Sunday, January 1, 2012

Chiller (1986, Exidy)

By 1986, I was in high school with a still wet-from-the-printer driver's license, and on Saturday nights my friends and I would drive past several perfectly suitable video arcades to get to the one on the other side of town that had a Chiller machine.

Chiller was the latest in a series of arcade shooters produced by Exidy in which you aimed a mounted light-gun at animated video targets. Previous entries in the series were family friendly Crossbow (in which you shoot to defend a party of Renaissance-Fair adventurers) and Cheyenne (same concept, but set in the wild west).

Chiller took this play mechanic and plopped it in the middle of a haunted castle, complete with a spooky hallway, a graveyard, and medieval torture chamber. Make that TWO medieval torture chambers!

Players accumulated points in timed rounds by shooting ghosts, monsters, rats, trapdoors, skeletons, and tombstones, accompanied all the while by an unsettling symphony of digitally sampled moans, groans and shrieks.

But what made Chiller stand out from other games of the day was the explicit, gory violence. You are required to shoot repeatedly at helpless human victims strapped into various torture devices. Each direct hit bloodies the victim and illicits additional screams.

You can also use your gun to activate the torture mechanisms themselves, like releasing a guillotine blade, tightening a clamp against a person's head, or slowly lowering a dangling victim into a river of blood and the snapping jaws of an alligator. (This blog page has some excellent close-up animated .gifs to illustrate what I'm talking about.)

Even by today's standards, this was pretty gruesome stuff. Between levels, a screen displays the various special targets you must shoot to achieve maximum points and earn a bonus level. It's like a game of bingo played in Hell.

As you take out the special targets, they disappear from the bingo card to reveal a picture beneath.

Sharp-shooters are rewarded with a bonus round--this repulsive slot machine in which the jackpots are severed heads, brains, and other body parts.

I have to admit, as much as I enjoyed the game, I always felt a little dirty after a few rounds with Chiller, and had to feed some quarters into clean, happy games like Super Sprint, Rolling Thunder or Space Harrier afterword to cleanse my soul.

Chiller game flyer found at The Arcade Flyer Archive.

2 comments:

Dex1138 said...

I don't think I ever saw this in the arcade but I have played it on an arcade emulator. Makes Splatterhouse seem pretty tame by comparison.

Strange Kid said...

@Dex: Better than Splatterhouse? Blasphemy I say! :)

Chiller is pretty raw. I think I remember an official port for the NES, with some editing, but never knew there was an arcade machine. MUST... HAVE...