Back in the day, nothing annoyed me more than games based on movies which had absolutely nothing to do with the movies they were based on. Or games which simply got everything wrong adaptation-wise.
Remember Ghostbusters on NES?
Oh sure it had some “ghost busting” in it, technically, and an ending somewhat related to the film but as a whole it was nothing short of insulting. Total Recall had cats you could punch and Jaws had you mindlessly killing stingrays for ages, fine, but they were still playable at least.
Then I start playing Psycho (aka Psycho: Arcade Quest) for the Commodore 64.
Serves me right for trying to follow the release of that new Hitchcock biopic. Which looks terrible, by the way. No matter how much cheese they manage to smear all over Anthony Hopkins’ face, it won’t make him look even remotely like Alfred Hitchcock. It just looks like a completely unnecessary film. Even more so than those Psycho sequels or that shot-for-shot remake!
Well, almost as unnecessary as the shot-for-shot remake.
But that game… wow.
What on Earth was THAT?!
This won’t be so much an in-depth review as it will be a long, demented rant since I didn’t get very far into the game but this is one I simply could not NOT mention.
Alright, first: the plot.
You’re a detective and you’re investigating – wait for it- a jewel theft which none other than Norman Bates is suspected to be involved in. You show up at Bates’ house and start snooping around looking for clues, etc. etc.
Now I thought that Norman Bates flipping burgers in Psycho II was kind of weird but this takes the cake. Stealing jewelry? Really?!
I guess I should probably read Robert Bloch’s novel if that’s what the game is actually based on (it’s not) because it’s starting to sound a lot like a Pink Panther plot. And those movies were hilarious!
Whatever, the game’s premise, while ridiculous, is shockingly not the silliest thing about it so let’s move on swiftly.
The game begins with you standing outside Bates’ house and you’ll notice 3 things right off the bat:
1 – You can play the entire thing on your keyboard as some kind of cross between a text game, a point-and-click game and a side-scroller. It’s an interesting set-up and, surprisingly, I don’t really mind it. It’s pretty self-explanatory.
2 – The game looks ass. I mean, there’s a colour version of it out there and the one I’ve been playing is mostly pink, making it feel almost like a Virtual Boy game, but regardless it’s still pretty foul to look at.
3 – You’re holding a magnifying glass THE ENTIRE TIME. Get it? You’re a detective, see? Hence…
Oh, I should mention that the music sounds like a 1 bit version of the theme from The Twilight Zone. Which is both weird and kinda awesome.
The first thing you search is the nearby mailbox and what you find is…
… pretty incriminating.
I’d say evidence enough to call for backup and make an arrest. Though I’m really not sure who this “Uncle Max” is meant to be. Does Norman dress up like him too?
But whatever, you choose to ignore what you’ve found and break into the house anyway. Before that, however, you search the porch and find what I can only describe as a “Tweet”:
“@NormanBates 2 personalities are 1 too many! lol #Psycho”
Inside the house is a vase and a coat, you search the vase and find nothing then search the coat and find heart medicine. Then you’re in front of that infamous staircase surrounded by doors. Weirdly, the staircase collapses as you get close to it.
Honestly, I’m still not quite sure why that happened.
But ok, I guess that means I need to go through one of these doors. Only one seems to be open so I walk in and find…
Are you ready for this?
Alright, here goes…
I walk in and find:
Not even kidding.
And as you can see it’s not even a classy, apparition-type ghost like Patrick Swayze in, well, Ghost. No: we’re in Casper territory here.
But wait, it gets… worse.
Before you ask: yes.
That IS a ghost dog.
Like in The Nightmare Before Christmas.
From then on, whatever the game has to offer is a bonus. Never will it top ghost dog. Man would I love to meet the person responsible for putting in a ghost dog in a Psycho game. Of course, I’d have to be tied to a chair so as not to smash his or her head in with a shovel (see Psycho II and/or cult French comedy Bernie) but it would definitely be cool to ask: ‘why?’
That’s like if I made a game based on North By Northwest and my pixelated Cary Grant, instead of running away from a plane, actually started running away from a group of giant talking bees with top hats. Kinda affects the overall mood of the game, I think you’ll agree.
Weirdly, the ghosts in this game don’t kill you. For some reason, they put you to sleep.
Well why wouldn’t you feel sleepy?
A ghost touched you!
Their only function is to waste your time because you’re meant to solve your case before dawn for some reason and every ghost you touch makes you lose hours so try not to do that if you can avoid it.
After searching the room and trying to open doors left and right, I usually tend to give up and play something else, I’ll admit. I will finish it one day and uncover more weird things which I’m certain the game is trying to hide from me but until then, I’ll just let you discover Psycho for yourselves I think. It definitely has to be played to be believed.
From what I gathered, though, I think I can safely say that if you’re looking for a good game based on Bloch’s novel or Hitchcock’s film: then this is not it. Like I said, it looks completely unappealing, as an adaptation it’s laughable and entertainment-wise, ghost dogs aside, it’s pretty static and bare. I hear there’s a shower scene of sorts in the game and other characters to interact with but I’m not in too much of a rush to find out.
It’s a shame because had they stuck to the film’s premise and dropped you in the middle of the story, used those keyboard keys in more creative ways and not included surreal things you’d expect in a Tim Burton claymation we could have had a decent enough, if very basic and very dated, Psycho game.
As it stands: it’s good for a laugh but this is one game that is definitely due for a cold shower.
I’ll leave you with a little ‘Where’s Waldo?’ conundrum: see if you can spot the game’s main protagonist through the following sea of pink and pixels.
(clue: look for the magnifying glass)