Friday, October 25, 2013

"Chiller", NES, 1990.

And the pendulum swings back toward genuinely disturbing games. This one was by Exidy, no stranger to antisocial controvery following their pedestrian-mulching simulator, the unlicensed Death Race. Also unnerving: rather than just phoning in their work, the artist here seems to be uncannily into his subject matter, as if he spends all day drawing scribbly doodles of zombies on all his notebooks, guitar cases, carving them on to benches, airbrushing them on to hot rods and tattooing them on his buds. The overall effect is one of mud, a precursor to Quake's earthy palette, but there's no lack of love for the linework and the obsessive cross-hatch. Zombies, maan! Dude, zommmmbies! Let's put on some Iron Maiden and roll a fattie!

Two Player Simultaneous Action

CHILLER

For play on the Nintendo Entertainment System

$19.95
Suggested Retail for Chiller only.

At Last - Affordable Arcade Cartridges Now Available to Play at Home!

  • Play with light gun, zapper or control pad
  • New enhanced pinpoint accuracy
  • Rapidfire mode
  • Multiple levels
  • Hidden objects
  • Arcade quality graphics
  • To order:
    Visit your retailer or call (602) 961-4022

    Two New Titles:
    Deathrace
    and Crossbow
    coming soon.
    For play on the Nintendo Entertainment System.

    Affordable Fun!
    SHAREDATA

    For those not in the know, Chiller is basically the no-holds-barred light gun game taking players on a tour through a mad scientist's graveyard grounds and into his torture chamber. Some shooting games would penalize you for catching innocent collateral damage in the crossfire, and then there is this game, that rewards you with bonus points for sharpshooting the rope holding the guillotine blade away from the innocent victim's neck. Essentially it's a provocative "Hot Coffee" kind of idea, except if GTA: San Andreas did away with all the walking, driving and shooting business and was just repeated bouts of poorly-conceived, blockily-rendered intercourse. Wouldn't that be outrageous? It'll be so controversial our best business option will be to throw it at the market at bargain prices.

    Some thoughts about the ad: allowing a second player in a target-shooting game is basically a no-cost feature. When you put a price in bold type in your ad, it's not intended as a "suggestion" -- and it's understood that it's meant to refer to your product, and not other unspecified goods... that's kind of how an ad works: "my product... a price! Is there a relationship between the two or is this ad totally abstract? Ask your retailer and find out!"

    By "arcade cartridges", do they mean conversions of arcade games on cartridge for home consoles? This is 1990, so we're several years past the heyday of the Atari 2600, who kind of trailblazed the "affordable arcade cartridges ... to play at home". Guys, you didn't just invent the home video game. Maybe you could tell us something about your game instead? Ooh, it supports light gun and zapper. (?!) "Enhanced pinpoint accuracy" must be jargon for "you will think you hit the target, but we reduced its on-screen pixel footprint." Rapidfire? Zombie vs. gatling gun simulator! (Sorry -- as you can see, the protagonist's hand is wielding a magic wand, making this pre-Catacombs, pre-Hexen fantasy violence somehow more palatable to Nintendo of America.) If the arcade quality graphics are anything like the art quality of this ad (hm, no screenshots, even!) then that might not be a huge selling point. My recollection is indeed that the game enjoyed a workmanlike "programmer art" aesthetic. And what's this coming up? Deathrace? Did I call it or what? One imagines Crossbow will basically be this game, but with more Robin Hood and less Night of the Living Dead. Were these advertised conversions ever released?

    Well yes, sharing data does make the fun affordable. May as well name your company "SneakerNet."

    As a bonus, here's the arcade flyer -- basically the ad that promoted the game to video arcade owners, convincing them what good moneymakers the arcade cabinets will be. They're not buying the games because they're fun, but because it's a purchase that gives them access to a resource: the contents of your pockets. I got this one from an entry on the game over at World 1-1.

    CHILLER
    YOU'VE HEARD ABOUT IT! YOU'VE READ ABOUT IT
    NOW YOU CAN HOWL ABOUT IT!!! CHILLER IS
    NOW PLAYING
    ON THE COIN-OP AMUSEMENT VIDEO SCREEN!

    HORROR -- the popular motion picture genre that has entertained generations of show-goers is now yours on an Exidy video gun.
    ACTION -- the theme is a scream but the skill is an equal thrill. Video dexterity married with "Hollywood horror" adds up to a piece your customers should love to play.
    FLEXIBILITY -- CHILLER is available complete or as a conversion for previous Exidy guns. It's another long-lasting money-earner in our proven series of video target attractions.

    Borrow a card from the movie industry's deck and deal yourself a winning hand with CHILLER.

    This earlier artwork is more sophisticated, in a '70s horror comix sort of way. Brings to mind Bill Gaines' defense before a Senate subcommittee regarding the use of the "female decapitation" motif on cover art, telling them just how much worse they could have drawn it on their EC covers, shortly before inadvertently singlehandedly bringing about the Comics Code Authority. Nice psychedelic logo -- we're much closer to the '70s here than anything for the NES, which had really left that groovy era well and truly behind.

    I guess rumours and word of mouth would result in my hearing and reading about CHILLER, but what exactly is compelling me to howl about it again? My excitement at having it in my pizza parlour, compelling my customers to spew their pepperoni shortly after it enters their mouths? Perhaps every purchase of this game includes a free bite from a lycanthrope at no extra cost.

    "The popular motion picture genre". I gather they're talking about (around, really) horror movies here specifically and not motion pictures as a genre unto themselves? "Video gun" is a terrifically blunt way of summing up a light-gun shooter, and would just as easily apply to today's FPS games. There we go again, a dead-end or forgotten phrase: "video dexterity". (The adjective "video" has really fallen by the wayside in favour of "virtual" or "online". I suppose we just don't care that the machine shows us visuals anymore. That said, the fact that this weird pairing of words yields something comprehensible is a testament to some clever scheming.) Here we go -- "Hollywood horror", a la "Universal Monsters" or Ackerman's "Monsters of Movieland". In the early '80s I'm not sure what the competing strains of horror culture were, but there you have it. And then that great DIY bit where the arcade owner could save a couple of bucks by diving elbow-deep into the guts of his "video gun" machine with a soldering iron. I can't imagine a shopkeeper doing that today.

    The closing card-game metaphor is weird because of how bland it is -- it could apply to any game, while surely they could come up with a more specific trope fitting this game's subject. (Maybe they did, but it was just a little too outrageous.)