Sunday, September 3, 2017

An Ode to the Death Scenes of 'Brain Dead 13!'

Revisiting a seminal '90s adventure game where finding new ways to die was more entertaining than actually playing it!

By: Jimbo X

You may have never actually played it, but if you grew up in the 1990s and had even a passing interest in video games you probably heard a thing or two about Brain Dead 13. Ads for the 1995 Readysoft title were staples in old retro gaming mags like EGM and Game Players, and the PC game was eventually ported to about half a dozen home consoles. It didn't matter if you owned a Saturn, a PS1, a CD-i or a 3D0, as long as your hardware wasn't made by Nintendo you could probably find a way to play Brain Dead 13. Hell, they even released a version for the Jaguar - simply put, if you wanted to play the damn game, you had plenty of options and opportunities.

Ultimately, I really can't say Brain Dead 13 is what you would call a "good" game. It's basically just a variation on Dragon's Lair - you know, the type of FMV game made up of nothing but quick time events where you're supposed to hit the directional pad and the B button at certain points during the movie - only 50 billion times harder because the programmer don't give you ANY fucking visual clues on what you're supposed to do. This title offers what may very well be the ultimate example trial and error gameplay, because there's no way you'll be able to finish the thing without lots and lots of dying. 

And wouldn't you know it, that facet is precisely what makes Brain Dead 13 worth going out of your way to experience. 

Forget the plot, forget the animation, forget the challenge of trying to figure out which branching path you're supposed to take, far and away the best and most memorable aspect of this game are the death scenes. Whereas in just about every other game from the era your character just keels over when he runs out of health, in Brain Dead 13 your avatar gets maimed, dismembered, disemboweled and disfigured in all sorts of hilariously over-the-top, Itchy & Scratchy-esque ways. Don't let the cartoon visuals fool you, the type of mayhem that goes on in this game is easily as morbid as the shit we saw in Mortal Kombat II (albeit, with noticeably less red plasma flying all over the place.) Despite the game receiving a K-A rating, I assure you there is a LOT of grisly, gruesome and Grand Guignol sights herein, including - but not limited to - decapitations, impalings, immolations and multiple deaths via acid bath.

While you don't necessarily have to know the plot to appreciate the game's inert psychosis, it probably wouldn't hurt to give you just a little explication on what's going down. You play Lance, this one redheaded I.T. expert who looks sorta' like the dude from Megadeth who gets assigned a job patching up the computers at the castle of Dr. Nero Neurosis - basically just a giant brain in a fish tank - who, of course, is plotting some sort of long-in-the-tooth scheme to take over the planet. And his first step towards global conquest? Why, killing the shit out of Lance before he can run his mouth to the authorities. To do so he sends out his lackeys Fritz and Vivi, but since the entire fucking castle is basically just a hundred different death traps squeezed together, their services really aren't all that essential to accomplish the task at hand.

What follows next is lots of trial and error gameplay, complimented by many, many instances of you avatar getting killed in hilariously gruesome ways. There are a lot of good 'uns to be found in Brain Dead 13, but in my humblest o' opinions the eight death scenes below represent the absolute best (and most ghoulish) the title has to offer...

Hammer smashes face ... erm, skull!

Here's a particularly hilarious death from very early on in the game. After making a wrong turn (or just waiting too damn long to take any turn), our good buddy Fritz pops out of the darkness with a wooden mallet and proceeds to wack Lance upside the back of the head - and, apparently, with enough force to send his entire fucking skiul flying out of his mouth. Watching your character's lifeless, sack of skin face swing around a couple of times before you finally drop dead really helps put this one over the top - hell, it's already more inventive than anything we saw in Celebrity Death Match, for sure.

Talk about too much head!

Anybody can just stab or shoot a dude, but it takes some real panache to off a motherfucker by blending their ass to death. Of course, that's something our good buddy Fritz definitely ain't above, and to add insult to injury, after pureeing your own head into a fine liquid paste, he winds up gulping your remains down like a foamy Old Milwaukee tall boy. That's some straight up Phantasm shit right there, and I, for one, adore it.

The greatest Mortal Kombat fatality that never was...

Even if the game has cartoony graphics, I'm nonetheless shocked that a title featuring something this graphic was able to skirt even a T-rating. I mean, the motherfucker just drove hooks into another dude's eyeballs and literally ripped his skin off through the sockets, and you mean to tell me this thing is just fine for six-year-olds? This is the kind of wanton mayhem you'd expect out of that one Eternal Champions game on the Sega CD, or one of those shitty Hatchet movies - I'm guessing the ESRB was feeling really lenient that day, eh?

Now that's what I call getting ghosted!

This one isn't as graphic as some of the other ones, but it's still pretty horrific. Getting your head sawed off by a mutated retard is one thing, but how ghastly is the notion of some supernatural entity literally crawling into your heart and draining the very life out of you while you stand? Imagine your loved ones finding your corpse, all shriveled up and mummified like a stale dog turd - some pretty morbid stuff for a game the ESRB approved for kindergartners, ain't it?

How abominable can you get?

The set-up for this one make its even more ghoulish. In this particular scene, your avatar enters a room with all sorts of monstrous creatures in it, including a dragon that pukes up sulfuric acid. Well, if you don't hit the proper button sequence soon enough, even though you avoid getting chemically melted by lizard spit, you don't avoid the wrath of a giant yeti, which - much to your character's chagrin - isn't just a stuffed decoration. Jeez - and you thought the atomic wedgies doled out in middle school were brutal!

That fungi is not such fun, guy...

After awhile, watching a dude get stabbed, sliced, slashed and de-spined over and over again tends to grow tiresome. That's what makes this particularly gruesome death scene so refreshing. For starters, you're not entirely sure if the hopping mushrooms can kill you, and when you realize they're anything but amicable, you just assume it's going to bite your face off or something. Well, you get swerved something wicked here, with the toadstool self-detonating and covering our hero in a shower of deadly microbes, which cause him to break out in hundreds of fungi growths. Maybe it's just the Cronenberg in me, but there's just something so horrendous about your body getting all deformed and shit before you die - a chainsaw bifurcation, I can handle, but going to my grave covered in vegetable warts and boils? Just pure ick.

Well, you said you wanted her to suck you off, didn't you?

Meet Vivi, a vampiress with a Southern drawl who offers her hair-styling services free of charge - not that she intends on you surviving to show off your new coif. Vivi has some pretty cool kills in this one (in one scenario, she lops off our main man's head with a humongous razor and in another, she takes a butcher knife to his hands), but the good old, traditional death bite coup de grace is the most memorable one of 'em all. Of course, the Internet being the terrible, terrible place it is, quite a few lamentable individuals have crafted their own loving tributes to the character in the form of gloriously NSFW Rule 34 hentai. And yes - most of it does involve furries. You know it always involve furries

This note's for you, pal!

While this is probably the least explicit death scene in the whole game, it's certainly one of the more memorable ones. Why? Because it takes place right at the very end of the game and it's one of the final - if not the very last - triggerable death scenes before the end credits start rolling. You're almost out of the castle, and you've got one more branching path to select. You enter a totally black room, there's a brief moment of quietude and then ... a fucking piano falls on top of you, Wile E. Coyote style and you're as dead as a doornail. It's such an absurd kill, but considering the in-game circumstances, it nonetheless comes off as strangely creepy and mildly tragic. I mean, can you imagine how horrific it would be to escape from the clutches of a bunch of psycho gang rapists, only to get run over by the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile as soon as you hit the highway? Well, that's precisely the kind of grim, post-post-postmodern black comedy Brain Dead 13 excels at - and if you haven't played it for whatever stupid ass reason, what are you waiting for?


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