It is Friday the 13th, one of the most iconic horror/slasher flicks of all time, so we all know the story by now. That said, with its cartoonish, almost South Park-esque artstyle, the game opens with a cutscene showing three teens at a campfire, one telling the others the now classic story of how a kid named Jason allegedly once drowned in Crystal Lake when the camp counsilors weren’t looking. Just as the three are discussing this infamous story, Jason shows up behind the first guy, finishing him off.
Jumping the gun a bit, the game is seperated into multiple chapters, with only the first taking place in the iconic Camp Crystal Lake, the others being set in everything from a high-security prison, to a winter resort and a post-apocalyptic wasteland among many others. Every new chapter starts off with a news clip about our man Jason and a tiny 30 sec. cutscene to show how he got there, as well as a 30 sec. cutscene at the end of the chapters’ final 13th level to give some degree of a conclusion.
In other words, there is no real story here, but in a simple puzzle game like this, you don’t really need one, so these small silly story bits do their job very well.
Speaking of being simple, the gameplay is really anything but. While the first couple of levels of course seem like child’s play in order to ease you into the game and show you the ropes, levels get more complex and brain teasing the further you go. Every stage is made up of a 42 grid tile field, where Jason slides around like he has butter on his feet. The game is a slide-puzzler, so once in motion, Jason won’t stop until he htis a wall or other solid objects, and it is then your job to navigate him through one maze-like room after another, trying to kill everyone on-screen.
Sometimes people are stuffed away in corners or crevases that Jason can’t normally reach on his own, where you then have to use the other victims as stopping block. You see, Jason also stops every time he kills someone, and sometimes you will even have to manipulate the victims to stand somewhere else in order to reach another difficult victim. You do this by sliding up next to them with your side or back to them, as sliding up to them face first will innitiate an autokill, promting them to run away in the opposite direction, and like Jason, they also don’t stop until they hit something. I thought manipulating your targets like this was a very clever idea.
Your Weapon of Choice
This being Jason Voorhees, perhaps the most creative killer out there, you start off with his iconic machette, but every time you fill a certain ”bloodlust” meter and grow in rank, which you do by killing people (duh), you are rewarded with a bunch of new weapons: everything from your standard kitchen knife, to a hammer, a crowbar, a mic, and a shish kebab among MANY others (and no, I wasn’t kidding about the shish kebab).
When Jason kills a victim, it is usually quickly done and over with, but when every victim on-screen is dealt with, x marks the spot and a new final victim will appear, who gets a cinematic death scene based on what weapon you have chosen, which can be bloody or not depending on your settings.
Rated M for Mature
You see, upon killing his first victim in the opening cutscene, right before the killing blow, you are given a gory-level choice between ”PG” and ”R”, which I thought was a really funny way of going about it. A setting that can by the way be changed too at any time by hitting the + button during gameplay. PG will show no blood at all and severely water down Jason’s graphic killing methods, while R doesn’t pull any punches. You can however still not help laughing at some of his absurd kills given the game’s cartoonish nature… especially not when the game has Jason slice a victim to pieces with a shish kebab stick. In the movies, there were at least logic to how he was able to kill his victims with his weapon of choice, it was never outright unrealistic, but in this game they clearly went for comedy over realism. Not knocking the game for this at all, just a funny observation.
Another kill I found funny by the way, especially given Jason’s nature of being a calculative master killer, is when he throws his victim high into the air, and then places a cane upright for them to fall and get impaled on… only to then have them miss the mark and land face first on the ground behind him, with Jason looking back like he’s thinking ”…oops, didn’t account for the wind, silly me”.
Dressing for the Occassion
The developers know their fans and the legacy of the series, so not only can you unlock a whole slew of different outfits and iterations for the guy, my favorite being Uber Jason from Jason X, but the developers have also made all-new costumes for him based on the new settings he is in, like an orange prisoner suit and a bloody snow jacket. These are all purely cosmestic though, and can’t only be switched between right before you dive into the game itself, while weapons can be switched between on-the-fly with a push of the B button. Convinient as the game automatically goes from stage to stage. Also, when you level up in rank, you will get doublicate weapons, but if you stack three of them you can exchange them for one new weapon.
It should be noted that killing is a good thing (never thought I’d hear myself say that), as your body count is what unlocks new outfits, and more importantly new chapters.
Being a puzzle game, the solution is of course not immediately obvious, so when you go for a kill, you may subsequently find yourself in an unwinable situation. Fret not though, as a push of the Y button will make you rewind your last step, and this by the way can be done infinitely until you completely reset the stage, or you can reset instantly by retracing your last step and then hitting the X button. A neat feature for sure, but I don’t get the unnecessary first step to this method, as dying yourself will give you the upfront promt to push the X button and restart right away.
His Own Medicine
Yes, you heard right, you can die yourself. Though Jason’s mortality can sometimes be drawn into question, he can still die in this game, not by the hands of the defenceless people, but by things like drowning, burning, or getting caught in traps. When hazards are on stage, it is of course the goal, and the fun part, to scare the victims to run into these hazards themselves, but tread uncarefully, and you can very much end up in them yourself too, so watch out.
We all know Jason has a very close relationship to his albeit dead mother, and this game is no exception, as her bloody severed head will constantly be found hovering in the upleft corner of the screen giving you some feel-good encouragement at the start of almost every stage, telling you what to watch out for, and giving you a heads up when new hazards are introduced and how they work.
One thing that annoys me a bit though, is that not only does she offer you hints upon pressing the – button, but you can also have her giving you the entire solution free of charge. Yes, I can just ignore it, and I guess it is good to have for children (that I don’t hope play this to begin with), so they can get a move on, but the entire fun of a puzzle game is to figure out the solution for yourself with maybe a few small hints given to you in times of crisis. It kind of reminds me of the help feature in New Super Mario Bros. Wii that makes the game play the stage for you. Oh well, it’s there.
This is perhaps a small nitpick, but as the only recurring character throughout the series and whom many view as Jason’s arch nemesis, I found it a missed opportunity that Tommy Jarvis is nowhere to be found. I don’t know how I would implement him if it was me, but not having him in the game at all irks me a bit.
This wouldn’t be worthy of calling itself a Friday the 13th game if it didn’t come with the iconic ”ki-ki-ki ma-ma-ma”-track, which I can happilly report that every single stage starts with. Heck, the pause menu has its own dedicated ”ki-ki-ki ma-ma-ma”-button that you can push over and over again if you have a fetish for that sound effect.
Apart from that though, the game sports its own original soundtrack that does a great job at subtly complementing the game’s chilly tone and creepy atmosphere, while also having the victims convincingly screem for their lives when you approach them. Right from the eerie theme at the title menu, the game clearly sets the tone of what you are in for.
Visuals & Performance
I already touched on this, but the game features a blocky cartoonish art style that makes it hard to take it seriously, which is also the point, as the game clearly doesn’t take itself serious either. That said, right from the eerie blood dripping title screen, featuring the original iconic Friday the 13th logo, you already start to cuddle up in your couch.
If set to “R”, the game treats you to one gory kill scene after another, and although some deaths are similar, you’ll want to frequently try out new weapons just to see how Jason uses them. Set to “PG” however, and the worlds most gory puzzle game suddenly becomes almost family friendly.
The title card of each chapter is really well made too, and colourfully represents the new theme you are dealing with.
I also like how varied the game is in its locations, as this brings variety to the colour palette and prevents the game from getting stale. Mind you I personally wouldn’t mind a game set purely at Camp Crystal Lake, but I think experimenting with Jason’s predicaments was a funny choice.
I am hovering a bit around the price tag of $19.99, but given the clever puzzles and the sheer amount of content, I would say the price is fair. Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle is however guilty of the same sin I bashed The Gardens Between for (an otherwise excellent and beautiful game), being the replay value. As with most puzzle games, there is only one solution, and thus, unless you enjoy beating the same puzzle over and over again, you will likely play this and then never touch it again.
They could easily have implement some replay value by for example having x-amount of hard to reach tokens scattered about each stage, that would unlock goodies like costumes when you collected enough. Or have each stage have multiple solutions and rank you based on how many turns you took. I guess you could make it a goal to collect every single weapon, but I don’t think that is enough personally.
I have it difficult with puzzle games with little to no replay value, but I will still heartly recommend Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle to any fan of grid puzzles and of course fans of the movie series the game is based on. I am tempted to say ”wait for a small sale”, of which there is actually one as of writing this article, but even with the lack of replay, there is still plenty of content to go through with 150+ cleverly crafted levels, plenty of weapons to go through, all of your favorite Jasons, and an overall production value that speaks for itself.
150+ levels over 12 chapters
Plenty of weapons to unlock
A lot of costumes to choose from
Little replay value
No Tommy Jarvis