29th Oct2018

‘Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle’ Review (Nintendo Switch)

by Rupert Harvey

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After helping to form PopCap Games in the early 21st century, Jason Kapalka went on to found Blue Wizard Digital, which found success a couple of years ago with the isometric/top-down horror puzzler, Slayaway Camp. The name was a riff on Robert Hiltzik’s 1983 cult slasher, but then the team landed a bona fide licence in the form of Friday the 13th.

The result is pretty much a continuation of Slayaway, albeit with a little more flair in the finishing moves, and a slightly less Minecraft-y art style.

You play Jason Voorhees and you must kill all the victims on the screen. You are limited by the fact that whichever direction you move, you keep going until you hit an object or a murder victim. Finally, you must make your way to the “Final Girl” (or boy, or person), who is marked by an “X” from the start of the round.

The first couple of chapters are straightforward – it’s just a matter of navigating your way around the level in the right order. But later, as you move into snowy climes, a prison, Manhattan (of course) and outer space (a la Jason X), new elements are thrown into the mix. For example, Jason can’t swim, so you may slide inexorably into deadly water. Some guards will kill you if they “see” you. Certain maps offer only a limited number of turns. And on the Mad Max-like Wasteland level you need to contend with electrified fences which can be turned off and on by you or your fleeing victims.

Thinking many turns ahead is key, and the challenge is great, but the game goes out of its way to alleviate frustration. Individual turns can be replayed infinitely, and at any time you can ask your mother – the original killer, Pamela Voorhees – for a complete solution to the puzzle. Anyway, the puzzles are brief enough that you’ll push through most of the time.

Being a handheld title through-and-through, the inherent brevity of the puzzles means it’s unlikely to be a game you gorge on for hours, but rather pick up and play for a few minutes at a time. And that’s fine, especially with this level of content: around 150 maps across 12 chapters (the four DLC chapters from the mobile game are included).

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By completing kills, you increase your Bloodlust, which unlocks additional weapons. The kills themselves are portrayed with neat pre-rendered animations, and they are fun and repulsive (gore can be switched down to PG, if you’d prefer), but they do become repetitive after a while. Also, they’re not always unique to the weapon you’re wielding – in Jason’s world, it seems, a dusty old book can spear someone’s heart through their sternum as easily as a fishing harpoon.

In addition to new weapons, advancing chapters unlocks different costumes for Jason. Some of these are based on the environment – e.g. Frozen Jason shows him with blue skin and an enormous coat – while others are based on looks from the films – e.g. the very fetching bag-head style he sported in Part II.

Aside from the standard campaign mode, you can also try out rotating “Daily Death” challenges, as well as a “Marathon” mode, which involves claiming as many lives as possible in a row.

The graphics are crisp and vibrant, and the game runs splendidly in both docked and handheld – as you would expect from a game made with mobile in mind. This also means that touchscreen controls are available. The music is great, ranging from Harry Manfredini-style orchestral thrusts to grimy drone, complete with the classic “ki-ki-ki” affectation which defined the original ‘80s scores. (There’s even a dedicated menu button just to hear that sound.)

Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle is a typical mobile port insofar as it is basic in visual and structural terms, but this is not a reason to write it off. Regardless of the platform, it’s a devilishly challenging set of puzzles which shows great affection for one of the most outlandish horror franchises ever conceived. Its simplicity, combined with its snappy, quickfire design, mean that it’s a download ever-present that you’re likely to return to time and time again.

Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle is out on Nintendo Switch now.

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