What are you to do when you’re a disembodied brain in a jar, whose henchman is a hyper violent imbecile with two hooks instead of hands, and the super computer running your operations to take over the world suddenly burns out one night? Obviously it’s time to call in some help from tech support to get your evil scheme back online, and then kill him afterwards as you’re way too cheap to pay the $25 he’s going to charge for the house call. Unfortunately for the evil Dr. Neuro Neurosis, the man he called in to fix his apocalyptic doomsday system – Lance Galahad – is not nearly as helpless as the floating brain first surmised.
However, what Lance Galahad does not know is that standing between him and the floating brain will be – among other things – a sports addicted Frankenstein esque monster, a vampiric southern belle hair dresser, and the ever present Fritz himself! The always energetic Fritz is a particularly violent - as well as extremely dimwitted – henchman that can only best be described as akin to a force of nature, and the inside of his coat seems to be a pocket dimension for storing all sorts of highly improbable weaponry. No matter where Lance goes – no matter how clever he is – Fritz will always be there just a few steps behind him, ready to enact all sorts of comically macabre horrors upon the hero the second he slips up.
Much like Dragon’s Lair before it, Brain Dead 13 controls by having you choosing one of five possible inputs at the right time to avoid some sort of incoming danger that seeks to stop Lance from putting the kibosh on the not-so-good doctor’s plans.
Unlike Dragon’s Lair, which was originally designed for arcades, Lance will never come face to face with a continue screen as he has an infinite number of lives to back up his quest against Neuro Neurosis. So every time Lance meets yet another gruesome demise at the hands of the castle’s bizarre inhabitants, there will be a context specific resurrection animation that shows Lance coming back into action. Furthermore, in a move that actually makes the game more playable than Don Bluth’s later FMV games, Brain Dead 13 features multiple checkpoints in the bigger areas so that a single death doesn’t force you to replay the longer sequences from scratch.
There are also lengthy segments in Brain Dead 13 where the player doesn’t have to input any buttons at all, such as the game’s introduction sequence that runs for nearly seven minutes long. This is in direct contrast to Dragon’s Lair where no set up is ever given for why anything is happening, and almost no time is ever spent that is not part of the actual game play. This difference, which also originates from the fact that Brain Dead 13 was never an arcade title to begin with, does end up giving it a more cohesive sense of narrative than its more famous cousin.
In particular, the game’s Saturday morning cartoon style presentation is very important since whenever Lance meets his demise – which will happen often – his end will be something rather dark and gruesome. However, thanks to the visual style, it’s all presented in such an over-the-top whimsical fashion that you will sometimes find yourself just standing at random hallway junctions – each of which have their own unique death sequence – just so that Fritz can catch up and show you what creative way he will dispose of Lance next. I am being entirely serious when I tell you that there is one specific hallway junction where, if you wait long enough, Lance will suddenly double over in pain before Fritz inexplicably bursts out from his stomach in some sort of homage to the Alien films.