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Posted on May 17th 2013 at 09:50:12 AM by (singlebanana)
Posted under Wizard, Halloween, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Real, Fake, Reviews

As some of you may know, I was fortunate enough to come across a nice Atari 2600 lot a few months ago with several very rare and scarce games. Among those titles, was a copy of Wizard's "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" ("TCM"). The seller was unaware as to whether the cart was authentic, and actually mentioned this in his auction. I decided that since there were several carts in the auction I needed, I would negate the price of the TCM cart and put in a reasonable offer on the lot at the last minute. Sure enough, I won the lot at an agreeable price and waited patiently by the mailbox the next couple days to claim my spoils. 

While waiting on the games, I hopped over to AtariAge and asked the kind folks there how I might be able to authenticate my cart. Sure enough, several members were happy to help out and were as curious as I was as to whether I had indeed made a good score (a special thanks to members: atari181, PingvinBlueJeans, Shinju, Stan, and Gorfy) .  When the box arrived on my front steps, I immediately peeled into it to search for the game. Armed with my newfound knowledge, I quickly discerned that the cart was indeed a fake......*sigh*.  Though I was disappointed, I wasn't upset. I got some other great rare games and though my copy of TCM was a fake, it still played like an original. If anything, it's a good placeholder until another comes around.

So the other day I started thinking that some of you who might be interested in these rare titles (whether it be for your 2600 collection, or if your merely a fan of the horror genre) might want to know how to authenticate these carts. As you know, eBay and other such auction sites are full of people selling repro carts, some of them are honest about it (i.e. Hozer) and others are.....well....slimeballs trying to make a buck by ripping off collectors. You still have to be careful in buying items site unseen, but you can eliminate a lot of risk by asking a few simple questions and requesting pictures.

Before going into the details of authenticating the carts, I thought I would start off by giving a brief history of the games' publisher, Wizard Video. Wizard Video was started in 1979 by B-movie director, writer, and producer Charles Band who was famous for his horror films and re-releases of shock film during the VHS era. If you are a child of the 80's, you may remember some of the outrageous titles or whacked out covers you saw while meandering through your local video store. Such low-budget, shock titles as "I Spit on Your Grave," "Dreamaniac," "The Driller Killer," and even "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," were purchased by Wizard and released to video stores all across the U.S. in the early 80's. These titles are now highly sought after and prized by collectors for their camp value and the often gruesome and lewd cover art.

No stranger to controversy, Wizard recently announced that "on February 7, 2013, Charles Band ....rediscovered copies of 36 Wizard Video titles, as well as Wizard's video games, in an abandoned warehouse. The 36 films [are to] be re-released as limited editions on a four-titles-per-month basis starting on February 12; the two games will be re-released at a later date" (courtesy of wizardvideocollection.com and wikipedia). I understand that they found the videos and currently have them for sale, but can't find mention of them discovering the Atari games (only the boxes) or mention of their release. The videos are currently selling for $50 each and come with an autograph from Mr. Band himself.......however, collectors have noted that the autographs may be the only thing "authentic" about these videos. I'll let you be the judge:

Controversy aside, Wizard Video Games only released two titles for the Atari 2600, "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" (1982) and "Halloween" (1983). Because these games were marketed mainly for adults due to their violent (very mild compared to today's standard) content, they were not big sellers and many stores refused to sell them or hid them behind the counter. As a result, sales were small and Wizard stopped making video games; both factors adding the games' rarity. 

In "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," you play as Leatherface, the brutal, chainsaw wielding slayer of promiscuous teenagers. Points are earned by cutting up screeching chicks that run from you and annoyingly teleport behind you when you get close. You must also dodge bushes, fences, cow skulls, and Franklin's wheelchair, while trying not to run out of gas for your chainsaw (which oddly ends the game....). The graphics are atrocious even for an Atari game; the proportions are all whacked and the chainsaw looks like a warty.....well.....I won't go there. Gameplay is very boring and basic and the only thing that really makes this game worth owning is the "holy-s#$t-what-the-hell-is-this?" factor you get from visitors to your game room. With that said, yes I am still looking for an authentic copy...... I give the game and official Banana D-.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre gameplay

Next in the series, of two, is "Halloween." Unfortunately, you do not get to play as Michael Myers *drat!*, but the game is much better than its predecessor.  You play as the babysitter and the object is to find and rescue the kids before ole Mike puts a pointy object in yo head.  When you find them, you get them to sync up with you and attempt to lead them to the safe room. All the while ole Mike is chasing you around and trying to put an end to your efforts. The game is pretty gruesome for its time, and when you are caught, you are basically decapitated and Michael proceeds to stab the child......wow.  The game actually has decent graphics and benefits from the movie's score, which sounds pretty damn awesome in Atari land. Some rooms have flickering lights, which add to the suspense and the ability to change floors makes for good getaways sometimes. My only complaints might be that Michael appears a little too much (every screen...) and you have very little vertical mobility to dodge him.  However, you can pick up a knife to defend yourself against the brute, which scores you a few points and provides you with a very brief moment of relief. As far as 2600 games are concerned it isn't bad and definitely the best of Wizard's two releases; I give it a B.

Halloween gameplay


As I mentioned before, the best way to authenticate a Wizard game is to look it over in person. Auctioneers, whether intentionally or not, tend to hide the game in a lot and often don't provide detailed pictures. Before you bid, be sure to ask questions and request pics. If a seller refuses your requests, pass no matter how good the deal might be. Below are a few tips on how to determine if your cart is authentic:

1. Cart Grips - One of the most telling signs of a reproduction is no cart grips. The cart grips on a Wizard cart are very similar to those found on 2600 Activision carts; they are small, square areas on the sides of the cart close to the end label. Repro carts usually do not have grips, since they are basically made from the cheapest cannibalized carts available.

2. Absence of End Flap - If the game has a recessed protective flap on the inside which protects the board, it is not authentic. Wizard carts did not have this protective flap. Again, another easy identifier if you can get pics.

3. White Board - Probably the most essential identifying feature of a Wizard cart is the off-white Apollo AP200 board inside. Since the majority of boards are green, this is a very distinguishing feature and probably the most telling sign of an authentic cart.

4. No Label - If the Wizard title you are considering purchasing doesn't have a label, don't be alarmed, it might still be authentic. Games have been found in this state with the title written directly on it in black Sharpie or on a piece of tape, and sometimes the titles are even misspelled. Some speculate this might have been an attempt for Wizard to cut costs at the end of their run and may even add to the rarity of the game. 

5. Glossy/Blurry/Faded Labels - Wizard game labels were like most 2600 games and were not glossy. If the label is glossy, it is a repro/fake. Also, be weary of blurry or faded looking labels, especially if you have a high quality pic. See difference in my real Halloween and repro TCM below

6. Strange Head on Main Label - Hozer identifies some of its repro games with their logo. If it has this logo, it is a repro. See bottom right corner of cart below:

7. The Ole Double-Ender - Wizard never made a double-ender cart like the ones you commonly see from Xonox. From what I understand, the double-ender was a creative repro designed by an AtariAge member. Pretty cool idea, but not a Wizard original.


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Cool video on the history of Wizard. Are you a VHS collector sb?
Very interesting! While I am not big on the 2600, it's always good to soak up a little info. Who knows what I may run into out and about.
@h1ghw1nd: No, I do not collect VHS, I just found this recent Wizard controversy interesting when I visited Wizard's site to get historical information.  I do have a nice DVD collection of over 500 titles and vinyl at 300+. With that said, if I found any of these old horror films on VHS, I'd definitely pick them up. Still have VHS player, since I run my TG64 through it. Tongue
Thank you, sir, for the history lesson. 

After checking their release list, it looks like I did rent/watch many of Wizard's VHS titles back then.  And there were some great ones for someone that loves the odd and elusive.  For the record, I Spit on Your Grave is disturbing to anyone, male or female, depending on the portion of the movie you are watching at the time.  And TCM is still a huge favorite.  Any true horror fan will recognize Tobe Hooper as near genius at that time in his career. He was able to create a film that most will remember as being extremely gory though there was almost none in the movie.  The gore came from their own imaginations.  That's brilliance!

Yes, I would enjoy finding an original Wizard 2600 title but, in some cases, the homage in a high quality repro is also very respectable.
Very great blog! It was very informal and very well thought out. Very good research and the embedded videos were also quite helpful and very cool to watch...not so much VHS Guy as I am bored with VHS. BUT The Wizard video was awesome!  Keep on searching! Someday you will get that Halloween evil sister TCM cart.

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