Splatterhouse. Does the name sound familiar? It should, especially if you’re an old school gamer. Splatterhouse was a beat ’em up arcade game released back in 1988 by Namco Bandai. The game was also ported to numerous consoles back in the late 80s/early 90s and spawned a few sequels. Now we come to 2010 and Namco has remade Splatterhouse for the new generation of consoles. Very similar in nature to its predecessor, Splatterhouse is a beat ’em up game combined with a couple other gaming elements. And, of course, it is still wildly violent and over the top bloody.
Plot wise, fans of the original should be right at home here. You play as Rick, a young guy who is ready to ask his girlfriend Jennifer to marry him. Before he can do so, the evil Dr. West, a professor who studies Necrobiology, kidnaps Jennifer and leaves Rick injured and mortally wounded. Lying in a pool of his own blood, a talking mask known as the Terror Mask, offers Rick a choice. If Rick wears the mask, the mask will help him save Jennifer and heal his wounds. Without much choice, Rick puts on the mask and is magically transformed into a beast of sorts who is powered by the blood of others. With the help of the mask, Rick sets off to find Dr. West and rescue his girlfriend. As silly as it sounds, the story isn’t that bad and I actually kind of enjoyed following it.
Before I delve any further into this review I should let you know, Splatterhouse is gory, bloody and violent. In fact, it may just be the single bloodiest game I have ever played or seen. It’s absurdly bloody, over the top violent and delightfully gory. In other words, killing enemies has never looked so good. Enemies don’t just get dismembered, they’re torn apart and in the bloodiest ways possible. Just when you think you’ve seen every imaginable way to kill an enemy, the game surprises you with something new. Yes Splatterhouse is an absolute blood bath but that simply translates into pure awesomeness, for most gamers at least.
So yes, Splatterhouse is bloody and violent and gory, but the real question is, is it any fun? The real meat and potatoes of the game is the combat, so for it to be any fun at all, combat has to be handled well. Luckily here, for the most part, it’s pretty good. More of less this is a button masher, you’ll alternate between buttons, furiously pushing away, hacking and slashing your way through enemies. There is some structure, ‘X’ will give you a light attack, ‘Y’ a heavy attack, ‘B’ allows you to grab enemies, ‘A’ lets you jump etc. As expected, there are also a number of combos and special moves you can perform to deal out even more damage.
Whether fighting with your bare hands, or any of the numerous deadly weapons that you’ll pick up around the levels, the combat is satisfying. Once you unlock more combos and upgrade your powers, the game gets a lot more interesting and if you take the time to learn some of the moves, rather then just mashing buttons and hoping for the best, you’ll find a fairly enjoyable combat system. The only complaint I had is with the hit detection, which isn’t the greatest. Sometimes it’s pretty poor but on the whole, it’s definitely not a big problem. To be fair, I find most games of this nature have some type of hit detection problem. The iffy hit detection does also translate into boss battles, providing for some frustrating moments.
One great feature is the Splatterkills. When an enemy is flashing red you can pick them up and the screen will have you turn your joysticks in a certain direction, if you succeed, Rick will perform a Splatterkill, which is like an ultra violent kill, made extra ultra violent. The kills seen here can’t be described in words and have to be seen to be believed. They’re so over the top they’ll simply have you laughing.
Rounding out the gameplay are some quick time events and a couple platforming elements, which despite not being implemented all that well, are still a nice break from combat. They provide for some pretty cheap deaths and some admittedly frustrating gameplay moments but I still give props to the devs for trying to implement them into the game in order to keep things fresh.
For the most part, the game will just have you clearing room after room and continually moving through the area. While it may get monotonous after a while, this is where Splatterhouse excels, in the combat and in having Rick dish out the bloody deaths. This is where you’ll have the most fun and once you learn some combos and start fighting enemies using strategy rather than button mashing, you’ll really get into it. It still can become repetitive but beat em up games in general are repetitive in nature so it’s to be expected. So admittedly while it gets repetitive and tiresome at times, for the most part Splatterhouse manages to stay fun, simply because the combat is so satisfying.
In terms of level design, the environments are all pretty visually appealing, as they all carry a dark, sinister look to them. Disturbing and interesting imagery is everywhere and some of the rooms have pretty imaginative design. The detail here is great and there are a number of nice touches. A couple levels are recycled, but for the most part it all looks good. The game is fully linear though and there is little to no room for exploration. Graphically the game doesn’t break boundaries but it does look good. It has a unique visual style that’s fairly appealing and it only served to enhance the combat. The cel-shaded cartoonish look works well here.
Things do start to go downhill for Splatterhouse when we come to the technical side of things. For one, loading times are absurd and I’ve run into a couple glitches where my game will freeze up or enemies will glitch into walls. It’s definitely not something we want to see in games and it just shows carelessness on the developer’s part. Also, this being a third person game, be prepared for a hit or miss camera. Sometimes it’s fine but sometimes it’s just awkward. And then there is also the crummy hit detection which I mentioned before.
The blood and carnage doesn’t stop once you beat the main game. Also included here is a survival mode where Rick can take on waves of enemies, and we also get all three original Splatterhouse games to play. There are also a couple different difficulty levels for the main game for those who want a bit of a challenge. And of course, you can keep playing through trying to unlock all the combos and powers. The main game isn’t that short either so between all your options, you have a lot of playtime here.
Overall Splatterhouse is fun. It’s far, very far in fact from perfect, but more or less, what we have here works. It can get repetitive at times, the camera isn’t the greatest, platforming is a bitch and hit detection is iffy, but it’s easy to look past these flaws and just appreciate the good parts of the game. I’d say there is enough good here to make it worth playing. I know I had fun playing it, despite the flaws, and as long as you’re not too critical of a gamer, I think you’ll enjoy it as well.
Splatterhouse boasts some interesting design choices and when it works, it's damn fun. The Terror Mask is also pretty funny and some of his lines will have you laughing out loud.