Being a murdering psychopath can be hard work, don’t you know. First you have to stalk your victims, then you have chase them down, and finally you need to get the job done with your bloody implement of choice. And all the while, you’ll need to appease the decapitated head of your late mother who keeps urging you to kill your unfortunate string of targets. So, the perfect subject for a puzzle game, right?
As macabre as it might sound, Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle turns the fine art of slaying into an isometric set of challenges, where you’ll need to guide Jason Voorhees - the iconic hockey mask-wearing murderer - around an enclosed area, immolating helpless NPCs, avoiding dangers and pulling off that all-important killer blow. The result is a simple yet devilishly tricky prospect that’s all about using the environment to guide Jason as he eviscerates every character in sight.
If you’ve played Blue Wizard Digital’s previous offering - which arrived on Nintendo Switch earlier this year in the form of Slayaway Camp: Butcher’s Cut - you’ll know what to expect here as the Canadian developer has taken the same basic concept and improved on it with some welcome changes. As before, each small map is divided into a grid, with Jason able to move in any direction. However, he’ll keep moving in that direction until he reaches an unsuspecting victim or a piece of scenery, so you’ll to use the environment to manoeuvre and change his path.
Early maps are set up in such a way that you can easily see how to kill each victim (you just need to be next to them and facing them to automatically end their sorry existence), but as you push further, the optimum route to completing each map isn’t so obvious. Each kill will stop your progress, which will enable you to then move in a new direction without having to use the environment to stop. Then you realise you can scare victims away, enabling you to use them as a tactical means of 'setting up' the next kill.
You don’t even have to slash/bludgeon/skewer each victim, either. You can scare them into running into icy water or a nearby campfire, but these hazards can also damage you so you’ll need to make sure going for a kill doesn’t leave you destined for the same fate. There are even police officers that will arrest you should you end up stopping in a reticule placed right in front of them. All of these mechanics were present in Slayaway Camp in one form or another; however, this time around, Jason ends each map by performing a 'Final Kill' rather than heading for a portal.
This is marked by a black ‘X’ on the floor, so you’re often having to think a few moves ahead in order to reach that final murder. Each one of these round-ending slays also involves hitting the sweet spot on a meter, which will net you a big dose of XP. While Slayaway Camp offered you coins with which to buy new weapons, Killer Puzzle uses these kills to gradually level you up, which in turn unlocks crates full of weapons in a variety of rarities. From smashing a victim over the head with a skateboard to bisecting them with a giant axe, this improved (if overly familiar) system works far better as a means of coaxing you into playing more.
If you do get stuck - which you almost certainly will in the latter half of the game - you can tap your mother’s decapitated head (because mother knows best, obviously) and she’ll offer a solution as to what to do next, or reveal the entire solution should you reach a puzzle that’s really got you stumped. You won’t need it for the first couple of settings, but it’ll definitely come in useful once the game starts juggling maps with multiple direction-changing scenery, hazards and myriad victims to chase down.
Each kill also serves as a resource in and of itself, enabling you to unlock a new chapter and its corresponding skin for Jason once you surpass certain kill count milestones. From running riot in the iconic locale that is Crystal Lake all the way through to some madcap settings (including a Jason X-style futuristic theme and a caveman-style chapter) to the new visual aesthetic (Blue Wizard has done away with the blocky character models in favour of rounded, South Park-esque ones), the whole package makes the most of the Friday the 13th licence with buckets of cartoonish blood and guts.
While Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle doesn’t stray too far from the template of Slayaway Camp: Butcher’s Cut, it does offer some much-needed adjustments to its gory puzzle formula. With 12 chapters to work your way through and 150 different scenes to drench in gore, plenty of costumes to unlock, and all manner of implements to wield (complete with grisly death animations), this cartoonish puzzler offers a fitting way to ring in Halloween on Nintendo Switch.