Game Review: Friday the 13th
Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th Title Screen

  • Publisher: LJN
  • Developer: LJN
  • Released: February 1989
  • Game Type: Adventure
  • Players: 1
  • Product Number: NES-F3-USA
  • Rarity: C- (Borderline Common)
    Game Ratings:
    OVERALL: 7

    Box Scan
    Friday the 13th Screen 1 Friday the 13th Screen 2

    As you may have guessed, this title is based on the series of slasher films starring the hockey mask-wearing Jason Voorhees. This game actually combines several elements from each of the movies into this adventure title. The majority of the NES nation and even the major gaming magazines have put this title down, saying it's too hard and it's terrible. Granted it doesn't rank up there with horror titles like Castlevania, but if you invest enough time and effort into it, you may find it's actually not that bad.

    The setting is Camp Crystal Lake, which has a reputation of unsolved murders in the past. Six counselors and their little campers were trying to enjoy a peaceful summer. But their tranqulity is shattered by the appearence of Jason Voorhees, who begins to terrorize everyone and tries to turn the camp into a slaughter house. Now the six counselors have to band together and defend themselves and the children against the bloodthirsty killer.

    The game takes place throughout the campground, which includes several cabins, the lake, forest and caves, and features two main views. You take control of the six counselors and can switch kids when you're in one of the small cabins. Each of the six counselors has their strengths and weaknesses; some run faster, some jump higher, some can row a canoe faster, and others can use weapons better. You spend most of your time walking on the path to each of the cabins in the side-view mode, defending yourself from monsters that roam the camp such as zombies, wolves, and ravens. Everyone starts with rocks, but as they kill enemies or jump around, they can find better weapons such as daggers and the machete, as well as medicene to heal your wounds. You can also find keys and lighters which will help out in your quest. A timer frequently appears and ticks down, meaning Jason is about to attack the children or one of the other counselors. You have to go to the cabin and stop him before that counselor or children is lost. However Jason can also attack you on the pathways and you have to try and fend him off. Eventually the daytime turns to night, meaning the monsters become more numerous, and you won't see the sun again until you kill Jason.

    During the game you also have to venture into the cabins you pass by, at which time the game switches to an over-the-shoulder 1st-person view. In the cabins you can meet the other counselors and swap weapons or heal their injuries, or you can find special items. The six largest cabins have fireplaces which can be lit with the lighter, and once all six are lit, you can find the flashlight and receive more powerful weapons like the Machete and Axe. You must also go into cabins to meet Jason in a one-on-one battle (ala Puncho-Out) before he can add another victim to his list. Do enough damage to Jason and he will run off for the time being, after which you go back out to the paths and try to get more weapons until Jason strikes again. You have the battle Jason many times to drain his HP down to 0. If you do manage to kill Jason, daytime will return and the surviving counselors will be rejuvenated. But beware, Jason will return stronger than before, and you have to defeat him three times to win the game. You must also battle the head of Jason's mother to get some important items you need to survive. You have to defeat Jason three times to win the game, but the game ends if Jason eliminates all the counselors or all the children.

    Graphics & Sounds:
    The graphics have their good points and bad points. In the side-view modes the backgrounds are decent. It does a good job with the setting of the game, and there's a bit of parallax scrolling. The 3D views in the cabins are another story. TThe views are confusing and it's easy to get lost since you can't tell where the hallways are. As for the sprites, the counselors are all faceless, and they almost all look the same, except for skin and clothing color. At least Jason looks decent enough.

    The music is also a mixed bag. The theme that plays when you're outside isn't that great and gets repetitive quickly. In the cabins, you're treated to a nice creepy tune as you try to make your way through, not knowing when you're going to run into Jason. When you do run into Jason, the infamous "chchchchahahaha" sound plays, followed by a nice suspensful theme as you try to survive.

    The controls have their ups and downs. In the side-view modes the controls are pretty straightfoward and are easy to use. Trying to move a slow character around can be an exercise in frustration. In the 3D modes, the controls are a little cluncky, as you often have to really press on the D-pad to turn left or right. When you're battling Jason, you'll find you can't duck by just pushing down on the control pad; you have to diagonally push down-right or down-left, and you often don't duck when you want to. This can lead to your demise quickly, especially when fighitng Jason in his turbo modes.

    Challenge & Playability:
    There's no denying it: this game is very difficult. Much of this is due to the randomness of just about everything. The weapons you need to win appear randomly, as does Jason's attacks. The game may even seem repetitive at times. Plus when you do find Jason, he can slay you pretty easily. However if you don't give up and keep trying, you may find the gameplay is rather enjoyable, even fun. The RPG-like gameplay really fits this type of game very well. The fact that each of the counselors has different attriblutes adds to the variety; you have to figure out the best way to use each one. The randomness of Jason's appearences also brings some welcome tension; you never know when or where he's going to strike and this helps keep you on your toes. Fans of the flicks may cry foul about zombies and bats being in this game, but it's better than having Jason as the only enemy in the game. With enough practice, most gamers can find a way to easily defeat Jason for good (?).

    So while Friday the 13th isn't the greatest movie-based title on the NES, it still does a decent job of paying homage to the movie series and it turns out to be a surprisingly fun game. Try not to be scared away by the game's difficulty. This is a cartridge you will have to invest a lot of time with to really get into, but once you do you'll find an enjoyable and suspensful romp through Camp Crystal Lake. Fans of the movie series should definelty give it a look-see.

    - Review posted on October 13, 2006