The answer is always blood. That’s the premise behind Splatterhouse, everything revolves around copious amounts of blood and gore. A remake of the cult-classic 1988 arcade game of the same name – which can be unlocked – Splatterhouse will appeal to the same audience that loved the original games, even though they were never fantastic.
Blood and gore is all that matters – In the right frame of mind, Splatterhouse could potentially deliver hours of devastating fun, in the same way a B-grade horror film is surprisingly entertaining when the mood strikes you and you’ve to exhaust all other options for the night. Splatterhouse makes its intentions clear from the beginning. Blood is required to fuel the story, and nothing else quite matters so long as you’re bashing stuff into a pulp. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by explosive redness; the environments and even the screen itself, as if the lens of a candid camera had just been splattered, are covered in the red gold of Splatterhouse. True to its origins – Splatterhouse is loyal to the story of the arcade original, with a few improvements to bring it into the 21st century. It opens with protagonist Rick Taylor awakening in a pool of his own blood, as he sees the evil Dr. West kidnap his girlfriend Jen. A mysterious mask, lying next to him, offers to help Jen if Rick promises to put it on his face and destroy the insane doctor. Rick undergoes a horrendous transformation into a devastating hulking monster after he dons the Terror Mask. Blood becomes the key as it’s used to heal yourself, kill enemies and upgrade attacks. There are plenty of melee weapons lying around the place, and the whole package is very faithful to its roots.
Combat is gruesome – Rick can use an array of weapons to bash hordes of enemies as they appear out of oblivion. From trusty 2x4s to axes and even Rick’s own arm, there’s never a shortage of more powerful weapons. Combat is really all the game has to offer in terms of entertainment. Crashing through waves of enemies and almost drowning in a sea of blood is what Splatterhouse is all about. There is just enough variation between enemies, but they all look fairly similar and will rarely convince you to deviate from Plan A – mash the buttons until they’re all dead. In fact, there is no Plan B. Rick can purchase new moves with points earned in combat, but the basic light and heavy attacks coupled with the occasional grab will satisfy most objectives. The real fun comes in the form of “splatter kills” – an all new blood-intensive way to devour enemies; once an opponent is weakened they’ll grow red, allowing Rick to perform a splatter kill. If the player matches the on-screen action, generally pushing the control sticks in a certain direction, Rick will literally rip them apart in a single move with the power of the Terror Mask.
Unlock the original Splatterhouse games – You certainly can’t complain about bang for your buck as content keeps appearing on the disc. The main game will take about 8-10 hours to complete, but after that there’s a survival mode, DLC and the three original Splatterhouse games, after they’ve been unlocked. The classic beat ‘em up games side-by-side show how much of a homage Splatterhouse really is to its arcade roots. The new game is jam-packed with retro references to a different time in gaming, and surprisingly, most of it works exactly the same as it did back in limited 1980’s 2D. For some reason, there’s also a bunch of nude photos of Jen to find throughout the game. It doesn’t really make sense with the story per se, but as with any naked lady, no heterosexual male is going to ask questions.
Terrible platforming, puzzles and controls – Splatterhouse fails dismally when it tries to reference the platforming past of the original games. It jumps into 2.5D side-scrolling at times, forcing Rick to kill enemies and avoid traps. It had great potential and could have set Splatterhouse apart from every other button-mashing beat ‘em up game on the market, but it was not to be. Laggy controls and stuttered running are a recipe for certain death. You expect to die in a game that bombards you with enemies, but you don’t expect the same spike to cause your demise thirty-seven times because the controls don’t allow you to jump over it.
Constant death by running off ledges – Poor controls and puzzles are annoying, but the ledges push it over the edge, literally. For some reason, Rick can’t handle a small hole in the ground, he’ll just run straight into it, even if the player stops with ample time. It’s a game-crippling problem considering you have to stop and wait on ledges between giant swinging axes. You must decide, then, to either run straight into the deadly blade or fall through the ground to an untimely death because Rick isn’t able to stand still on the designated areas until you eventually fluke it and make it to the next checkpoint. For all its faithfulness to the arcade games, Splatterhouse has some of the worst 2D side-scrolling gameplay imaginable.
Framerate issues and jumpy animations – It’s a common affliction with hordes of bloodthirsty enemies on-screen, but one that seriously tarnishes the experience. Bashing enemies is utterly useless if everything slows down and ruins the flow of combat. To compound an already dire situation, the movement of characters is not as fluid as it needed to be. Most of the screen is covered in blood, which disguises many of the problems, but Rick can’t move as freely as a savage beast needs to when he’s conquering a world of horror.
It all becomes far too repetitive – You’ve experienced nearly everything Splatterhouse has to offer in the first 10 minutes. It’s still amusing for a while, but enemies aren’t really all that different and the game just doesn’t grow at all. There are a couple of cool bosses, mixed in with some cringe-worthy ones, but it all gets far to boring before you’ve reached the end. Survival Mode and the three arcade games add value, but they have nearly exactly the same gameplay and aren’t going to solve the boredom problem.
Splatterhouse is a fun rental game, but that’s about it. The gruesome combat is appealing for obvious reasons, and it’s remarkably faithful to its heritage, which is sure to please the cult following. Unfortunately, the platforming elements are bordering on unplayable and make ripping your own arm off to avoid playing a tempting option. While there’s fun to be had, there’s no reason to play for any more than a couple of hours unless you were a diehard fan of the arcade games.