I had awesome parents growing up because they let me watch horror movies and play mature games. I was a big fan of the classic horror movies including Friday the 13th. In the early nineties when adventure and platforming games were king, along came Splatterhouse on the TurboGrafx-16 that was unlike anything else for its time. It was bloody, gore filled and completely brutal. It instantly gained a very cult-like following and eventually spawned two sequels as well. It was definitely pushing boundaries so much that it was one of the earlier games to sport a ?parental advisory? on the box.
Twenty years later and here we are, where M-Rated games are the norm and we have a ratings system in place as well. Splatterhouse returns after being dormant for so long and I was truly excited that I?d get to play Rick again, pick up my 2x4 and smash some monsters.
I should have known better though once I saw that the development team was essentially fired by Namco due to performance issues and they would finish the game themselves. This is most likely where things started to go downhill, but at least they stayed faithful to the original game in essence.
The story is essentially the same as the classic original: You play Rick Taylor who is killed in a mysterious mansion by horrific creatures while his girlfriend Jennifer is kidnapped and taken away by the stereotypical mad-scientist Dr. West. Just as Rick is about to perish, he finds the ?Terror Mask? and puts it on out of desperation. As he puts it on he?s transformed from an eighty pound weakling to a hulking juggernaut that could rival The Hulk himself. The Terror Mask has a mind of its own and now Rick and the Mask are one on a quest to save Jennifer and stop Dr. West.
The story premise is essentially the same and true to the original, but it?s more of a reimagining as you get to later stages and are no longer bound to simply being in the mansion. You?ll travel to other places and times scouring to save Jennifer and killing any abominations that stand in your way no matter the cost?or violence.
Splatterhouse is a beat-em-up at heart and to simplify, a button masher; so don?t go in expecting much else. You?ll be killing hoards of demons and monstrosities while painting the walls red with blood. Splatterhouse holds nothing back in the gore department and you?ll constantly be dismembering and beheading enemies, so this isn?t for the squeamish. Most of the time you?ll be fighting with your bare hands and performing finishing moves, but now and then you?ll come across weapons that will give you a huge advantage in battle; the signature 2x4 is included but has gotten a massive overhaul as well.
While the combat is decent once you unlock some more moves, it does become repetitive especially since the level design through the game is always the same: walk into room, kill everything, go down hallway to next room and repeat. It?s as linear as it gets, which isn?t always a bad thing, but nothing really changes other than clearing each section and moving on to the next. While the art and visuals are stylish (even though it?s mostly covered in blood), each level does look unique which does give a little variety to the mix.
The gore can at times even seem a little too over the top which feels like it?s trying to mask the lack of substance aside from the combat mechanics. While it?s quite awesome to tear off enemies limbs and torsos in extreme fashion with a quick-time-event, after a dozen or so the ?charm? wears off very quickly. These executions can be performed once you weaken enemies enough and grab ahold of them. The first few will seem awesome but eventually you?ll become desensitized simply because of how many times you?ll see the same animations over and over. It would have been much cooler to save these for bosses so that you don?t grow tired of them.
To break of the monotony of things, there are even some sidescrolling levels that seem like a nod to the faithful fans of the series (the originals were all sidescrolling). The first time you play these levels it?s great to feel powerful and work your way left to right plowing through enemies. That is until you need to jump over gaps and pits. Rick can run by holding down the trigger, but the animations are sloppy and he?ll slide further or shorter than you intended almost every time.
This will result you falling into said death pit and having to reload the last checkpoint. Not a big deal?.well, which is until you see how long the loading screens are between deaths. I don?t want to sound like I?m exaggerating, but you might be waiting up to thirty seconds to retry the last section you just died in. To make things even worse, checkpoints seem sporadic and sometimes you?ll have to do 5 minutes worth of play all over again just to get to where you died last. The loading times between deaths are so lengthy that you?ll do anything you can to not die, not for the normal reasons to progress, but so that you don?t have to wait an eternity to try again should Rick perish. The gap jumping needs very precise movements but the controls don?t give you that power to have great handling in the least bit. You?ll learn to hate the sidescrolling levels simply for the amount of times you?ll die due to sloppy controls which is a shame; these levels should have been the highlight of Splatterhouse.
As Rick defeats Dr. West?s abominations, you?ll gain blood the more you kill. With this blood you can then purchase skill and combat upgrades however you wish to cater to your play style. I went with the more health and grab move upgrades but you can choose any skills you want to round out your arsenal.
As you bank blood, you can also use it at any time to replenish your health when you get into a bad situation. You siphon blood from nearby enemies and you?ll need to learn quickly how to do this quickly as the later levels are very unforgiving with very difficult enemies. If your meter is full, you can also choose to instead go into Berserker Mode that will make you even bigger and meaner. You?ll grow spikes that remind me of Doomsday and you can easily kill the most difficult enemies with a few simply hits. You?ll be relying on the health refills and Berserker Mode more and more as you get closer to saving Jennifer.
Keeping fans happy is no easy task, but Namco has done the simplest thing they could do: making all three original Splatterhouse?s unlockable in the game. Catch is you?ll need to play through a bulk of the game to unlock them (each is unlocked every two levels are completed). You?ll also be able to find collectable pieces of torn pictures of Jen through the levels hidden away. Find all the picture pieces to see semi and fully nude pictures of your girlfriend. It?s odd why all these pictures are torn and rick is finding them, but the kids that play Splatterhouse that shouldn?t be will at least be happy to see some softcore pictures I guess.
Now, the major issues that I found while playing through Splatterhouse: Truth be told, I don?t think there?s even a dozen varieties of enemies (not including bosses obviously), meaning you?ll be tearing up armies of the same enemies over and over. While each enemy is unique with their attacks and how you kill them, there simply isn?t very many and you?re going to be killing the same things over and over in your 10 hour sit down. Once you learn the best strategy against each type, you?ll be on cruise control for most of the way through.
There are inconsistent framerate issues that even cause some cutscenes to skip even when I had the game installed. The obscene amount of loading time though every time you die is truly painful; I honestly can?t remember a recent game with this much loading every time in-between.
The biggest problem I ran into though is that it froze my 360 on three separate occasions. Sure, no big deal right? Well yea, until the third time when it hard froze my system while saving, thus losing my game save of many hours. I wanted to find out the ending and had all intentions of finishing it, but when I lose an eight hour playthrough with a corrupt save, that?s an absolute deal breaker. I?m sure it was an anomaly, but I?ve had to reset my Xbox a few times while playing Splatterhouse and I hope that these issues can be fixed with a future patch.
There are some things Splatterhouse does right though. The soundtrack is full of hardcore metal from real bands like Lamb of God, Mastadon, Five Finger Death Punch and more; the soundtrack fits the games mood and style perfectly.
The star of the game truly is the Terror Mask though. Voiced by Jim Cummings (who is known for voicing Darkwing Duck) completely nails the role perfectly, though I was waiting for him to say ?let?s get dangerous? just once. I don?t know if I can view Darkwing the same again after all the foul language he spouted. Let's get mother ******* dangerous! There?s constantly banter between Rick and the mask that will have you laughing from time to time and was easily the highlight of the game for me.
If you?re buying Splatterhouse (past or present) you?re most likely getting it for the over the top gore and violence which granted; should be the main selling feature of the game. Unfortunately the rest of the game outside of combat and voice acting bring down the whole package so much that it becomes mundane and a chore. At least Splatterhouse has all the original games intact that you can play and enjoy if you were a fan of the originals; unfortunately, you?ll need to play through this new one to get to them.