Reviews: Waxworks

Gore before gore was cool

Wax Works was the last game released under the Horror Soft brand (the company changed its name to Adventure Soft soon after), and continued the same style of gameplay from the Elvira Games. Once again, it's a Dungeon Crawler with a heavy Adventure Game influence. This time, you have to use magic wax museum exhibits to travel through time and fight your ancestor's Evil Twins so you can break a family curse and save your brother. Combat now allows you to target specific body parts, and the magic system is instead replaced with the ability to contact your dead uncle's spirit for help. And like the Elvira Games, Wax Works is mercilessly difficult, easily Unwinnable, and at times a rather frustrating game to play.

But that's not why you pick up Wax Works. You do it because this is one of the goriest games ever made.

Before God Of War, before Splatterhouse, and even a few months before Mortal Kombat, Wax Works was pushing the envelope in what could be considered "acceptable." There is surprisingly little blood in-game, but the deaths push things into some, at times, unsettling levels. You will be impaled through the eye by spikes, have the entire front half of your body torn off by zombies, gassed to death, run over by boulders and mine carts, hung on suspicion of being Jack The Ripper, eaten by a crocodile, and so on. And each of these deaths are rendered in surprising detail for such an old Amiga game. Most games just call it a day with some red paint; here, you can see the digestive juices oozing out of your exposed intestines.

The Elvira Games didn't skimp on the blood, either. Anyone that's seen the falcon death knows that. But there, the horror and gore were played for laughs. The narrative was snarky and playful, gleefully mocking the horror cliches even while you got torn to shreds. Here, everything is played horrifyingly straight. This is straight up Gorn, combined with (some) genuinely chilling moments. The atmosphere works for the most part (especially in the London stage), the music is good, and the combat...well, it sucks for the most part, save for the Mine level. (Remember, chemical sprayer + gasoline = FIRE!) This was probably the best Horror Soft game before the name change, and is still somewhat recommendable.