One movie that slowly became an underground comic over time is The Evil Dead. It was cool and fresh, violent and scary. But more importantly was that it was relatable and believable. The brilliance and simplicity of this low-budget horror movie led director Sam Raimi to direct popular movies like Spider-Man. What few people don’t know about this 1981 movie is that the first licensed game was produced a few years later in 1984. But was Evil Dead on Commodore 64 any good?
It was produced by Palace Software and it seemed to be one of the company’s first games. Evil Dead was not only released for the C64 but was in fact also released for the ZX Spectrum and the Amstrad CPC. All three of these computers were 8 bit. The interesting thing is that the Atari 2600 was also 8 bit, so why was this not considered? It may have been too expensive to produce. The game was distributed on a cassette tape, an unreliable medium but a much cheaper way to distribute the game than through other means.
So how is the gameplay? In 1984 games were all developed within different standards and so the way game design was executed was also scattered. It was also a time period where a single person would be responsible for the entire development of the game. In this case there happened to be two, Richard Leinfellner and Keith Miller. Evil Dead on Commodore has game play to match the theme of the movie. For this I give them credit. Like in the film, the doors and windows need to be closed in order to keep out the cloud of evil. Around are weapons that are used to cut up your friends who start to become infected by the evil cloud. The body parts then attack you individually. If you manage to make it to the end of the game it plays out similar to the ending of the movie, where the Book of the Dead is burned to end the nightmare.
All sounds good right? What could possibly go wrong? The execution, that’s what. The design seems sound at first, until we see it in action. Although games are meant to be challenging, they are not meant to be impossible. When wedged into a corner and unable to move, you will lose all three chances that the game gives you to survive. The enemies are relentless in not letting you go where you need to go. This is compounded by horrible controls. For example, when playing Evil Dead on Commodore 64 you cannot move in a diagonal, 45 degree direction. This means you are limited to up, down, left or right. Limiting movement like this makes it difficult to move in a fast pace to close the doors and windows while simultaneously avoiding your enemies.
There is also confusion over what to do. For example, if you touch your friends (who are present when the game starts) they seem to die. The explanation behind this is not clear. The game also has “energy” which goes down as you take any action. Even using a weapon on an enemy makes you lose energy. The reasons for losing energy is not apparent. Evil Dead on the Commodore 64 falls under the category of games that are not easy to learn. This is not good for game designers who want people to quickly pick up their game and play it. The difficulty of the gameplay however may be attributed to the trend of giving games longevity during a different era. Since games were small in size and memory was limited, developers had to be clever in giving consumers a good deal for their money by making the game last longer.
One last interesting thing about this game is that it was only released in Europe. This is ironic since the movie was made in America. There’s an interesting article at Daily Sack that outlines the different Evil Dead games. Are you a fan of the game or the movie? Leave a comment and let me know what you think.