Halloween night, a small American town, fifteen years ago…
Now this astounds me – back in 1983 in an era of Steven King, David Cronenberg and terrible slasher movies where the trailer would be narrated by a guy with a deep voice Halloween the video game released for the Atari 2600 VCS. It was so controversial at the time that many retailers refused to stock/sell it, and those retailers that did stock/sell the game kept it behind the counter and sold it on a request basis only – controversy 1983, and you thought Destructive Creations Hatred from 2015 was the shock jock?
Halloween the video game was programmed by Tim Martin and Robert Barber formerly of Games by Apollo and published by Wizard (I Spit on Your Grave) Video, a B movie company well known for its detailed, often lurid video cassette box art. Games by Apollo unfortunately folded (trying to emulate Activision’s market presence) in what is classed as the first video game company to go bankrupt in the crash of 1983. Although the game features the theatrical poster for cover art – the game itself never refers (by name) to any of the characters in the film, including the killer, Michael, the Shape. In the game, players take on the role of a teenage babysitter who tries to save as many children as possible from the unnamed killer.
It was poor, a badly presented game, along with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the only other video game Wizard Video released, in an unfathomable effort to save money, most versions of the game did not even have a label on the cartridge. It was simply a piece of tape with Halloween written in marker – another factor as to why retailers refused to stock it. Surprisingly, the game contained more gore than the film.
8 bit shocks and shrieks – when the babysitter was killed, her head disappeared to be replaced by blood pulsating from the neck as she ran around frantically. The game’s singular similarity to the film is the theme music that plays when the killer appears onscreen – 8 bit death incorporated, allegedly the game could never be beaten and so death was inevitable.
Today the game is a collectors gem, and those fortunate to possess such a cartridge are honoured, in fact those that played the game back in the day are honoured, simply because they are apart of history, be it a poor cash grab – they are the ones that courted controversy by purchasing the game.
Apparently, not Halloween related but worth noting. Games by Apollo are known for having the first playable female game character in Wabbit – trailblazing, and then four decades later Microsoft buys Activision, ironic.
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