Video games aimed at adult audiences are pretty common place these days, but back in 1982, Wizard Video were breaking new ground with their planned series of horror and sex movie related games for the Atari 2600. Run by Charles Band (the man behind films like Trancers, Parasite and The Gingerdead Man), Wizard were a video label that released the likes of Blood Feast, I Spit On Your Grace and Snuff (none of which spawned their own games, perhaps for the best) and these pioneering games were aimed squarely at the readers of Fangoria magazine, where Wizard would advertise their latest titles with full-page ads.
The games were announced with a flurry of excitement, with three titles initially lined up – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween and Flesh Gordon, with Deep Throat also announced for development. But the market for adult video games quickly proved to be rather smaller than the one for the movies that inspired them, and many stores were reluctant to carry such games, given the juvenile audience for video games at the time – which shop was going to stock a game based on a soft porn film or a violent horror movie alongside Pong and Space Invaders? Mail order sales were equally poor and the project fizzled out after the first two releases, the Flesh Gordon game never making it out of development.
Looking at them now, it’s not hard to see this as a mad folly all round. Eve by the limited graphics standards of the day, these games were pretty ugly visual experiences, and worse still, the game play left plenty to be desired. In The Texas Chainsaw Massacre game, you play Leatherface, running around trying to chainsaw people while avoiding obstacles. Sometimes you run out of fuel (there doesn’t seem to be a way to refuel in the game, so you just stand around waiting), and ‘screams’ are represented by a high-pitched beep. Obviously, the cover is not an accurate depiction of the game (and what is the guy with the gun about?). There seems little excitement, and even less suspense or horror at work here, as ill-formed groups of pixels move awkwardly across the screen.
The Halloween game might be even more basic, if you can imagine that, as you play ‘the babysitter’, and try to save children from Michael Myers by pulling them from room to room. While the thought of a game in which children can be killed by a knife-wielding psychopath sounds pretty subversive, the actual gameplay consists of little more than a lot of running around aimlessly, while a tinny 8-bit version of John Carpenter’s theme tune plays incessantly.
Given the quality of these two games, it’s hard to imagine what a Deep Throat game might have ever been, but the chances of it corrupting juvenile players seems slim, given that the characters on-screen are not exactly photo-realistic. And yes, I know that Atari games of the time all looked liked this to a large degree – but many of them made the most of their limitations and used the basic graphics to the best effect possible. These two games seem as lazy and primitive as the notorious ET video game that was around at the same time.
Anyway, check out clips of both (which effectively sum up the entire gameplay) below.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: