The Halloween Grab Bag!
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Atari 2600 Game!
by: Dr. Boogie

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. You've got the where, the how, and the what all right there in the title. Add in a journeyman tanner with a bloody apron as the killer, and you've got yourself a movie!

It should come as no surprise that people couldn't wait to get their hands on a video game where you play as Leatherface. Just imagine: cutting down co-eds with a chainsaw, eating human flesh, living in Texas. There's so much material to adapt into a single game!

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Atari 2600 Game!

Unfortunately this was long before 3D graphics, and from the look of it, long before 2D graphics as well. There was plenty that could have made it into a game, but the limitations of the Atari 2600 only allowed for a chainsaw, something approaching a massacre, and four trees on a vast green field. You know, Texas.

With all of that in mind, let's take a look at The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Atari 2600 Game:

Right off the bat, it's implied that you'll control some sort of wizard instead of Leatherface. To me, that's the most objectionable part of the game.

Am I joking about that last bit? Do you indeed hurl spells at hapless hitchhikers in place of a chainsaw? No, that would be silly. Wizard is referring to Wizard Video Games - the company that produced this third-party game.

Instead you control the iconic Texas Chainsaw Massacre killer, Sadface. There he is with his trademark flattop, blue jumpsuit, and giant torso spigot. Maybe I've got this all wrong; maybe they just didn't get the license for a TCM game, so they threw in a character that's meant to remind you of Leatherface, while being legally distinct from him. It's a Fair Use parody, you see.

I kid. It's clearly none other than Leatherface. Just look at him rev up that saw!

Incredible. Do I dare ask to see him bust out a sledgehammer after emerging from a sliding steel door too?

No, no. Don't want to get greedy.

Here's where the magic happens: a endless, empty plateau upon which to hunt your victims. Far off in the background is the infamous Sawyer house, along with Leatherface's iconic two-story pickup truck. But your main concern is gettin' your saw on before you run out of gas. Your fuel gauge slowly ticks down while idling and a chunk disappears every time you rev your saw. And as you can see, there's nowhere to gas up in this verdant wasteland, so all you can do is saw, saw, saw.

But what's stopping you from just running up and sawing people in half? Where's the obstacles that you need to overcome? Well the obstacles come in the form of more iconic TCM stuff:

Remember that scene where Leatherface is trying to catch that one girl so he can put her on a big meathook, but he trips over a wheelchair and she gets away? Yeah, me neither. Kudos for remembering that a wheelchair did appear in the movie, I guess. It's just odd that Franklin Hardesty wasn't sitting in it, like he did in the movie. Definitely saw a fence in there, too. And Leatherface does stop at a couple points in one chase sequence to swipe impotently at some brush, so that also works. I'll have to check the Blu-ray to see if Leatherface ever stubbed his toe on a cow skull and then stumbled around muttering angrily. Could be a deleted scene.

Ah, there's one of the victims now: a young girl with a hoop skirt and a pompadour. While it may take your eyes a few seconds to adjust to parse those blocks into something human, you'll know immediately when a victim appears because the game will emit a loud, piercing tone. Just imagine your ears ringing, only ten times louder. Maybe it's supposed to be the girls screaming?

Oh, I get it: they made the screaming as irritating as they could to show why Leatherface wants to kill them so bad. Genius!

All you have to do is touch them while revving the saw, but that proves to be a lot more challenging than you'd think:

Look at those jukes! What is she doing out in rural Texas when she clearly should be playing QB for the Dallas Cowboys?

But eventually they all zig when they should have zagged, and Leatherface gets the best of them.

Now that's a corpse. You can tell because it's upside-down with different colors, with some other crap at the bottom. Bloody maybe, I don't know. It's hard to convey anything not boxy on an Atari 2600. And I don't need to tell you a weird noise plays when you get a kill.

Catching a victim does give you a slight boost to the fuel gauge, but it's seldom enough to make up for fuel lost running them down and working through all those jukes. You'll get a few, but eventually it's game over.

Look, I'm not saying it's anticlimactic to have some little girl run up and kick your crazed killer in the butt. Just... maybe you could have done the game over screen a little different. Maybe you could've, I don't know, had Leatherface spinning around waving his chainsaw like at the end of the movie. I'm sure they could've programmed some irritating sound effect to play alongside it. But no, instead we watch as a young girl punts him.

Incredibly, this was still enough to get people riled up back then. Stores wouldn't carry the game because of parents protesting it. Apparently, despite having graphics just barely better than the LCD display on a calculator, the suggestion that the oddly-colored pile of blocks you control is actually a psychopathic killer was reason enough to think that children everywhere would soon be emitting high-pitched tones and stumbling into wheelchairs just like Leatherface.

But even so, the game had a huge impact. I remember walking through my old neighborhood seeing yards filled with random crap and thinking to myself, "That's where I go if I'm ever being chased by Leatherface." Thank goodness it never came to that, since I didn't live in rural Texas, but if you have skulls and yard waste to spare, for God's sake spread that shit out.

And keep a wheelchair handy for when the shit really hits the fan.

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