The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Review
I’ve always felt that 1974’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a completely misunderstood film. Taken on a purely surface level, it is about some teenagers being killed by a masked madman in rural Texas. Unfortunately, many wrote the film off as ‘unnecessary violence’ and refused to look at the deeper implications of the film. Thankfully, Wizard Games clearly saw the underlying point of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and their video game based on the film proves that.
Many view the plot of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to revolve around some “innocent” teenagers being murdered by a crazed man wearing a mask allegedly made from human skin. However, let’s look at things a bit more closer, shall we? The “innocent” teens are on a trip to visit land that they claim is owned by a relative. That is fine. They romp around the run down shack that is on their supposed property and do the kinds of immoral and disgusting things a bunch of liberal, 1970s hippies would do. The problem begins when they begin to wander off and trespass on property owned by the Sawyer family. They then essentially begin to illegally enter the home of the Sawyer family. Jedediah “Leatherface” Sawyer, a man of diminished mental capacities reacts to these home invasions in self-defense; standing his ground against the supposed “innocent” teens.
Many argue that Jedediah’s mask is created out of human skin from his victims. However, there is no definitive evidence in the original film, on which the game itself is based, that Jedediah’s mask is made from human skin. The sequels and reboots muddy the waters even further as many are not even considered canon and thus shouldn’t be retroactively applied to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre game. While the actions of Nubbins and Drayton Sawyer, Jedediah’s brothers, are somewhat less defensible; one must remember all of the violence stems from illegal and unnecessary actions from the teenagers. In nearly every instance, Jedediah was merely defending his domicile and protecting his property from intruders.
Wizard Games’s 1982 game rightfully casts Jedediah as the hero of the game by making him the character the that player controls. Gameplay is actually quite good for an Atari 2600 game as it was developed towards the end of the 2600’s life cycle. The player controls Jedediah and his trusty chainsaw and tasks him with the mission of defending the land surrounding the Sawyer homestead from invading teenagers. Jedediah most also use his saw to cut through obstacles such as fences, tumbleweeds and Franklin Hardesty’s abandoned wheelchair. Franklin is a joyless character in the film who complains constantly and is confined to a wheelchair. Jedediah mercy kills him when he discovers Franklin and his sister trespassing in the woods near the Sawyer house. Unfortunately, the Atari 2600 couldn’t quite capture that special moment in this game, but you can use the chainsaw to make the wheelchair disappear. The player receives points for each instance of Jedediah standing his ground and killing a trespasser in self-defense.
One drawback is the game’s sound, which emits an ear-piercing noise when enemies appear on the screen. Fortunately, that can be remedied by simply playing the game with the sound muted. I find I have to do that with many Atari 2600 games as the sound quality detracts from many of the games on the console. This is of no fault to the programmers and developers since the technology simply was just not there yet. Gameplay ends when Jedediah runs out of fuel for his chainsaw, represented by the meter that depletes over time. I unfortunately was unable to find any way to replenish the fuel so it feels as though the goal is to go for a high score within the limited time given.
As with the later exemplary games developed by Wisdom Tree for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Wizard Games similarly did not have an official license to develop and release games for the Atari 2600 system. As such, many retailers refused to stock the game. Many who did agree to sell The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, hid the game behind the counter and would not sell the game to children. They based this solely off of the bad publicity the movie received from people who missed the point of the film. As a result, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a largely unplayed gem from the final days of the Atari 2600. When compared to modern games like Grand Theft Auto V, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre has zero visible violence. While Jedediah Sawyer is killing criminals with a chainsaw, there is no real blood or gore shown. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre by Wizard Games was persecuted and the game playing public was denied a pretty enjoyable title as a result.
As someone with close associates who have had to deal with unauthorized visitors trespassing on their private property, I clearly understand where the Sawyer family is coming from in the film. It’s unfortunate that the general public missed the point of the film, and by extension this game. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is about a close-knit, unconventional “family” defending their belief system and way of life against foreign invaders; I’m sure we can all relate to their struggle.