The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Wizard Video)
Of all the licensed games that have been released I would put Texas Chainsaw Massacre at the top of the ‘least likely to appeal to anyone’ list. The Atari 2600 wasn’t really known to have much success with ‘adult’ oriented games, as we all know it appealed more to kids and teens with the huge amount of arcade conversions, and I suppose the adults were there too but it seems they were after much the same as the kids. Oddly enough TCM was programmed by our old friend Ed Salvo who programmed Skeet Shoot one of my most disliked games on the system, and Mountain King, one of the most advanced and complicated games on the 2600, also one of my favorites. TCM was treated much like the Mystique and Playaround games, relegated to a small spot behind the counter IF the store even decided to carry it. I also feel the need to mention that this isn’t the only version of TCM that was made, there is a second version where you actually have to kill the man with the gun, as seen on the box art, as Leatherface, as far as I can tell it is a fully completed game that was just never released, so I might talk about it later on. For now let’s cast ourselves into a pit of depravity and gore as we look at The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on the Atari 2600 by Wizard Video.
I’m rather torn on the graphics, there are elements that I like and elements that I feel could use some improvement. Let’s start with the elephant in the room; the chainsaw is baby blue and it looks like crap. I don’t know what the coding constraints were when programming the graphics but there must have been a way to make the chainsaw a different color. The foreground obstacles are well done; you’ll be avoiding cow skulls, white painted fences, wheelchairs, and undergrowth/really dead bushes. The background is a mixed bag for me, on the one hand I can appreciate the detail that went into the house and truck as well as the horizontal scrolling, but on the other hand the single row of absolutely enormous trees are almost comical and somewhat ruin whatever immersion one could have while playing the game. The ‘victims’ are also well done, they are rendered in multiple colors and have defined facial features, the details are quite nice. Well, the graphics are a mixed bag, are the sounds as well?
This particular bag is not mixed, this particular bag is horrible. There is only one sound that I even need to mention, since the rest of them are actually okay, and that is the scream. The scream is just an extremely high pitched beep, and holy crap it is murder on the ears. Since there isn’t much to the soundtrack I’ll just skip right on down to the gameplay, hopefully it can make up for how rather lackluster the game has been so far.
Well it seems the game is going to stay that way since this is one of the shallowest games I’ve played so far. All you do as Leatherface is avoid oncoming obstacles and mow down the same two girls over and over. Despite being incredibly simple the game is also incredibly infuriating. When chasing down the girls they will sometimes teleport behind you , which is obnoxious since you’ve already engaged your chainsaw at that point and now you’ve wasted some of your precious fuel. You can avoid fuel loss by not activating your chainsaw as you approach and rather wait until the saw is actually touching or overlapping with the girl’s body then you activate it. Once you figure out the teleporting nonsense the game goes from frustrating to boring since all you’re now doing is walking around obstacles and doing the same thing over and over again. The game does have a ‘time’ limit in the form of fuel, you use some up when you activate your chainsaw, and some is used up as you walk around. You can replenish a small amount of fuel every 5000 points, basically every five kills. The only thing that will challenge you is the collision detection, it is super precise and if a single pixel of your body touches any pixel of an obstacle you will be immobilized for a few seconds wasting your fuel. The wheelchairs will be your worst enemy in the end since they can move at comically fast speeds, sometimes faster than one can react. You get three fuel refills before the game is over, when you’re all out a little cutscene will play of one of the girls coming up behind Leather face and kicking him so hard he vaporizes. Game Over…
Once the ‘WOW’ factor wears off you’ll see that Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a shallow, repetitive, waste of time that only hardcore collector’s should pursue. Oddly enough the second scrapped version I find to be somewhat superior as it is two player and actually has a somewhat original premise, but I’ll get to that another time. If you wanted to get a copy for yourself you’ll be looking at prices of 100-300 dollars for a loose copy, and 200-700 dollars for one complete in box. Honestly if you really want this game you should just get a reproduction cartridge or an SD cart. This game goes to the Collector’s Zone without a doubt.
EDIT: Spiceware has provided me with a fixed version of the game that changes the color of the chainsaw, it looks much, much better.
If you want to play the fixed version then here you go, it only changes the graphics so the game still sucks to play, but at least it looks much better.