Remember the days when certain NES games were marketed as âscaryâ? I fondly recall the marketing campaign for the Castlevania series, showing a kid sitting alone in the dark, playing Castlevania on his NES and being scared out of his wits. Hard to believe that 8 bits of drearily-colored blobs accompanied by Kasio Keyboard music could be considered âscaryâ, but back in the day it was the best they could do. Friday the 13th for the Nintendo Entertainment System attempted to ride-in on that âscaryâ trend, though when compared to other âterrifyingâ NES games, like Metroid and Castlevania, Friday the 13th canât really compete.
The game is obviously a licensed title based on the slasher franchise that was all the rage in the 80âs. You play as a horde of teenage counselors at Camp Crystal Lake. Your objective is to kill Jason before he slaughters all your liâl campers. The objective may sound simple-enough, but the game is rather complex. You have 6 counselors, each with varying physical skills (or in the case of George, NO physical skills what-so-ever). You can only play as one at a time, while the other 5 are scattered around in cabins all over the camp ground. Jason will randomly appear and disappear, attacking the counselors. Whenever Jason attacks, a meter for 1 minute starts up and you have to hustle on down to that cabin before time runs out. If youâre too late, Jason kills the counselor and youâre short one character. When heâs not trying to slaughter the counselors, Jason is brutally murdering itty bitty camper children. All the kids are conveniently located in the lakeside cabins, and once again, when Jason attacks them you have exactly one minute to get your crap together and come to their rescue. If youâre late, Jason kills a few of the kids and goes back about his business. Run out of kids and you lose the game.
You know what? This whole game is really pretty morbid, now that I think about it.
But thereâs more to the game-play than just that. You have various weapons to use against Jason (who is crazy hard to beat because he takes so little damage). You start the game out with rocks which you can throw at him when he strikes. Hit him with rocks enough times and heâll run away. Just like in the movies! Gradually, you find better weapons like hunting knives and axes. If you travel into the cave you can find a machete, too. Ultimately, you canât actually beat Jason with any of these weapons. If you try, the game just tells you âJason is back and more powerful than before!â and you have to start all over again. The only way to kill Jason is to light the fireplaces in all the cabins and then find the torch. The instruction manual describes the torch as âthe only weapon Jason fearsâ. I find that hard to believe, as he seems to be pretty terrified of rocks in this game.
When you arenât fighting Jason youâre being attacked by hordes of zombies, crows and wolves (just like in the movies!). Theyâre easy to kill, but the shear volume of them can get rather irritating. Even more annoying, every time you have to go save those imbecile campers by the lake, you have to jump in a canoe and paddle your way to the cabin. Along the way, youâre attacked by crows, lake zombies, the disembodied head of Mrs. Voorhees and Jason-himself. That last one really pisses me off, because Jason just swims across the screen and thereâs no way to dodge him or fight him off.
When you fight Jason inside a cabin, the mechanics are fairly simple. You are at the front of the screen, moving from left to right. Jason is in the back of the screen moving left to right and from front to back. When heâs close to you heâll try to hack you with his machete so you have to make sure you dodge his blows. When he moves back, thatâs when you can hurl a rock at him or something. Itâs a lot like Punch-Out, though much more tedious. The pattern is simple but requires patience, as some times he just wonât go away and if all you have are rocks you could be stuck âfightingâ him for 10 minutes. Jason will also randomly attack you outside of cabins on the paths, hurling a never-ending stream of what I think are supposed to be spinning machetes at you. You canât jump over him because heâs too wide and you can only dodge his ninja stars for so long until he closes in on you. Very cheap.
In retrospect, I suppose the game simulates the Friday the 13th experience rather accurately, as the counselors never stand a chance against Jason and neither does the player. I remember Nintendo Power magazine ranked this as one of the 10 worst NES games of all-time. I think that might be a little harsh, honestly. The game is pretty bad, but no way is it worse than Who Framed Roger Rabbit, TMNT 1 or Dragon Power. Friday the 13th is mediocre at best, though playing Punch-Out against Jason is actually pretty cool.