NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET / LJN / NES
Amazingly, this was one of the first four-player games for the NES.
Up to four kids who live on Elm Street are apparently the new targets of Freddy Krueger's special attentions, and the place seems to have been overrun with giant rats, Castlevania bats and police zombies to boot. You start out in the waking world, with a "wakefulness" bar for each player character that gradually decreases over time, and decreases more rapidly when you get hit. You've also got an unseen health meter that allows you three hits from the various baddies before you comically ascend to Heaven and burn a life. When any character's "wakefulness" bar drops all the way down, you all enter the Dream World, a darker version of reality with tougher monsters (much like Castlevania 2's nighttime sequences.)
If you haven't seen any of the movies somehow, Freddy has no power over the waking, but shows up after a couple of minutes in the Dream World to go mano-a-mano with you. The prelude to his appearance is probably the best bit of the game - abruptly the music switches to a chiptunes version of the "1,2, Freddy's coming for you" song, and after it reaches ten, the screen boldly declares "FREDDY'S COMING" in giant red letters. Which might be a little menacing if chiptunes butt rock didn't accompany it, along with a trademark symbol over Freddy's name. I half expected Freddy to rattle off a speech about his being property of New Line Cinemas and how unauthorized redistribution or rebroadcast of his image was prohibited by law before attacking me.
The goal of the game is to enter a bunch of houses, gather up all Freddy's bones therein, and make it to the basement where you toss them in a furnace - after engaging Freddy in a boss battle. Now, I encountered a pretty serious glitch here. The game only lets you enter the houses in a certain sequential order, which appears to be randomized with each new play. However, I often found I simply couldn't enter any houses at all ... or I'd get through two or three and then no further ones would be open. It may have been the ... um ... manner in which I was playing the game, because I didn't see it mentioned anywhere else online. So I'll give the game the benefit of the doubt there, otherwise I'd probably have to Ugh Face it automatically since that's pretty much an unforgivably game-breaking bug.
While in the waking world, characters can only throw punches and jump, but the opposition there is generally pretty weak, and you soon learn that it's best for your Wakefulness Meter if you just don't fight most of the enemies and jump them instead. You can find coffee in the basement of some houses, which refills your Wakefulness meter for the character that picks it up, and you can also find little icons that let you turn into a Dream Warrior in the Dream World. There's three of these - Ninjer, Warlock and Acrobat - and you also appear to get an extra life each time you find one. While in the Dream World, you can freely flip between any of these that you've found by hitting the Select button, but you can't use them in the waking world. I think you can use them in the Freddy boss fights at the end of each house even if you initiated them while in the waking world. Also, at the spots in the basement where you find coffee, if you're in the Dream World you'll find a radio there instead which blasts Moar Butt Rock and returns everyone to an awake and alert state thanks to the power of 80s hair metal.
The gameplay here is actually passable, but don't expect to get a scare out of it. The gameplay is oddly reminiscent of Ninja Gaiden - the level design is nowhere near as good but the feel is similar. Unlike LJN's other horror title Friday the 13th, there's a variety of backgrounds, repetitive backtracking is kept to a minimum, and the Big Baddie is much less of a nuisance and not nearly as overpowered. The game is also much more of a pure platformer rather than an experimental fusion game, there's no children to constantly run off to save or fat slow counselors to worry about or whatever.
The biigest fright you'll get out of it is likely Freddy's gruesome mug at the title screen. Beyond that it's pretty laughable. The enemies just look goofy, and aside from the aforementioned lols at Freddy's random Dream World appearances, he fights like a complete 'tard. He just jumps around the room and swings randomly like he's blind and high on crack, and while he's still a challenge when you're in normal form due to it being hard to punch him without taking retaliatory damage, if you have any of the Dream Warrior forms he's a complete joke. Other little things take the horror right out of the game, like the general silliness of the premise, and the way the character turns into an angel and floats off to Heaven at every death. It's also a fairly easy game, with a low difficulty level overall, and something like five lives plus three continues for each player, not to mention all the extra lives you can scoop up around Elm Street. The Freddy boss fights when you burn his bones in the furnace are about as inane as his random encounters - he turns into some claw or head on a chain and just lurches predictably at you over and over.
Still, I guess it merits a Meh for having at least passable gameplay, and for the four-player option which can be worth a laugh.
* Gameplay Video