Classic Retro Video Game Reviews

Wizard: Texas Chainsaw Massacre -Atari 2600
Retro Gaming Review

Atari 2600 VCS console Classic Retro Gaming Video Game ReviewWizard Video: Texas Chainsaw Massacre for Atari 2600 Classic Retro Gaming Video Game Review
Title: Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Manufacturer: Wizard Video
Platform: Atari 2600
Release Date: 1983
Part #: 008
Rating: 1 out of 5
ESRB Rating: N/A

Rating: Wizard Video: Texas Chainsaw Massacre Classic Retro Video Game Review Rating
Wizard Video: Texas Chainsaw Massacre Screenshot:
Wizard Video: Texas Chainsaw Massacre for Atari 2600 screenshot Classic Retro Gaming Video Game Review

Video games based on popular movies have often been big sellers. The Atari 2600 was no exception. Most video games with movie tie-ins let players assume the role of the lead character and let the movie's plot loosely guide the plot. When you base such a game on a horror film, it's not as clear who Player 1 should be. In the case of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Player 1 is Leatherface, the protagonist (scary guy with the chainsaw).

As the manual puts it, "Grab your joystick and become Leatherface, the homicidal, chainsaw wielding maniac of your nightmares!"

Texas Chainsaw Massacre Story Arc

Since most horror films have limited plots, you can only imagine how sketchy the plot is for Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Wielding an 8-bit chainsaw that runs out of fuel rapidly, your goal is to kill the tourists who are trespassing on your property. Maybe Wizard Video felt that labeling them as trespassers made it easier to justify a game with a pretty high kill factor. The manual indicates that many of these tourists have already been finished off and it's up to you to kill the remaining handful of stragglers.

The green foreground and blue sky & trees in the background made me feel as though Pitfall Harry might swing by at any minute. Most horror films opt for nighttime settings to amp up the fear. Texas Chainsaw Massacre for the Atari 2600 made me wary of unicorn encounters and getting bogged down in a tuft of cotton-candy.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre Game Play

Holy shit! Check this out...
A great deal of controversy surrounded the release of Texas Chainsaw Massacre on the Atari 2600. Many retailers did not want the title on it's shelves and either left it in the stockroom or kept copies behind the counter. Since the game play was from the point of view of Leatherface, most people felt that hunting people down with a chainsaw wasn't appropriate for kids. Various social groups
began to speak out against Wizard Video's release of Texas Chainsaw Massacre. All the controversy translated into poor sales thus making this a fairly rare title that is especially hard to find with a box and manual.

You begin this single player kill-fest with 3 lives - which are actually cans of fuel for your chainsaw. Is Leatherface even alive? I haven't watched TCM in quite some time and forget the details. A fuel gauge at the top of the screen tells you how much fuel you have left. It depletes as you run around (the chainsaw is idling) and more so when you engage the chainsaw with the fire button.

As you hunt for trespassers, you'll encounter obstacles in the form of fences, thickets, cow skulls and a very fast moving wheelchair. Touching any of these stops your movements and the trespassers flee easily. Accidentally bumping into these obstacles is pretty common. This is partly due to poor joystick control and the low-budget/quality of this entire game. The victims seem to quickly change direction and disappear. I'm assuming this is all part of the challenge of sneaking up on someone with an idling chainsaw.

The chainsaw sound is pretty good, but the shrieks of the victims (as an auditory indication they are nearby) is a high-pitch tone that quickly becomes irritating. It doesn't even sound like shriek. It sounds like a mono test-tone for some emergency system. I can't believe this game swallowed up so much memory that this single tone was the best they could do for a "shriek".

Wizard Video: Texas Chainsaw Massacre for Atari 2600 Leatherface and victim Classic Retro Gaming Video Game Review

Each sliced n diced victim nets you 1,000 points and you get an extra can of fuel every 5,000 points. Another sign of low quality is the single game mode (Game Select switch is not used) and that the Difficulty Switches are not used. The game ends when you run out of fuel. When that happens one of the remaining survivors runs up and kicks you in the butt.

As bad as this game is, it seems odd to place the focus on a maniacal killer. No marketing strategy will deem that a good idea. Why not let Player One be the daring rescuer who defeats Leatherface? That premise might have gotten the game onto shelves instead of hidden from view.


Atari 2600 VCS console Classic Retro Gaming Video Game Review
Final Judgement:

Wizard Video: Texas Chainsaw Massacre

presents an interesting idea of letting you play as the protagonist, but the overall quality is so low, that facet does nothing for the game. The game control is as weak as it's premise. But do fire up the chainsaw - that's the best part (sound-wise) of this game.

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