Saturday, October 2, 2021

Fright Night

"Welcome to Fright Night", says a surprisingly clear voice

Name:Fright Night
Genre:Side-scrolling Action Game
Time:1 hour

Fright Night is an interesting beast. Its the sort of bad game that could only come out on the Amiga. Adapted from a movie, but it looks amazing, it sounds amazing. You play it and its like...WHAT? Even as a cashgrab this seems...awful.

Jerry, fresh-faced and ready for the night
You play as the head vampire from the film, Jerry. I haven't seen it, and it doesn't seem like that's going to have much concern here. Jerry needs to kill all the people in his house before nightfall and then return to his coffin. The first night this is simple enough. Enemies throw things at you, they hurt, but you can walk past them. The real concern is figuring out the game at this point. You have a constant timelimit, nightfall, and a short timelimit, your rapidly diminishing health. Neither of these are much of a threat at this point.
Jerry walks up some stairs
Then you reach the second night, and the game becomes hard. Hands are coming out of the ground, and ghosts are floating around. Its at this point it becomes clear Jerry is weak for a vampire. In addition to needing about a half dozen victims just to make it through the night, if these hands or ghosts touch him, he has about three seconds before he dies. At full health. Further, Jerry is slow, and can't dodge for anything. He's effectively defenseless.
The only time most will see this screen
Which brings up the controls, they're not good. Jerry moves slowly, which isn't bad of itself, except that means EVERYONE gets a free hit against him. Sometimes there are stairs, which Jerry needs to go up and down, which require precision. While getting attacked by things that have a good shot of finishing you off for good. Jerry can jump straight up or crouch by pressing the joystick button and then up or down. There is a delay. It seems there is the option to jump forward, but it didn't work while I was playing. This is the only real method you have of avoiding attacks. Jerry himself automatically attacks humans whenever he moves in close enough. There is only one life.
Jerry, dead again

The game just continues on like this until you win or become bored. Outside of the way the game looks its extremely boring to play. You're not really doing much, beyond dodging ghosts and grabbing people. Most of the effort, it seems, was put towards making the game look good and sound good. Its really impressive in that. Sound changes when you change rooms, cleverly reused graphics, but for a game where a scary vampire bounces around like comedy show? Its just a whole lot of nothing. Its not even the first game to use this formula, Dracula on the Intellivision has the same formula, but Intellivision games have excuses for playing like crap, they're on really old systems. And even then the Intellivision was capable of more, as was this. So were the people who worked on this. Except, it turns out, the programmer, a noted advocate of the Atari ST. Well, that answers some questions.

Jerry, after a meal, note the hand coming out of the ground

There are ghosts, hands that come out of the ground, and a selection of human enemies. Mostly, they're all just sort of there. 1/10

There aren't any.

The house gradually grows larger over the course of each night. Its simple, and in a better game it would have been effective. 1/10

Player Agency:
It works, but that's about it. Doing anything that isn't going left or right requires a bit of precision. Precision you don't get. There are also minor issues playing this with keyboard controls, unintentional ones, given that joysticks were more common back then and I'm using my keypad as an imitation. 1/10
One of the many ghosts that wander the house, perhaps his victims
There isn't any.

Starts off nice, even mildly spooky, rather than the usual cheap haunted house stuff. Once enemies start showing up, that kind of loses its charm. Hard to enjoy it when you're desperately trying not to die. 4/10

Every background in this is a joy to behold, real skill went into this. There's some reuse, but everything looks great. The character sprites look good too, they're well-animated...mostly. 8/10

You're a vampire, kill some people in your house. 0/10

Generic Amiga sounds, but a primo soundtrack from legendary musician David Whittaker. If you can track it down, I suggest giving the soundtrack a listen, it is the best element of the game. A real treat to hear. 9/10
The skull indicates Jerry's health, he's not about to have an easy time here
That's 24, but since the game just wasn't fun, I'm going to remove 2 points. Giving a final score of 22. This is not a fun game by any means, but it does have high marks. If you're interested in old game music, or seeing examples of old pixel art, this game is top notch in that regard. For everyone else, stay away.

Briefly checking old reviews, and it seems like this opinion hit the head right on the money. One reviewer even mentions getting stuck on the same place I did. A curious thing.

According to Mobygames an adventure game was advertised, but never released. My personal Bias aside, that would have been a much better use of everyone's time and money. An adventure game where you play the villain? At the very least a modest curiosity.

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