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UK Mike (miner2049er)

The Bi-Weekly British Backtrack – Friday 13th

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Well now here’s a thing, it’s Friday 13th and we have a review of the NES game Friday 13th. This stuff doesn’t just happen you know, I planned it. Nice huh?

So kick the Black Cat out, walk under a ladder, find a single magpie and throw some salt over your shoulder as we take a look from behind a pillow at the NES game Friday The 13th.

Friday The 13th, as you know, is an American horror franchise that consists of about a dozen films, a television show, novels, comics and tons of associated merchandise. The franchise mainly focuses on the fictional character of Jason Voorhees, a boy who drowned at the resort Camp Crystal Lake. Decades later the lake is supposedly "cursed" and one summer a group of teenagers are murdered there when they try to reopen the resort.

The first film was created to cash in on the success and tried to ride on the coat tails of the film Halloween which was massive at the time (1978) and its huge success meant that Paramount Pictures purchased the full licensing rights to the Friday The 13th franchise, and despite not being popular among critics it's rightly considered a successful franchise, so much so that the Jason hockey mask from the third film is instantly recognizable and associated with the films and has become somewhat iconic in the same way that the mask from the film Scream has.

In the original Friday the 13th (1980), Jason’s mother stalks and murders the teenagers as they prepare Camp Crystal Lake for re-opening and she’s determined to make sure the camp doesn’t reopen after her son drowned in the lake. Mrs Vorhees is killed by a combination of the last surviving teenager and a spade, and in the sequel (1981) it turns out that Jason is alive and well and he takes revenge on his mother’s killer before returning to Crystal Lake to keep away any intruders.

Five years later, a group of teenagers arrive at Crystal Lake to set up a new camp, only to be murdered by Jason. One of them finds a cabin in the woods with a shrine built around the severed head of Mrs. Voorhees, and once again Jason is apparently dead but lives to fight another day, or rather, another sequel.

So the films are basically quite formulaic horror / slasher movies. A group of teenagers stalked by a sadistic killer that walks yet catches them as they run. Girl with big breasts gets killed in some ingenious way and there is one left at the end who beats the bad guy yet somehow he mysteriously makes it to another film. Repeat until the money runs out, which it shows no sign of doing just yet. Jason has been to and from Crystal lake, been made in 3D, been killed in the sewers of Manhattan, been cryogenically frozen, been into space and back, and even into dreams with Freddy Krueger before returning to Crystal Lake again, so it shows no sign of abating, but let's take a look at the video game.

In May 1986, Domark released a Friday the 13th game for the Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum but we will be looking at the NES game which seems to be one of those that you either love or hate, and from reading reviews and reports about it, it looks like people decide that pretty early on and maybe don't give it a fair chance.

It was made by LJN, the company that's known for making other such classics as Back to the Future, Jaws and X-men so they didn't have a great back catalog going into the game.

Graphically Friday the 13th features some of the most impressive scenery on the NES and has very detailed backdrops but the enemy characters aren't great and are difficult to distinguish from each other.

Understandably Jason is probably the best looking character in the game and he looks exactly like you would expect him to... an animated Jason.

Sound wise the game has more or less the same tune throughout the entire game which is similar to the music in A Link to the Past on the SNES, but it can get a little bit annoying.

The sound effects aren't much better because when Jason is attacking a counselor or the children, the game beeps to warn you, and it won’t be long before you turn the sound down. You can still tell when somebody is being attacked but it may be a little bit too late.

Gameplay wise what you have to do is play the part of one of the 6 counselors and run around the camp and the buildings saving the children and the other counselors from Jason, and you have to keep that up for the 3 "days" of the game clock. A day ends when you kill Jason, and each day the enemies get harder. There are two different play modes in the game, the main one when you're outside which has a side scrolling view, and the secondary one when you’re inside and which has a first person view.

Unfortunately neither of the modes are without their problems. In the outdoor mode you have to go in search of better equipment while avoiding Jason and protecting the children but Jason always seems to appear just when you need him the least and in the indoor mode you have to explore the cabins and find goodies while lighting the fires. The outdoor mode is the better of the two and could almost be a standalone platformer type game but the indoor mode has got sluggish controls that ruin it a little bit.

The idea is a good one with the outside mode being almost 3D in that you can go left and right and also away from you in towards the screen or out of the screen along paths that lead around the camp, and you are free to roam the paths and enter different buildings where you will use the first person perspective. Sound theory but sadly flawed execution.

So your character in the game will be one of the Camp's 6 counselors so let's look at them as they all have slightly different qualities.

GEORGE is very slow and really doesn't have any strengths, he's probably the weakest character in the entire game along with Debbie so you wouldn't want to choose either of them.

MARK is very fast and overall is the best character in the game. He runs at the same pace as Crissy, but he rows quicker than anyone in the camp (which is essential if you want to rescue the children on the lake.)

PAUL is very slow which is pretty much all you can say about him.

LAURA is fast and a bit of an all rounder and she runs quickly, jumps a long way though not very high and her rowing speed is low.

DEBBIE is very slow and is the weakest of the girls

CRISSY is very fast and runs just as well as Mark and jumps well too but she's not very good at rowing. If at any time during the game Mark dies, Crissy is a great replacement, and you should use one of those two characters.

Some people say that the game is scary, or was back in the day, but I doubt you would find it scary now, more annoying than anything I think due to the fact that Jason keeps popping up, the games difficulty, the enemies hard to avoid patterns and of course Jason acting just like his movie counterpart and being almost invincible.

There are a few different items either lying around the camp that you find almost at random and also a few winnable items that you get by defeating the bosses. They include a knife, a machete, an axe, a pitchfork and a burning torch.

You can also wear Jason's mother's sweater which lessens the damage taken from Jason by whoever wears it.

The lighter is useful for lighting the fires in the large cabins, the flashlight reveals secret doors in the cave, the key will unlock any door in the camp and the medicine restores your life points.

So your main enemy is obviously Jason but there are also other enemies too such as zombies that rise from the ground and there are lots of them as you wander round the camp. There are bats in the cave but they are pretty easy to avoid.

Wolves are probably the worst things in the entire game besides Jason and they are fast and will leap up at you.

Crows are not all that fast and quite predictable and water zombies leap out of the water while you row towards the children's cabin.

So the actual game begins right after the counselors have all split up, in order to find enough weapons to defeat Jason. Initially only armed with rocks they have to explore the paths around the camp and survive all of the attacks by the various baddies along the way.

Like I said, Crissy and Mark are the best runners and jumpers so they should be better able to defeat enemies, avoid obstacles and acquire weapons at the beginning of the game more easily than the others. You should leave the remaining counselors near the children to fend off Jason's attacks (especially around the lake) while Crissy or Mark go to get daggers for all the characters. Once they're all armed they should be strong enough to go out on their own and be able to defend themselves better when Jason attacks them.

The strongest weapon the counselors can get by defeating enemies outside is the machete and once you have it you can kill zombies with 1 hit. One thing you need to look out for though is that you don't pick up a dagger if you have a more powerful weapon because you will swap it and you can't get it back.

As you stroll around the camp you need to visit every cabin to:

1) light the fireplaces
2) search for weapons (they appear randomly after you have all the fireplaces blazing)
3) find notes (also random but are repetitious, though some contain important tips)
4) pass stronger weapons onto weaker counselors
5) heal sick counselors
6) switch to the closest available counselor when Jason is attacking someone

When you're outside on the trails and in the cave and the forest it's often easier to jump over zombies and wolves than it is to blast your way through them and also when you jump you will often find pickups like medicine jars, keys and lighters.

Like I said, the first thing you need to do is light all the fires in the fireplaces of the large cabins, and you should stop at all of the cabins while you walk around the camp to give knives to the weaker counselors and search for weapons, because they really do appear at random, so keep your eyes open. If you get a machete, either give it to the counselor that seems to be picked on the most (like George or Debbie), or give it to Mark or Crissy and use them to rescue the other counselors when Jason terrorizes them.

If you find your energy getting low, choose a healthy counselor to go into the woods and find some medicine by jumping around over zombies and killing other creatures. Then you can go back and heal the injured counselor.

There are two bosses in the game and they are, as you might expect, Jason's Mother and Jason himself. Mrs Vorhees is in the cave and is quite tricky to defeat because of her almost random movements, and the first time you meet Jason he'll fight you with his fists and you just have to dodge him when he aims a punch at you, sometimes a combo of two punches might catch you off guard.

The next time you do battle he's got a machete so again you just need to avoid his hits, then hit him once or twice as he retreats to the back of the room.

On the third time he'll be armed with an axe, and after that it's pretty random, although he usually sticks with the axe from then on.

Jason is evil in so much as he will usually pick on the weakest counselors and the ones with the lowest hit points so expect for him to make a beeline for a wounded counselor and try to finish them off.

After you kill him, he'll be rejuvenated and just like in the films he'll be stronger than ever. The good news is that all your surviving counselors will also be rejuvenated.

If you can also beat his mother at this point then you'll win the sweater which acts like a layer of armour and protects you a little from Jason's attacks and he will no longer attack you out on the trails.

After you kill him again, go back to the cave to win the pitchfork from his mother and you can then use that to go after Jason for a fight to the finish.

Sounds easy doesn't it? I can guarantee that it is anything but easy. The aims are clear it is just very difficult to execute and many people complained they couldn't complete it without the aid of something like a game genie.

There are aids to help you if you use them though, as I mentioned, an alarm will sound when a counselor or child are being attacked by Jason. A timer will also start to count down from 60 beside the counselor or kid icons (depending on who Jason is attacking). You don't want to wait too long because some of the children will be dead by the time you reach them or Jason will have beaten a counselor to death. When you hear the signal, go immediately to a small cabin (you can't switch counselors in the big cabins), and switch to the counselor that is in the same cabin as Jason. Or if Jason is in the middle of the lake, change over to the closest counselor to row there and save the child. If you're busy exploring the cave or the forest and can't make it in time, just forget about them and let him kill them.

You'll only lose 5 or so, and you can continue the game, just don't leave a counselor to be killed by Jason because they might have important items or weapons that you won't be able to get back if they're killed! Don't forget once you lose kids or counselors, you can't get them back so don't leave anyone to be butchered if you can help it, and beware of losing all your counselors or kids because the game will end then.

Get as much done in the daylight as possible because when night falls there will be more monsters around and you won't see the sun again until you've killed Jason.

Like I said, you need to arm your counselors so by day two they should all have at least a knife.

Jason's Mother is almost impossible to avoid on day 2 but when you beat her she will give up one of the best items in the game which is the sweater that I mentioned.

On Day 3 if all your counselors have knives or better weapons, you should be all right, but if any of your counselors are still using rocks you'll definitely struggle.

If you want to, go around and investigate the cabins again and light the fires in the larger ones and use whoever is in the sweater because they should be relatively safe on the trails but you should stock up on items on the first 2 days rather than trying to do it on the last day.

There isn’t a great deal you can do on day 3 other than that because Jason will be almost constantly bugging you and the children aren't in much danger anymore so just make sure you're ready for him.

Jason's Mother on day 3 is exactly the same as the other two days, but now she almost constantly dives at you and it is very difficult to beat her.

If you do beat the game without cheating or without a Game Genie or something than you'll have bragging rights on defeating one of the hardest games ever made for the Nintendo.


REVIEWS

You might find the game is more enjoyable with the Game Genie, but frustratingly difficult without it. However, it doesn't deserve some of the lowest ratings ever given to a NES game by gaming magazines.

Remember, you have to have A LOT of patience to play this game, it's very frustrating at first, but definitely fun and scary. I remember playing this game as a kid and was able to only get to the second day.

The soundtrack is spooky and try playing it with the lights out and the sound up.

For the Nintendo, this game has VERY good graphics. The characters are uniquely different and have their own distinct look

The scenery is done nicely, plus, the day changes from evening to night, which is also a very cool element indeed.

At the time, these graphics were very impressive. Compare this game to all the other games graphics on the Nintendo, this one will surprise you.

The songs are catchy, yes, but get annoying, especially the trail theme song. It's a clip that is at least 6 or 7 seconds long and keeps repeating over and over again.

This is my favorite classic game EVER made. (Call me weird, yes, but I love it.)

The ending is very lame, but the game is fun, I don't care about the ending really, the gameplay is all that matters to me.

I love this game and always will. It's tough, fun and adds great strategy, plus, it scared me senseless as a child and I loved every minute of it! You should at least give it a try, you can delete it if you download it as a ROM or sell it if you buy it.


Well, personally I would always recommend you buy it obviously but however you choose to play it, let us know on the forums what you thought about it and whether or not you found it scary, hard or both.

Well, like Jason, I'm apparently finished, but you just know I'll be back in two weeks time with another gripping installment. Don’t miss it.

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