THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE on Atari 2600: “There’s just some things you gotta do. Don’t mean you have to like it.”

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“The article which you are about to read is an account of the tragedy which befell an enterprising young video game company, in particular Wizard Video and its owner Charles Band. It is all the more tragic in that they thought they knew what they were doing. But, had they lived very, very long lives, they could not have expected nor would they have wished to see as much of the criticism and lackluster sales as they were to see when their effort was released. For Wizard Video an idyllic venture into the burgeoning game market became a nightmare. The events of that day were to lead to the discovery and eventual burial of one of the most bizarre video games in the annals of American history, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.”

In the days before the existence of the Resident Evil, Grand Theft Auto, and Mortal Kombat series video gaming was widely perceived as innocuous home entertainment whose only long-term negative effects were insomnia, irritability, and a lack of interest in doing your household chores. Then in 1982 Wizard Video, a home video distribution company owned by future Empire Pictures/Full Moon Entertainment overlord Charles Band, decided to throw its hat into the ring by releasing a game based on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (which received its first video release courtesy of Wizard) for the Atari 2600.

In the game the player assumes the role of Leatherface….except that here the pixelated Leatherface resembles a repainted General Custer from Mystique’s notorious, sexually explicit Custer’s Revenge game released the same year as Chainsaw for the 2600 only with the raging erection replaced by a long blue blob with a paper bag ripped open at both ends for a head. The amorphous object was supposed to be Leatherface’s famous saw but it looked more like a diseased dong. The object of the game was for Leatherface to hunt down and slaughter trespassers on his property before the saw ran out of fuel, which could be earned with every 5,000 points accrued. But there were many obstacles for you to navigate, like walking around fences and avoiding random rolling wheelchairs. The deaths were rather bloodless and when Leatherface actually claims a victim the avatar gets scrambled up and vanishes from the screen. It was like an idiotic fever dream remake of Pitfall, only jumping was not involved. That would have been too challenging.

Beating the game was nigh impossible to accomplish because the saw always ran out of the fuel before Leatherface could win. As if starring in a shockingly subpar video game based on a classic of modern horror cinema wasn’t bad enough, the human flesh mask-wearing psychopath had to suffer the indignity of being kicked in the ass repeatedly by his potential prey. There was no point to the Wizard game’s existence except to bilk money out of hungry consumers believing they were getting in on the ground floor of a next gen experience in interactive horror gaming. It was marketed to adults with the back of the game box reading:

“Put aside your childish pastimes; stop eating dots and chasing ghosts! A ripping revving chainsaw is at your command as you wear the leather mask of a madman! Your victims come face to face with a living nightmare as you wield the ultimate weapon-an unrelentless chainsaw! Let your most wicked fantasies run wild! Know the total pleasures of destruction as you pursue your victims with the razor sharp teeth of a hungry chainsaw! The story is true, the movie is chilling, the video game is horrifying!”

Controversy surrounded the Texas Chainsaw Massacre game’s release mostly due to the reputation of the film leading those who hadn’t before played it to believe it was a relentlessly violent gore-fest. Some stores refused to stock the game on their shelves. The following year Wizard released a game inspired by John Carpenter’s Halloween that was received with less controversy than their Chainsaw cartridge. The company officially bowed out of the gaming industry after an adult game based on the 1974 sci-fi porno spoof Flesh Gordon went unreleased. Wizard’s horror video games weren’t instant classics but they paved the way for titles based on the Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street franchises for the Nintendo Entertainment System to hit stores by decade’s end.

Wizard Video’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre video game may have turned out a rancid hunk of head cheese but at least it started a trend toward merging horror and gaming that improved creatively in the years that followed and became a collector’s item following its disappearance from stores that remains highly sought after to this day. However, Pong remains way more exciting.

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2 Responses to “THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE on Atari 2600: “There’s just some things you gotta do. Don’t mean you have to like it.””

  1. […] “The article which you are about to read is an account of the tragedy which befell an enterprising young video game company, in particular Wizard Video and its owner Charles Band. It is all the more tragic in that they thought they knew what they were doing. But, had they lived very, very long lives, they could not have expected nor would they have wished to see as much of the criticism and lackluster sales as they were to see when their effort was released. For Wizard Video an idyllic venture into the burgeoning game market became a nightmare. The events of that day were to lead to the discovery and eventual burial of one of the most bizarre video games in the annals of American history, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.” […]

    Like

  2. My brother used to own this game back in the day,for it was pretty fun playing it(in those pre-Sega times).

    Like

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