coming into contact with them while jumping. It sounds dumb, but it actually makes it a little easier to avoid collecting unwanted pick-ups. However, it frequently threatens to do the very opposite for you while you're jumping to avoid an enemy.

Lighter - Use this to light fireplaces in big cabins.
Potion - You can use these to regain a small amount of health or to heal your fellow counselors in need. If you're carrying one of these when your Health Bar depletes, it will automatically be used and save you for the time being.
Key - These are used to unlock the doors of secret cabins and the door to Jason's mother's lair. One key can open everything without seemingly disintegrating in the lock, like with so many other games, which is rather nice.
Flashlight - This is found when certain fireplaces are lit up. It appears instantly after you do this inside of a cabin so don't leave the area or it's gone. You can use this to light up the cave and reveal hidden paths, rather useless once you know what to look for.
Notes - Random notes are left for you to in larger or secret cabins. They may hint on to where you may find a special item, or they may just tell you to go into a random cabin or into the woods.

Zombies - The standard enemy of the game, they basically give you something to do while Jason's inactive. Easy to deal with, but you get tired of it, real soon.
Lake Zombies - These jump out of the water while you're rowing the canoe. Rather annoying, but weaker than normal zombies.
Birds - Maybe it's a crow? Either way, it appears after about 10 zombies come and go, takes only 1 hit to kill, but it's pretty annoying to deal with. Seen both on the road and over the lake.
Wolves - Appearing in both the Woods and the Cave, (colored baby blue while in the cave for some reason) they're very hard to deal with. They're fast, they jump, and they're very tough, sustaining a lot of damage before being eliminated. It's recommended that you just run away from them.
Bats - A weak enemy that appears only in the cave. Not a huge problem.
Jason - The Hockey-Masked killer we all know and love is done less-than justice, in his sky-blue mask, skin of the same color, and purple clothing, which, as stated before, looks like a jogging-suit. However, his admittedly hilarious look is no reason to take him lightly. Very strong and very fast, as is right, if someone's gonna get ya, it's him.
Mrs. Voorhees -
Jason's beheaded mother, she floats up from her candle-lit alter and basically...headbutts you with the remains of her body. You can battle Mrs. Voorhees once on all three days, enjoying her shifting of color for each. Her location is obscured, but if you defeat her, you will be granted a special reward, depending on the day it is, and/or the weapon you are carrying:

Day One Prize - Machete. If you already have one, Axe. If you already have that, Torch. Already have that? Axe again.
Day Two Prize - the movie series, the sweater played a notable part in Part 2. However, it was blue then. Here, the Sweater is a neon pink and yellow...yeah. Upon getting it, your current character will sustain only half the damage he or she receives. You will also flash from your normal color to green, making you feel extra special.
Day Three - Pitchfork. As stated earlier, very strong, very nice. Beware, though...Mrs. Voorhees is a real problem this time around.


So, there you have it, poor Friday the 13th didn't get to wait long enough to have its video game spin-off made...competently. But you know, thinking back to how "competently" the films were made...this seems right, in a way. It must be doing something right...I've spent hours and hours playing and beating this game over and over. It must be stressed again that this is no small feat. This game maybe bad, but it's also insanely difficult, beating it ranks you right up there with the Gods.

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