Another spooky game for the month of October is Exidy’s Chiller. Released to arcades in 1986, this didn’t see a whole lot of success because of how amazingly bloody it was.
Though games like Midway’s Mortal Kombat and Strata’s cartoonish Time Killers reveled in the buckets of blood that players opened spigots to with finishing moves and dismemberments, Chiller beat them all to the flesh busting punch years before with its take on “Hollywood” horror.
This was a light gun game in which you used a crossbow-type control mounted on the cabinet to shoot stuff onscreen. Four stages — Torture Chamber, Rack Room, Hallway, and Graveyard — made up the gameplay by providing a single themed screen filled with targets. The goal was simply to shoot up and score as many points before time ran out. Scoring was recorded by the “Ectoplasmic Tabulator” after every stage and the goal was simply to blast up everything and score well enough to get a free game at the end.
Everything, such as people chained to walls, a giant screw crushing a man’s head, or woman buried in the graveyard up to her waist whose clothes “disappear” when shot, decapitated heads on the fence behind her, and even a rack that pulls someone apart if you shot it were all fair game. This was a game that celebrated horror-themed bloodfests in every way.
This was released in a time without much regulation in the arcade meaning that anyone, young or old, could saunter up to this thing and start flaying the virtual flesh off of their targets with only a quarter. But it wasn’t a hit with arcade owners who were turned off by the excessive, horror-themed gorefest meaning that it didn’t get a wide release — at least in the States.
It was also loaded with sound effects such as screams, creepy moaning of the undead, more screams, and funky music as giant heads, ghosts, and rivers of blood traveled across the screen. It was a lot like the target games at carnivals, only with a lot more bloody special effects and bizarre audio to add to the experience.
Chiller was all about shock and awe, awe in that someone would actually make a game out of grinding bodies apart with a crossbow. But after the shock wore off and you got down to playing this thing, it was clear that the blood was its only selling point. After awhile, even with the controversy around it, it just wasn’t that fun — much like the shooting ranges at the carnivals after you get bored and want to ride the kiddy coaster instead because it seems more exciting.
What was also surprising was that this game was also ported over to the NES, a platform that was notorious for censoring things that might affect its family-friendly aura of invincibility. So how did it jump the fence?
It wasn’t with Nintendo’s help because Nintendo didn’t authorize it. It appeared on the NES as an unlicensed game but it did censor some of the gore — and shooting the clothes off of the girl in the Graveyard level — to blunt some of the “horror.”
But it didn’t create as much shock value, or was remembered as a very good game, on the console. It probably didn’t help that the port wasn’t that great, either, and by the time it came out in 1990, it was lost in the shuffle against much better games that did something more with “horror” themes in a much more exciting fashion.
Games like Konami’s Castlevania.