Every 212 days or so on calendars across the globe, Friday the 13th surfaces, injecting a sense of novelty and perhaps even dread into an otherwise nondescript weekday-to-weekend transition point. Whenever such darkness falls, the hive mind of pop culture inadvertently wanders back to a time when seminal slashers dominated cinematography. This is especially true in the gaming community, where the bulk of active gamers tend to be thirtysomething.
For the chosen few who possess a penchant for living in the intersection of gaming and horror, Gun and Illfonic have released “Friday the 13th: The Game.” In doing so, the developer/publisher tandem delivered on a level that we have not seen perhaps since Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger teamed to transform the good people of Springwood, Ohio, into hapless victims. While it may be some time until we get to relive the glory days of 2003 by way of the Elm Street DLC that surely all true horror fans dream of (pun intended), even a product that’s frozen in time still can be a wonder to behold. At only 20 bucks, the game epitomizes the term, “cheap thrill.” If you haven’t yet had the pleasure and lack plans this Friday the 13th, I respectfully submit that you get happily involved.
However, in the interest of full disclosure I will concede that playing in an online multiplayer mode among prepubescent gamers who team-kill in one session and rage-quit as the host in another eventually will grow tiresome, at which point those with discriminating tastes will naturally seek sanctuary in the main menu’s “Offline Play” folder, which mercifully contains two brilliant gems, each one a love letter to fans of the horror genre.
Challenge Mode: When situational death sequences get treated as Pokemon, you as the gamer are destined to profit. Why simply asphyxiate that girl lounging on a pier at midnight when you can stylishly launch a harpoon straight through her eye? Why merely lodge a pickaxe into the jaw of an unsuspecting cabin dweller when you could gingerly escort him by the Adam’s apple into the kitchen and introduce his face to a pot of water that’s conveniently boiling on the stove?
Back in the 1980s, America understood the importance of death with dignity and we’re bringing it back in the modern era. If you’re going to go out, let it be with a bang, not a whimper. While the execution possibilities aren’t exactly endless, they are numerous and satisfyingly visceral, particularly since Jason has been programmed to acknowledge the camera after kills for heartwarming screenshot after screenshot.
The game even features cut scenes to set up each challenge, along with contextual voice-overs from certain characters that are spliced into each play session where appropriate. Paradoxically, the attention to detail really brings the killing experience to life. Best of all, after each and every kill the disembodied voice of Pamela Voorhees encourages you from beyond the grave: “That’s my Jason. That’s my special, special boy.”
Honestly, a more supportive mother doesn’t exist — and after playing and replaying this mode, I predict that Challenge Mode will become the Jason to your Pamela, meaning that you’ll find excuses to resurrect and take delight in Challenge Mode every so often. In fact, don’t be surprised if you find yourself so enamored with your homicidal artistry that you start narrating each playthrough in a Bob Ross voice in between the kills. Then again, perhaps that’s just a thing I do that really shouldn’t make it into print.
Virtual Cabin Mode: At first blush, this mode may strike some as tedious. Do not be dissuaded, however. For those who enjoy a meaty, first-person, narrative-driven experience that has been generously marinated in carefully curated lore and mystery, this is sure to serve as a satisfyingly cerebral departure from all the action and thrills provided by the main game experience.
The cabin is packed with easter eggs, which are destined to amuse hardcore fans or even intrigue those who have only a casual familiarity with the series. Either way, I recommend that you take a gander during your downtime and, should you get stumped, just know that Google has you covered as cunning horror fanboys have already sleuthed all there is to unearth, lest your frustration get the better of you and sour your process of discovery. Again, while updates to the game have ceased, you’re guaranteed at least 2-3 hours of entertainment by way of Virtual Cabin Mode and, perhaps someday, this mode will receive an update once the game has broken free from legal purgatory.
If you haven’t yet tried the game’s offline modes, there’s no better day to venture into the unknown than today, Friday the 13th. So, as you head home from work, embrace that 1980s mentality by cranking some appropriate music, procure the game (if need be), and immerse yourself in the mayhem that surrounds the man behind the mask.