Let me start off by saying that I am a big fan of the Friday the 13th movie series. The later releases had something to be desired and were a bit far fetched even for a slasher movie (Jason in space). The first four were classics and will always stay close to my heart.

Their popularity was almost unmatched when these movies came out in the early eighties, so what better way to cash in on its popularity by taking the basic elements of the series and wrapping it all up into an 8-bit NES game. Sounds promising right? Well it’s not all fun and games. Let me explain…

Platform: Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)

Developer: Pack-In-Video

Publisher: LJN

Release: February 1989

Right off the bat I was a bit skeptical when I saw the LJN name on this game in the opening credits. They’ve been hit and miss on a lot of their games but I had to go into this with an open mind. As soon as you press start you get taken to a screen that shows a large layout of Camp Crystal Lake. Below there are six counselors (three male and three female) that you can choose from, all of them begin at different cabins on the map. The counselors are unique; you don’t just pick whoever looks best for you. They actually have something to add to the game for example, “Mark” is the best boat rower in the game. This obviously comes in handy when you have to row your way to one of the cabins located in the center of Camp Crystal Lake. “Crissy” is the fastest character; this comes in handy against the enemies you will encounter throughout your adventure.

One of the problems I had with this game was how it just threw you into the game and told you to light the fireplaces in the cabins. Easy enough right? Well not so much. There are approximately 21 cabins. What they didn’t tell you is that fireplaces are only located in the large cabins. Sure you may uncover some hints along the way but I would like to have some sort of setup to the game. It made it even more frustrating when the area is hard to truly navigate. I found myself in many situations where I was wondering where the heck to go. I would enter the caves and get lost real quickly because the lack of detail given to the area. There are essentially four locations you can travel to; cabins, a cave, the forest and you can briefly boat to a cabin on the lake.  None of them are overly hard to navigate to, however the caves and the forest are quite a chore to search fully.

There are six weapons in all; rocks, a knife, a machete, an axe, a torch and a pitchfork. You start off with rocks and you have to toss them on an arch. It’s rather tedious when you have zombies coming after you at all times. Some of them just go over their head or you fall just short of the enemies. Other weapons such as the machete are a lot more powerful and go in a straight line as opposed to those rocks. You find weapons by killing enemies and randomly jumping around, yes randomly jumping around. Other weapons are hidden in certain areas of the map, such as in the cave and cabins. You have to be careful as you can only carry one weapon at a time and you have no option to switch. If you have a torch, which is extremely powerful, and happen to accidently run into a knife, you will be downgraded no questions asked.

An issue I had with the controls of the game was that you could not attack while you were in the air after jumping. I found myself jumping over an enemy to avoid him but could not attack another one coming after me while I was in the air (the crows). It became a little stressful especially at night when the enemies spawn more frequently. The enemies in the game include zombies, crows, wolves and bats. How typical to have those in the game (what NES horror game doesn’t?) when it had nothing to do with the movie. At least they’re appropriately placed in their correct habitat.

While you travel from cabin to cabin you have a ticker above that goes off seemingly every 90 seconds. It’s a warning that Jason is at one of the cabins about to murder one of the children or counselors. You then have to proceed (with caution) to that specific cabin and quickly make the save in under 60 seconds. If you don’t make it there in time he will murder one of them, essentially killing off one of your “lives”. You get a chance with each counselor and if they all die or the children die it’s game over. Once you arrive at the cabin you may find vague notes on the floor that tell you to search a certain area, otherwise just look for Jason in there. He will generally pop up towards the back of it. You then get thrown into a fight with Jason, very similar to the “Punch-Out!!” fighting system. The system was a bit rough to grasp right off the bat. It took a lot of trial and error before I finally started defeating Jason. He will even periodically attack you while you’re outside the cabins battling other enemies.

After you have defeated him in the battle, he will run off and you will be safe for the time being. You have to drain off a certain percentage of health before he will take off. How much damage you do is dependent on which weapon you have when you battle him.  A day is judged on how many times you kill Jason during the Cabin battles. The first day he is rather easy once you get the timing down. After you have “killed” him, he comes back the second day with stronger attacks and faster movement. The third day brings a challenge as his movements shift into “turbo” as I like to refer to it as.  I won’t go into detail on the ending, but if you’ve seen the movies, you have a good idea on how it ends.

There wasn’t too much I really liked about the game. One of the things that stood out to me was the variable weather in the game. It started during the day and jumped to dusk and then night as the game progressed. With darkness came more zombies spawning from the ground which I found was a nice touch. Another cool idea was the addition of Mrs. Voorhees as a floating head in the game. [Movie SPOILER] Like in the movie she was decapitated with the machete. [End SPOILER] You meet up with her in the cave and she gives you a special item should you defeat her that helps you against Jason later on.

I disliked the repetitive battles and felt it was just the same thing over and over again. Find a cabin; save a counselor, make Jason flee; wait for the timer, rinse and repeat. Also, music was dreadful and after 15 minutes of hearing that same midi play over and over I quickly became a close friend with the mute button.

Overall, this game is a blast of nostalgia but nothing really more. It could have been a much better survival horror game if given the chance. If you’re a hardcore survival horror fan you may have enjoyed this in the past but for most people I wouldn’t recommend this game. There is definitely a cult like following for this game; some have even started a petition to remake this game on the current gen consoles. That wouldn’t be a bad idea given the release of the 2009 movie remake and it could breathe in some much needed new life to this franchise.