Title : Chiller
Released: 1985, Mastertronic
Platform: Commodore 64
If for you, like me, money was tight when you were no but a child in the 80s, then you will fondly remember the Mastertronic £1.99 range of games. Affordable software which, even if it didn’t always live up to the hype and the promises on the cover, did at least allow you to feed your insatiable appetite for new games. The thrill of chossing and buying a new game and the anticipation of loading it in, reading every word of the instructions on the way home.
Let’s be honest, we have all spent far more on games which have dissapointed or were mis-sold or mis-advertised, some by the biggest magazines of the day and their paid for reviews, and Mastertronic had their fair share of duffers. But now and then you were pleasantly surprised with a cheap game that was actually playable, lasted more than a couple of hours and was a challenge and fun enough to easily warrant the couple of quid.
For me, Chiller was one such game.
Let’s get the music out of the way first. There are very few of the original releases still around. The ones with the actual rendition of Michael Jackson’s Thriller, writen by Julie Dunn (Gilligan’s Gold, Battle of Midway amongst many others), were withdrawn for, well, obvious reasons. A few made it out into the wild and there are still stories even today of them being found on ebay etc. But you will most likely, if you have a hard physical copy of the game, have one of the 2nd generation. Still great music, but not Thriller.
In fact Dunn’s contribution, along with coding and graphics by the Darling brothers, the founders of Codemasters (which is still going today) is the main reason this unassuming budget game plays so well. It’s early and may be based on the Game Maker engine (some debate about that), but hey.
So….we’ve all been there. Your girlfriend has been captured and is being held captive in a haunted mansion and you are on your way to rescue her. There is no time for things like checking fuel levels of course, or grabbing a snickers bar for the journey – time is of the essence here, and on your way to liberate your love the car, of course, runs out of petrol.
No choice then but to continue on foot, and the most direct route is going to take you through a forest, obviously, a cinema, why not, a ghetto (bit awkward) and naturally a graveyard, ending up at the haunted house.
This is basically a straightforward platformer. Retrieve the blue magic crosses which are dotted around and avoid the spiders and skeletons. It’s pretty tricky and requires a few goes to get the timing and movement right. There are ghosts and zombies here and annoying bats, and if they touch you your energy will get drained (it goes down slowly anyway) . If only you had stopped for that snickers bar! No fear though, the mushrooms you will find can restore a bit of health, just make sure you avoid those poisonous toadstools!
More ghosts and ghouls await in the cinema – again collect the crosses, avoid the baddies, preserve your energy. Rubble is falling down from the ceiling and the mysterious ice cream sales ladies float across the floor. Use the seats as platforms and grab those crosses! The easiest level in my opinion.
Not sure you’d get away with having a ghetto level nowadays in a game – or at least not calling it that! Anyway, guess what. Oh, you knew already? Yes you have to collect the crosses, bouncing around the window sills and roof tops and avoiding the inexplicable flying night vultures.
More bouncing around gravestones, tress and a windy path/platform. Various night vultures (I think they are supposed to be bats bizarrely) and what look like cats, and of course ghostly ghosts and skeletons try to scupper your plans. Again, adventurers, grab those crosses!
The Haunted House
OK, so more of the same. Avoid the odd tree climbing chappy, the skeletons etc. and leap around the roof and jump off the vines to gather all the crosses. Once you collect them all the love of your life appears at the doorway and you have a tea-top-table-turnaround (trademark jonnypencils) and go through the whole thing again backwards, like Satan himself. Only this time both of you will be collecting crosses, switching between the boy and the girl to collect blue and red crosses respectively. It’s a nice twist to prolong the game.
If I’ve made it sound easy, it isn’t. It’s a pretty challenging game and kept me entertained for weeks.
I wont post a video – there are loads out there – but if there are any of you left that haven’t already played this game, or new enthusiasts reading this for the first time, do find yourself an original or download a tap file and relive the glorious budget driven 80s !