Welcome to shite night.
Good old Exidy. They soon learned one of the most cardinal lessons of the still burgeoning video game industry: when one has a name for controversy, capitalise on it. True, Death Race was almost a decade behind them, but during that time, they had released such spectacularly forgettable titles as Star Fire, Venture and Mouse Trap. Mouse Trap at least receiving the accolade of a song on the infamous Pac-Man Fever album. With the rise of more sophisticated hardware, also came the desire for greater novelty. Titles such as Gauntlet, with quad-player action, and guest narration from Stephen Hawking, had set a new paradigm. In 1986, Exidy once again enraged the Daily Mail media with the release of light-gun title Chiller.
It is probably no coincidence that Chiller is a rhyme of Thriller. Jackson’s album was still selling by the trillion. The similarity ended there, alas. Chiller involved no fey Jackson attempts at acting, John Landis chic, or deplorably camp zombie dance routines. Or Vincent Price. Chiller is, to the best of my rather meagre and puddle-shallow knowledge, the only game to have received a permanent ban in the UK. Not that such rules apply to MAME, of course. Most violent games had a context for the gratuity. Not so with Chiller. The gameplay (and I use that noun loosely, almost as a pejorative) involves nothing more than shooting targets, and the appendages of prisoners in a dungeon, whose flesh is ripped off in grisly, bloody chunks.
Shoot everything on screen, be that humans, phantoms or zombies, as well as background elements, which at least added a miserly notion of experimentation to the otherwise callow proceedings. The four stages were mere variations on a theme: a torture chamber, a rack room, a hallway and a cemetery. Game highlights included a woman lowered to hungry crocodiles, guillotine decapitation, cranium-crushing in a vice and shooting a woman’s clothing off until she is topless. Granny-pleasing content, certainly. This sounds rather tame and almost ironic in an era of MadWord and Manhunt, but the game was a limited, banal tedium. Rather like Cinna the port in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, the game should be torn for the bad verses of tedious gameplay. However, the content alone saw the game banned in short order on our shores.
Almost absurdly, the game received a release on the most salubrious and lounge-friendly console of the time; the NES. A rather tenuous plot was added, and elements such as nudity and evisceration were wholly removed. Thanks to the wonders of emulation, I am happy to reveal that it is far less an engaging experience than the arcade parent, which at least was proud of how salacious it was. The nudity was not worth the time and effort I invested to get to it. Breasts like wasp stings, I tell you.