IT FROM AMAZON:
Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3
RATING: M. God, is it M.
DEVELOPER: Namco Bandai Games
PUBLISHER: Namco Bandai Games
It’s only fitting that a game as steeped in blood and carnage as Splatterhouse is a bit of a mess itself. The action-horror game feels very much like the original titles from the late 80s/early 90s- shallow and repetitive yet still fun because of the visuals and veritable oceans of gore.
Through the use of some excellent cutscenes (that look far better than the in-game graphics, a sad fact when you see what the final boss looks like in motion) we are given the story of young Rick, a dorky kid with a Mastodon shirt who goes to school at Miskatonic University. That’s just your first indication of how full of Lovecraft references the game is.
Rick tags along with his impossibly hot girlfriend Jennifer as she goes to the house of one Dr. West, a controversial professor of “Necrobiology”, to interview him for the school paper. Things soon go to hell when West reveals that he was merely after Jennifer and doesn’t want Rick cockblocking him, and so summons ghastly experiments who take her away and quickly disembowel Rick. Laying in a pool of his own blood and vital organs Rick notices a strange mask on the ground nearby who talks to him, beckoning him to wear it. He does and through the power of the terror mask is transformed into a giant monster of a man, one who can regenerate vicious wounds and gets more powerful the more blood is splattered on him.
He sets off through Dr. West’s mansion and through time and space to get back his girl… but what will become of his humanity?
Hope you’re not squeamish, because Splatterhouse is all about dispatching creatures in increasingly violent ways and trying not to slip in the mess left afterwards. West has plenty of abominations that stand in your way, but Rick’s more than capable of handling them. He’s a beast with his bare hands and learns plenty of combos and moves, and is aided by various weapons he finds around the environment. They range from machetes to 2X4s to shotguns, all which make killing more fun and precise. Use a sharp implement and you’ll end up with a floor full of enemy arms and heads, which can be picked up and used as short or long range weaponry as well.
Hell, there are certain creatures that can cut off one of your arms, which can be in turn picked up by your remaining limb and used to beat off the hordes while you wait for your stump to regrow. Subtle this game ain’t.
Rick hates giant organs. Eyes, mouths and hearts all fall during your
While the button placement is pretty standard (with a jump button, light and heavy attacks and a grab move all mapped to the face buttons) the decision to use the down button on the d-pad to pick up a weapon is a truly horrible design decision. The game is too fast-paced for you to have to move one of your thumbs down there to pick something up, especially when it’s a fairly common action. But it works.
As for the gameplay it’s a purely linear experience with a few puzzles thrown about for variety, but almost every single one revolves around killing. Strange glyphs on the floor? Kill until blood fills them and the door opens. Spikes glinting sharply near an exit? Throw enemies onto them and watch them scream. A giant mouth gnashing at you from the wall? Feed it. Rick is not exactly a very nuanced character, he just kills and kills till his blood meter gets full and he can transform into an even more hulking and bladed weapon of mass destruction. He gets some really fun special moves that can take out groups of enemies, but the game gets revenge on you for that.
Every once in a while the game will give you a throwback to the old games with a 2d sidescrolling section, complete with traps and pits that kill you instantly. Here’s the thing- while there’s nothing bad with a game killing you instantly, there’s an issue when you have to wait on a loading screen. It’s why Super Meat Boy is so successful- the level is instantly reloaded after you die and you can try again instantly. In Splatterhouse you have a horrible loading screen to endure- at least a 30 second wait (at least on the Xbox version). There’s nothing worse than having to wait that damn long for the game to reload only to die again, especially if it isn’t your fault thanks to the loosey goosey controls. Cthulhu help you if you try to play the game on a harder difficulty, where the enemies get increasingly cheap and can kill you before you even realize they were in the same room.
The Left Trigger + X attack is great against bigger foes. Use them against those damn tentacled creatures for a quick kill.
The game also becomes incredibly repetitive by the end. While there is a nice variety of enemies and plenty of giant screen-filling bosses to change things up, you will soon become familiar with every basic type and know exactly how to dispatch them. When you have softened up an enemy you can perform a finishing move called a “Splatter Kill” that employs those much-loved quick time events. Sure, it’s fun to stick your fist into an enemy’s ass and pull down on both analog sticks till Ricks tears its intestines straight out its butthole (seriously), but only for the first couple of times. After a dozen of the same enemies you’ll know exactly what directions to hold and will just be holding them while the long animation plays itself out.
It’s like banging a corpse- fun for a few rounds but it gets boring quick. And quite sticky.
The slightly cell-shaded graphics won’t be winning any awards but they’re fine, and appropriately gruesome. While we’ve already seen character models take disgusting amounts of damage with the surprisingly decent Wolverine: X-Men Origins game, Rick takes it to another level. Use the camera to zoom in on him after a fight and it’s almost nauseating- sinew and muscles and bone are torn apart and cracked and seeping through the skin. Course, you can do much worse to your enemies….
Hold up on both analog sticks when you see this animation start!
The script is surprisingly solid, perhaps due to the influence of Gordon Rennie (Judge Dredd). Voice acting genius Jim Cummings lends his talents to the terror mask and there’s a lot of great back and forth between him and Rick- although it breaks the third wall a bit too much. He jokes about the game earning its M rating during brutal kills, for instance, which just takes you out of the game completely.
Along with the heavy original score the soundtrack is comprised of a delightful mix of metal bands that fits the mood perfectly and makes boss battles much more epic and memorable. There’s just something so great about fighting a massive doll creature while Max Cavalera bellows WE MUST KILL from your speakers, or facing a giant worm creature that’s smashing up the environment while Mastodon’s Blood and Thunder surrounds you.
The game has a good length to it and will take you around 8 hours to complete, with harder difficulties offering up more of a challenge with tougher, cheaper enemies. There’s no way for you to purchase all of the abilities and special moves in one playthrough so there’s some incentive to go through with all your unlocked abilities and try it again. There are also collectibles to find- shredded up pictures of Rick’s girlfriend that can be put together piece by piece till you see a naked digital girl and giggle.
After you beat the game there are a handful of survival arenas that open up that give you 20 waves of enemies to deal with. There’s not much to it but if you’re in the mood for some quick bloodshed it’s easy to jump in.
One big bonus for fans of the series are unlockable versions of the first three games. They’re unlocked over the course of the game and are still quite fun, if dated. Splatterhouse itself is actually the unedited 1988 Japanese arcade version, rather than the censored versions we got.
There’s also DLC in the works.
DLC will be an epilogue where Rick is admitted to the hospital after
contracting all kinds of diseases.
Despite its problems Splatterhouse is a satisfying and fun experience, it’s just not one that’s really worth picking up before a price drop. This game was created with horror fans in mind, though- there are dozens upon dozens of references to everything from Reanimator to Evil Dead to The Wickerman. If you grinned maniacally while looking at any of these screenshots, this game was made for you!
6.5 out of 10
If you worship Azathoth and watch nothing but gore flicks-
8.0 out of 10