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An Ironic Consumer review by J.R. "Thor" Antrim

I have found the most brutal, violent and sadistic videogame of all time. It's not Mortal Kombat. It's not Doom. It's Chiller, an arcade game made in 1986. I know that's a pretty wild claim, but read on and I'm sure you'll be, if not convinced, then at least a little grossed out.

Chiller is a lightgun shooter, like Virtua Cop. Only instead of docking you a life every time you hit an innocent bystander, it rewards you. There are no actual enemies in Chiller, just harmless vermin and a half dozen naked people chained to the walls. You heard me right, naked people chained to the walls. And your job is to torture, maim and kill as many of them as you can within the time limit!

Level 1: Torture Chamber
And this is before I got started!

The Torture Chamber is possibly the most gruesome crime against pixilated humanity since 989 Studios took over the Twisted Metal franchise. Everyone is stripped naked (except for little loincloth thingies, you wont get any real nudity until Level 4) and forced into various implements of torture, helpless to escape... or, you know, dodge bullets.


Chiller The opening screen lies and tells you that you're killing monsters, but let's face it, these aren't monsters. They're people. Zombies stagger towards you and try to eat your brains. These guys just struggle helplessly. Also, zombies die when you shoot them in the head. This guy is not so fortunate. He goes on screaming, long after you've reduced his face to rubble.

Chiller But there's more to do than riddle victims with bullet holes. Each level has a number of secrets. Shoot the guillotine and the blade drops, decapitating the woman stupid enough to fall for the old "put your head in the guillotine" gag. Aim for the drill press crank and it'll slowly crush the man's head, inch by bloody inch.

These secrets are my favorite part of the game. They loan things a bit of badly needed comic excess. Torturing people with a gun is about as challenging as making Carrot Top cry, but there's something undeniably satisfying about lowering someone into a crocodile pit.

Level 2: Rack Room

Chiller Rack Room is more of the same. It's just your typical dungeon-turned-torture-chamber, as was the style of the time. Makes you wonder if anyone ever used their dungeons for anything but torturing. I'm not sure about the whole river of blood thing, but I think it'd make an excellent game room. The racks could be converted to tables, there aren't any windows to glare on the TV, and if anyone erased over your saved games, well, that's why we've got our friend the gator.

Level 3: Hallway
Image enhanced to show ghostly activity. No, really.

Hallway is completely insane. After two levels of blood and guts and bloody guts, Hallway is built like one of those Scooby Doo hallway chases, complete with ghosts darting in and out of doors on either side and cartoony villain-ties-girl-to-train-tracks piano music.

Chiller If that's not Scooby Doo enough for ya, allow me to introduce Scooby Doo. That's not his real name, but what else are you going to call a big brown dog who wanders around haunted hallways? Unlike everything else in Chiller, you can't kill him. But you can save him a few body parts to chew on. Aww.

Chiller The Hallway also has my favorite monster. He's this little ookey gookey green guy who pops up after shoot a hole in the floor. You've got to catch him quick, but if you do, you score 300 points. There's not much else I can say about this little guy, except that he's a devoted husband, a loving father, and the kind of guy you'd be honored to shoot for 300 points.

Level 4: Graveyard

After the comic hijinks of the Hallway, Chiller had to ramp things up for the last level. It's got a great Halloween vibe, with zombies (real zombies), hooded monks, a creepy old church, and, of course, a half-burried cheerleader chained to the ground.

Speaking of, remember way back when I dangled the carrot of nudity in front of your nose? Well, here it is.

Chiller Chiller Chiller Chiller
The four stages of dating.

I've just been issued a warning by federal marshals never to use the phrase "Carrot of Nudity" again. So be it. But mark my words, I will find new ways to scar your precious minds.

They really saved the best for last. While other levels had you fighting big green Dracula heads, Graveyard has monsters worthy of Dead Alive (The movie, not the... nevermind.) And then, of course, there's this guy.


How cool is that?

The NES Game

Believe it or not, five years later, this thing found its way onto the NES. Published by American Game Cartridges, Inc., the game was unlicensed. Big surprise there. You couldn't GLUE a Nintendo Seal of Quality on this thing. Oddly enough, the NES version changed the creepy monk with a wheel barrel full of body parts into a... nun pushing a baby carriage. And you can still shoot her. O_o

The NES version also teaches us that while it's wrong to undress women, it's allright to dismantle them.

And that pretty much sums up Chiller. It's one of those games that I set out to make fun of and wound up enjoying. It's all so twisted, it makes me wonder if this was really some kind of murderous psychopath recruitment tool. If I score high enough, a kindly old man named Centari will drive up in a space-age DeLorean and offer to take me to Rylos, where I would be...

The Last Serial Killer.

- J.R. "Thor" Antrim managed not to make the obvious Rack Room/Rec Room pun. It took every last ounce of his willpower.

Happy Happy Halloween
Fun-Time Bonus Hijinks!

A reader named Rick was nice enough to send in some images from his Chiller arcade machine (see below) and a weird story he heard from one of the main designers at Exidy. During the big videogame crash, money was so tight that at one point, they had to stop paying janitors to empty the wastebaskets.

They also had to cut pest control from the budget while developing Chiller, and, "As a result, thousands of spiders started building webs on the outside surface of the windows of the building. Then they started appearing inside. It was as if the subject matter of the game was causing the building to be cursed by spiders."

Wow... That explains a lot.

Image of the Chiller arcade machine:
  1. Load image into Photoshop.
  2. Enlarge by 500%.
  3. Stand in front of printout and pretend you're really playing!

Game Instructions:
They left out, "Feed the parts of children to Scooby Doo and bathe in the blood of innocents while masquerading as a monster hunter."

Advertising flyer:
"Now Playing on the Coin-Op Amusement Video Screen." Remember, kids, the theme is a scream but the skill is an equal thrill.

Crazy Scooby Doo Hallway Music:
Listen carefully and you can hear the beating of the mummy's heart. You can also hear how it goes squish when I shoot it.
MP3 File
The NES Chiller Theme Song:
I've heard a lot of bad videogame music in my day, but this beats even the 36 minute rock opera organ solos I used to make in Mario Paint.
MP3 File

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Created by J.R. "Thor" Antrim. Content Copyright © 2003-2005. All rights reserved.