We all have memories or things tied to events. For some, pumpkin spice season starts once the leaves change colors. Others, it’s marathoning their favorite horror films as soon as the calendar flips to October 1. For me, October definitely brings a lot of memories to mind and video games are definitely some of them. Yet while some may look to Resident Evil or Silent Hill when they think of the spooky season. For me, it’s a PlayStation 1 title that I feel most don’t remember, nor even played. I’m talking about my beloved Brain Dead 13.
I already envision the confused look coming to your face as you say, “Brain Dead 13? What the heck is that game?” Well my lovely reader, don’t worry about a thing, because class is in session and I will be your professor. Let’s begin our discussion on this forgotten title.
What is Brain Dead 13?
Brain Dead 13 is an interactive full motion video game, or FMV, developed and published by ReadySoft, a now defunct company. It sees the player control Lance Galahad a computer repairman who is hired to fix a mad scientist’s computer. After Lance offends the scientist, an imp named Fritz chases Lance around the castle, set on killing him. You will come across various other creatures and monsters looking to help Lance meet his end as well the further you play. If you make all the correct choices, the game can be completed in under an hour.
The title released in 1995 for PC. It would later be ported to various platforms including Atari Jaguar, PlayStation 1, and even iOS from 1996 to 2010. The game wasn’t received well by critics, but did receive praise for its animation. I could not find any sales figures. So it’s unclear just how many people ever bought or played it. One thing is for certain, Brain Dead 13 wasn’t very polished.
Brain Dead 13‘s Frustrating Controls
You might be thinking, “Jeremy, why are you starting off with the bad?” Well, the bad is absolutely unavoidable. I cannot speak for any recent ports, like the iOS version, as I only played the PS1 entry. But oh boy, did I want to throw my controller across the room.
The gameplay is very simple on paper. Lance runs to a point on the screen and stops. He begins to look around, unsure of what to do next. The player helps our troubled friend by clicking a direction on the directional pad. Lance will then run off in that direction which could keep the game going or kill Lance.
Brain Dead 13‘s controls are terrible. I remember feverishly tapping a certain direction, only for the game to either not register where I chose to go or go in a different direction because of an accidental click. Thankfully if you died due to a bad choice, or game lag as we’d say nowadays, Lance would be reborn and you could play again. The not so thankful matter, there are no save points. So you might have to restart from the beginning. I mentioned this could be beat in an hour right? Well as a kid, starting over felt like an eternity. So any wrong choice brought a swift end to Lance and a frustrating groan from myself.
Oh, did I mention the bad controls? Because some sequences really brought it to the limelight. One example is when you meet the southern belle vampire named Vivi. She runs a salon and loves when new guests stop in. The salon, however, is just an excuse to kill those people and drink their blood. Anyway, she decides Lance is in need of a manicure. The player must quickly input directions to help Lance keep his hand on his wrist. This required making the correct decision, several times in a row, and in quick succession. One bad or slow choice, and Lance lost his hand, his blood, and his life. This sequence made my blood boil as I cannot count the amount of times I died here.
PS1 Meant Multiple Discs
Those under the age of 10 won’t remember the days of games being multiple discs long. As a JRPG fan, I grew accustomed to the multi-disc approach. You get to a certain point in the game and a screen would greet you with a message like, “Please insert disc 2.” Despite not being an RPG with several hours in length, Brain Dead 13 was no different.
Due to the game using animated scenes, It took up a lot of space. For the PC, Saturn, and Jaguar editions, ReadySoft compressed the file to a single disc. This resulted in lower video quality. They chose not to do this for entries like the PS1. Thankfully for the PS1 version, Brain Dead 13 fit on two discs. Not so thankfully again, if you died on disc two, sometimes you had to put disc 1 back in. I don’t know how often this actually occurred, but I vividly remember this happening as I ran through the game’s hedge maze.
Despite all that, I Love Brain Dead 13
Brain Dead 13 remains somewhat of a mystery to me, as I cannot recall how I ever came to play the game. I do not remember if a family member got it for me, I played it at my cousin’s house, or if I rented it from our local store. The only thing I remember is that I played this game at my house and at my cousin’s place. I should despise this game from the amount of frustrating deaths and forcing me back on disc 1 after I already switched to disc 2. However, I loved this game.
No matter how many times I wanted to throw my controller, I continued to look to get my boy Lance out of this evil lair. This became my mission, no matter how many deaths it took. I tried different paths and sequences hoping this time, I’d make the correct choices. Ultimately, I never found the correct path. Lance never made it out safely under my control. It wasn’t until last year that I ever saw the ending, thanks to a number of playthroughs on YouTube. Though I never completed the mission myself, seeing that ending filled me with joy. I finally saw Lance get out safely.
Bad Games Need Love Too
Brain Dead 13 feels like a folklore to me. I bring it up to people in discussions from time-to-time and see the same confused look as you had at the beginning of this article. I understand it. It will never stack up to the likes of other more prolific, and well deserved, horror titles like Silent Hill, Resident Evil, or hell even Alone In The Dark for that matter. Yet, Brain Dead 13 deserves to be talked about. So as it does with every October, I think fondly back on this nightmarish of a game. The yellow cover with Fritz displaying all the weapons under his jacket remains fresh in my mind. I never want to play this game again, but dammit, I do love talking about it.
If you like scary things, check out my article on the Top 5 Games That Scared Me The Most.