A funny and clever puzzler that riffs on Friday the 13th and it’s decades of odd history, Killer Puzzle is that rare, honest free-to-play game. And it’s ideal for playing on the toilet.
I’m always on the lookout for new toilet games. I don’t mean games about toilets, although I suppose they might qualify if anyone ever makes a good one. No, I mean games that are played on the toilet. You know the type. The kind of game you play for fifty hours, but none of them consecutively. The kind that exists in the weird corner of your mind which only ever activates when you’re sitting there bored, scrolling through Twitter. Those are toilet games. And as such things go, Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle is near-perfect.
An isometric top-down sliding puzzler, Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle reimagines Jason Voorhees as a chubby munchkin with a bulbous head and tiny limbs. His many victims look much the same, just dressed up as jocks or dorks or prison inmates. The point of the game is to send Jason sliding across the grid until he bumps into them; a collision sends their mismatched limbs cartwheeling across the screen and leaves a pool of blood where they were standing.
After stabbing or bludgeoning all the victims on a grid, a final target appears on a little “X”, like there might be buried treasure beneath the tile. Offing that guy or gal ends the level, but it also transports the poor sod to a strange pocket dimension where Jason unleashes a grizzly finishing move with whatever weapon he has to hand. Doing so fills up a hollow skull that represents Jason’s bloodlust, and each time it spills over he unlocks a new weapon – knives, bats, frying pans, whatever.
This is less unpleasant and more fun than it sounds. The whole thing’s silly; the chunky cartoon graphics are a dead giveaway, as is the PG-13 option in the settings, which disables the gore and censors the finishers and makes it impossible for me to respect you. Killer Puzzle is a gleefully violent game in which over-the-top brutality is an aesthetic, a joke, and a means of progress, but never of particular importance. Besides – I’m sure they all deserve what they get.
It’s easy to make fun of Friday the 13th – its own sequels have been taking the p**s for years. But it’s also a great basis for a puzzle game, especially a slapstick one, because it has decades of history and iconography to playfully repurpose. Killer Puzzle is divided up into themed blocks of thirteen levels, each featuring a different location with its associated squealing victims and Jason outfits. If you’ve ever wanted to slide Jason around in his jailhouse boilersuit and thwack folks with an acoustic guitar, now you can – and you have the severed tip-giving head of his mother as company.
The puzzles work, too. It’s an intuitive and clever system that continually finds new ways to up the difficulty without ever becoming so challenging that you can’t complete a given level in a few minutes. Victims will learn how to run away if you land Jason on an adjacent tile, and figuring out how to manipulate their behaviour becomes an important component of success. You can send them screaming wildly into holes or bear traps or bodies of water, or use them as obstacles to reposition Jason and cleave a more efficient path through the level.
Killer Puzzle is good at introducing one new element after another without becoming overwhelming. It always gives you time to study the layout of a grid without any pressure, and an optional bird’s-eye view helps you suss out the exact positioning of people, obstacles, and traps. Each new wrinkle is presented in a simplistic context first, giving you chance to play around with, say, the armed cops who you can’t approach from the front, or the telephones that you can use to lure unsuspecting victims, before it’s all used in combination.
This fairness is what makes Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle atypical for a free-to-play mobile game. Even the trickier levels give you plenty of options. By jabbing a stubby finger on Jason’s mother’s disembodied head, you can get a hint or the puzzle’s entire solution for no penalty. You can re-do things by rewinding the episode one move at a time, or just reset everything, again for no penalty. Progress isn’t dependent on anything but the player’s brain; no power-ups or bits of gear that suggest you pony up a few quid to make things easier. There are things you can buy with real money, but they’re limited to additional episodes or gimmicky new costumes.
This is an addictive, no-strings-attached little game that comes at no financial cost but might well steal hours of your life. But it’s straight-up approach is refreshing, and it’s tongue-in-cheek rejigging of Friday the 13th results in enough hilarity and cleverness that you’ll probably be willing to part with some cash just to get a little more of it. Then again, built-in modes like the kill-focused Murder Marathon and the Daily Death, a unique puzzle to solve each day, ensure Killer Puzzle will likely accompany me to the bathroom for quite some time.