Sunday, July 7, 2019

They Actually Made a 'Child’s Play' Video Game

… and somehow, the retro-inspired 2D Chucky offering is actually kinda’ awesome.


By: Jimbo X

For me, one of the absolute biggest surprises of the summer has been the Child’s Play remake. Like everybody else on planet Earth, I wholeheartedly expected the whole venture to suck out loud, only to walk out of the theater ranking it as the best Chucky movie to come down the pipes since part two back in 1990. Of course, I’ll go a little bit deeper into my thoughts on the movie towards the end of the article, but upfront, I want to turn your attention to an AWESOME marketing ploy to promote said reboot.

Officially titled Child’s Play: Escape Zedmart, the free-to-play Web game is a downright terrific tribute to both the Chucky mythos and the catch-as-catch-can coin-op classics of yore. Whereas similar marketing-games for the It and Halloween reboots were basically glorified endless runners with half-hearted Michael Myers and Pennywise the Clown skins, Escape Zedmart is actually a loving homage to all of the great Pac-likes of the 1980s, reminding me at once of two of my ALL-TIME FAVORITE arcade titles ever, Food Fight and Monster Bash.

I ain’t gonna’ lie to you, there ain’t a whole lot to talk about concerning the game, considering there’s only three levels and the core game mechanics kinda’ explain themselves. But at heart, Escape Zedmart is a solid Pac-Man homage that skillfully incorporates quite a few components of the remake into the game aesthetics without the whole package coming off as forced and desperate. 

There may only be three levels in the game, but I feel as if each one is well worth dissecting in-depth. So how about we get this proverbial show on the road, eh?


STAGE ONE: THE KITCHEN DEPARTMENT

Without spoiling too much for you, I just want you to know that the grand finale of the Child’s Play 2019 redux takes place inside a K-Mart-like retail village called the “Zedmart” (hence, the name of this very game) and the virtual labyrinth here does manage to tastefully incorporate a few features from the movie’s paint-the-aisles red denouement. So, uh, don’t say I didn’t warn you fuckos up front, OK?

The core gameplay here is deceptively simple. On this particular table, there are four switches you have to hit to activate the exit. Along the way, you get bonus points for picking up coffee makers and toasters, and of course, there’s a mini-parade of Chuckies on the loose that’ll literally turn you into a blood stain if you amble into ‘em. Thankfully, the game doesn’t leave you totally defenseless, since there are two knives you can pick up as one-time-use items — basically, you just run into the dolls, Ys-style, and they explode into buckets of guts and gore. Which, uh, is kinda’ contradictory to the movie itself, but like I was saying, I don’t want to spoil this shit for you too much.

So all in all, it’s a pretty easy level, although it’s also equally easy to forget the dolls’ marching patterns and get dead-ended sans a defensive weapon. Still, unless you absolutely suck at old-school Pac-likes, you should be able to get through this one without too many problems.


STAGE TWO: THE HOME IMPROVEMENT DEPARTMENT

Now this shit just straight up reminded me of Zombies Ate My Neighbors, and that’s one of the highest compliments I can give anything. As with the first stage, the whole idea is to push the four escape buttons and haul fanny outta’ there, along the way doing totally important things like picking up plastic buckets that can’t possibly cost more than $2 a piece in the midst of an unholy rogue A.I. holocaust. There’s also more Chuckies coming after you here, and they appear to be faster and more aggressive — if you ain’t careful, they’ll knife your ass in a hurry. 

As in the first stage, you do get two defensive weapons here, as well — what appears to be a mop. To be fair, I’m not sure how a mop could be used to turn a killer doll into a puddle of plasma, and I definitely don’t know why the mop makes the same sound effect as a whirring helicopter blade but … whatever.

At this point in the game, one thing I’d like to advise you not to do is immediately bum rush the exit … especially if you just killed a Chucky. You see, those little buggers have a nasty tendency to just fucking respawn right at the gate, and there are few things in this world more annoying than thinking you’ve got the stage cleared, only for one of these suckers to materialize out of thin air and kill you dead right when you think you’ve found ultimate redemption. Man, that’s next level deep right there. 


STAGE THREE: THE KASLAN PRODUCTS DEPARTMENT

The third and final stage incorporates the most material from the movie, so if you’re dead set on avoiding ANY spoilers, looks like you’ll have to click out of this article ASAP. There’s still just four buttons to press, but they’re all locked inside these square cubes, which makes you a dead duck in case a Chucky decides to roll on in there. And, of course, this being the final stage and all, there’s more Chuckies roaming the store than ever before, and their A.I. seems to be much improved.

So the idea here is to avoid death and pick up a whole bunch of overpriced electronic doodads, like Apple watches, giant batteries, and these blue things that I’m still not entirely sure what they’re supposed to be. Your defensive weapon this time around is what appears to be a mini-drill, although it’s animated more like a giant screw. So it’s fundamentally the same concept as before, except this time, the game designers decided to lob one more surprise at us. 

Now, instead of just dealing with Chuckies, you’ve got to deal with these roving drones with knives and shit attached to them (which, it is to be noted, is taken directly from the movie.) Thankfully, their patterns are fairly limited — basically, they just fly side-to-side — but as with the Chucks, it’s one hit and you dead, nigga. And unlike the sentient dolls, you CAN’T use the power tools against these fuckers, which really ups the challenge. Odds or it’ll take you a couple of times to get the layout and A.I. patterns just right, but seasoned retro gamers ought to be able to solve this ‘un in about 10, 20 minutes tops … with your reward being a really fuckin’ great chiptune closing credits song that feels like it already should’ve been used in about five or six TurboGrafx-16 games.


Just to be a completist/autist, the game does give you the choice to play the game with a mouse, but those controls are just assy to the nth degree — stick to the arrow controls or else you’ll be cursing up a storm, I promise you. And because I am that hardcore, not only did I manage to beat the game collecting all the items, I did so without losing a single life. Alas, even that feat didn’t unlock any bonus content, so it appears the three levels we’ve got here is all they’re going to give us. And that’s a shame, really, because Escape Zedmart is such a fun and addictive old-school throwback — I mean, if they’re going to give Inside Out a freeware Bust-A-Move app with more than 100 levels, there’s no rational reason why we couldn’t have gotten the same thing with this digital tie-in.

In the grand pantheon of slasher icons, Chucky seems to be the character best suited for an old-school 8-or-16-bit horror platformer, but he’s pretty much the only A-lister who didn’t get the Nintendo or Atari treatment at some point back in the day. Michael Myers, Leatherface, Freddy K, Jason and even fuckin’ Pumpkinhead got retail video games in the 1980s and 1990s, but sadly, Child’s Play never got the same kind of cross-media conversion (although I sometimes like to pretend the original Clock Tower game on the Super Famicom is an unlicesned Chucky game, sometimes — I mean, the dude’s got the hedgeclippers and everything.) While it may not be an equitable tradeoff to Konami or Capcom never making us a Child’s Play 2 tie-in back in the early 1990s, I still reckon Escape Zedmart is a fine tribute to the core concepts of the franchise, and if nothing else, it’s a rare marketing tie-in freeware game that actually resembles something that took some effort and was designed as anything other than a quick, commercial afterthought. Hell, something tells me I’ll still be surreptitiously playing this one at work come Halloweentime … mayhap even next Halloween, really.

Alright, I guess I can’t wrap up this article without saying something about the new movie that came out last month, so I’ll get that out of the way now, I suppose. Long story short, I thought it was WAY better than it probably had any right to be, and all in all, it might just be the third best movie in the Chucky mythos next to the first two movies. The writers and producers of the movie wisely decided to go the total opposite direction of the source material, and the end result is one of the smarter, scarier and — believe it or not — emotionally engaging horror movies to come down the pipes in ‘19. Between it and the Pet Sematary do-over, it’s quickly turning into the year of drastically-overachieving ‘80s horror remakes … let’s just hope the trend continues long enough to give us that five-star reboot of Shocker we’ve all been dreaming about since 1989. So by all means, give it a gander if you haven’t — if nothing else, it ought to be praised for actually trying something different, which as we all know by now, ain’t exactly Hollywood’s forte no more.

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