Based on the 1978 movie of the same name, Halloween tells the story of Michael Myers and his attempts to kill his long lost sister Laurie Strode on Halloween night. For you see Michael isn’t your average every day killer, he’s a smarter than average silent psychopath who just happened to escape from a mental institution where he’s been confined for the last 15 years for killing his older sister (also on Halloween night). So why is Michael murdering his family members? That’s never quite explained in the first movie (it’s implied that he’s insane since he was only 6 when he killed his sister), but it’s expanded upon in the many sequels that followed.
Back in the early 80’s when the 2600 was at its peak, explicitly violent video games were relatively unknown. Most games of the time dealt with non-violent subject matters or had little more than a brief flash or explosion to indicate that your character had died. However Wizard Games decided that the time was right to start marketing video games towards adults and set out to develop games based on R and X rated movies. Halloween was actually the second game Wizard made, their first was a slightly less gory take on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. A third game based off the soft porn movie Flesh Gordon was in the works (and possibly finished), but was never released.
Although the plot for the movie wasn’t exactly complicated, the video game version of manages to be even more simplistic. The game is based off the movie’s climax where Laurie is attacked by Michael while she is busy babysitting some kids, here she must escort the children (who happen to be wandering around the house by themselves) to special safety rooms on each side of the level while avoiding Michael. Occasionally you will find a knife that you can use to temporarily disable Michael and cause him to flee, although he’ll come back eventually (just like in the movie). The game ends once Michael has chopped off your head three times.
Did I just say chopped your head off? I sure did! Although Halloween isn’t known for its outstanding gameplay (it’s quite crappy actually), it’s legendary for t’s violent (at least at the time) death scenes. For some reason when Michael catches you or a kid, he cuts your head off and Laurie will run around the screen gushing blood like, well, a chicken with its head cut off. The children will also spurt blood if Michael gets his knife on them, which is only slighly less silly looking. Although this seems quite tame by today’s standards (and kind of funny given the limited graphics of the 2600), it caused such an outcry when it was released that it was banned by many stores. Sadly this makes Halloween quite rare today.
Aside from the over the top death scenes, Halloween is a pretty sub-par game. There’s really nothing to do other than wander around the house (which is rather small, only consisting of sixteen rooms over two floors), looking for children to escort to the safety rooms. The children do tend to run around a bit so there is a small challenge in catching them, but the game tends to get boring rather quickly. Michael is fairly fast when you encounter him, but he’s still dodged fairly easily making him more of an annoyance than a danger. Hitting him with the knife is more difficult than it should be, and other than scoring more points doesn’t actually help you very much. It’s recommended that you avoid the knife altogether unless you want a little more of a challenge. Occasionally the lights in the house will go out plunging the room into darkness, but this only happens on the upper levels and is rarely fatal unless Michael happens to pop into the room at the same time. In fact the most challenging thing about Halloween is simply not accidentally bumping into Michael when changing screens since he can appear on the edge of the screen at any time (although the music will start up giving you a brief warning). Not only does this lead to many unfair deaths, but it makes the game almost random at times.
It’s hard to believe that people actually got worked up over a game as laughable as Halloween, as aside from the death scene there’s really nothing scary or gory about the game. It’s almost as if Wizard purposely tacked on the deaths (which as mentioned earlier don’t make much sense given that Michael has a knife not an axe) in order to cause controversy in an attempt to get people to buy this dull game. I guess this is a case of ‘be careful what you wish for’ since the controversy it generated cause it to be banned from stores and not sell very well. Although given the ultra-violent state of today’s games it appears that Wizard was ahead of their time, too bad they couldn’t hold out for another 20 years until society caught up.