*This Post was originally submitted and written by Benjamin Sprague*
Note: This is an expanded and somewhat re-written review of my Amazon analysis of Splatterhouse.
Splatterhouse has the rare distinction of being for kids yet not for kids. It is much akin to Tales of the Crypt, Lady Death, Vampirella, Creep Show, and Evil Dead it is the type of commodity that is somewhat immature yet has that risque’ offensive factor that calls out to our inner juveniles with a siren’s sweet call!
To catch you up, Splatterhouse is about Rick Taylor. Despite being a nerd and the all around average nice guy Rick managed to woo the super attractive college student Jennifer. The two apparently share a love of Heavy Metal music and paranormal research. As luck would have it Dr. West, a famous parapsychologist wants Jennifer to interview him. In a typically brainless manner all too common in horror movies Rick and Jen go to the super creepy West manor not suspecting the doctor has been turning other co-eds into monsters and summoning demons. Jennifer is kidnapped to be a sacrifice and Rick is gutted by grotesque creatures and left to die in a pool of his own vital fluids. It is at this pivotal moment a cursed wise cracking mask urges Rick to put it on. With a loved one in need of help and almost to the point of flat-lining Rick hastily agrees to the terms. A scrawny geek physique suddenly buffs up to look like a WWE wrestler as wounds mend rapidly. Mask and man are bound as one and only they can stop Dr. West and save the damsel in distress!
Yeah I know. The plot is as cliche as they come but in Splatter-House’s defense its’ following the original classic faithfully and isn’t meant to be overly complex to begin with.
If you read a lot of well written books you will be left scoffing at the absurdity early on. Dr. West has added longevity to his life span and regularly sacrificed the residents of the city. You would think local law enforcement would be more uneasy. You would also think with all our cell phones and mini cams someone would have caught weird footage from the mansion leading to an FBI and military sting operation. Griping aside gamers should embrace the fact Splatterhouse is deliberately campy. The mask is voiced by Jim Cummings (A beloved comedic voice actor whom was many Disney characters including Tigger and Dark Wing Duck) and he constantly delivers jokes that are crass toilet humor. Jennifer is given a few chances to escape but instead she feels the need to make odd gestures with her hands and scream her lungs out whilst not moving her legs one iota. Dr. West gets stabbed in the head by his own dagger and perceives it as a minor inconvenience that a few aspirin can alleviate. He even laughs good-naturally at the injury! You get the feeling the cast in Splatterhouse is gleefully hamming it up and are happy to stay within the confines of cheesy B-movie horror flicks.
My biggest problem with Splatterhouse is in many ways it doesn’t even try to break new ground. It is the most bare bones action plat former you can get. As Rick kills ‘The Corrupted’, he fills a blood meter. With the stored hemoglobin points he can buy new moves. There’s the mask’s “rage gauge” that allows Rick to heal himself by sucking the life essence out of nearby enemies and he can also hulk up into a more monstrous version of himself. Whereas other action plat former protagonists have special weapons or more finesse Rick is simply a butt kicking brawler. Elbow charges, huge pounding fists, various grapples, and easy to pull off brutal fatalities are his calling cards of choice. His arsenal is that of any dad or uncle with a love of guns and tools. Shotguns, wooden planks riddled with nails, cleavers, chainsaws, and lead pipes are his favorite things!
Rick actually accumulates nasty injuries and there are instances his arms can be torn off. It’s a good thing he regenerates quickly and I confess it’s a morose delight to pick up my own arm (or someone else’s) and beat my opponents silly with it! This is one of the more original dynamics in the game.
The brawling itself in Splatterhouse is mostly satisfying albeit nothing special but the plat forming is hair pulling. There are some instances when you simply do not know where to jump. The side scrolling tributes to the original games are riddled with flame throwers, crushing mashers, conveyor belts, spinning blades, spewing acid, pit falls, and swinging chained wrecking balls that can kill you off rather quickly. The insult to injury is the load times are horrendous and the check points are unforgiving. A certain “thou shalt not be named!” timer mission has gone down in my book of infamy as the most frustrating geek rage-a-thon this year.
Bosses and creatures are another high point. They all look fittingly “Lovecraftian” and it’s fun to splatter their buckets of goop all over the screen. There are tougher foes that require quick time events but the developers made these very forgiving compared to other titles of this ilk. There’s even a tribute to “Biggy Man” the chainsaw armed antagonist whom was made popular by this series. By far the cheapest opponents are the blue glowing ghouls that can severe Rick’s arm off a tad too easily. Though they’re not intimidating to look at they’re complete hellions when coupled with larger adversaries. I suggest taking them out first or suffer the consequences! Personally I didn’t have a problem with enemy types being repeated later on but if you’re someone that likes new opponents introduced in every level be forewarned you’re not going to get the variety you’re searching for.
The next mixed topic for me personally are the environments. They all had potential but they’re usually painfully linear. While it’s a guilty visceral pleasure to impale creatures on spikes, punch eyeballs to raise stairs, or microwave beasties to open doors doing it in tedium for the 100th time wears thin. This is really a shame on account aesthetically the mansion, dark carnival, cannibalistic meat factory, and past colonial witch fearing town of Arkham are all pleasant to gaze at. The lavishly colored yet spooky locales have a certain charm to them that can be related to horror films during the 80’s and early 90’s. Anyone who has watched “Army of Darkness” will know what I’m getting at.
The extras related to the remake are mildly entertaining. You can collect Dr. West’s audio logs and piece together kinky pictures of Jennifer. Alas, there are better ways to fill in plot details and we’ve done these types of scavenger hunts in tedium throughout many titles in the past. The best part of all this is West’s journal entries which are separate from the audio clips you find strewn about. He’s painted as a tragic adversary whom merely wanted to heal people as a doctor and bring his beloved back to life yet he was slowly corrupted through his studies of necro-biology. We’ve witnessed this fall from grace in plenty of horror stories but it adds more depth to the proceedings all the same.
All three of the original 16 bit Splatterhouse games can be unlocked in their full splendor. This makes the few pains in the main package worth enduring if you’re a retro geek such as myself.
Ending the round up on a positive note I confess I dug the sound track. There’s some great Heavy Metal going on and even a few moody orchestral pieces.
After tallying the facts I will say I admire the team that brought me this. I know they likely didn’t have a huge budget to work with but the re-make is very true to its’ roots. Though not worth $60.00 this is a decent game to buy cheap assuming you are into horror, dark humor, and have a soft spot for the lovable under-dog trying to save his girl-friend.
1# Simplistic yet stylistic graphics that are reminiscent of a horror themed comic book.
2# The combat is nothing special but it is gruesome fun!
3# As campy as it is the voice acting’s surprisingly good. Even Rick and Jennifer sound likable.
4# You can unlock the 3 original retro classics
5# Quick time events are merciful
6# Truly sic creature designs!
7# In “most places” the camera can be controlled and rotated manually by the right analog stick.
8# The plot is predictable yet surprisingly captivating during certain cut scenes.
9# Worm hole free falling between stages reminded me of the portal in Army Of Darkness. Shop smart. Shop S-Mart!
1# The plat forming is flighty, clumsy, and frustrating.
2# Load times after deaths are akin to watching grass grow.
3# I had frequent frame rate drops and slow down.
4# The camera will “take over” at certain points and give you the crappiest viewpoint imaginable!
5# Though the monster designs are awesome said enemy types are recycled en masse throughout later areas.
For you if…
More on the forgiving side of gaming and you are able to enjoy a title with a few faults? Than Splatterhouse will deliver the goods! Though sadistically challenging it’s not impossible (I beat it) and unlocking the original 3 games is a slice of retro goodness!
Despite delays during development and lagging load times in the finished product it’s obvious the people involved with this project cared about its’ fan base and didn’t stray too far away from what made the original Splatterhouse series a cult classic to begin with.
If you’re a Metal Head, Horror buff, or love a game that spits in your face rather than holding your hand it’s at least worth the trip assuming you can rent it or score it on sale!
Not for you if…
Though I could reminisce about the things I adored about Splatterhouse it’s not for everyone. The plat-forming is unforgiving and the aforementioned “clock ticking down scenario” was unnecessarily brutal.
There’s also no denying that there are better games of this genre. If you haven’t already picked up Bayonetta, Dark Siders, and Castlevania Lords Of Shadow I would urge you to check out those titles first.
If you’re offended by lots of swearing, blatant nudity, and what the masses have termed as “tasteless gore” this might as well be your kryptonite!
The ending is a bit of a cliff-hanger. It wasn’t a downer for me because “the story” is continued in the classic games. Aka the “good conclusion” Rick gets in SH 3 wraps up the saga nicely. Unfortunately not everyone is going to have the patience to play through the less stunning 16 bit iterations so it will remain a sore spot for some gamers.
I must be a masochist on account Splatterhouse kept me coming back for more. Despite the fact it’s imperfect I’ll count it as a flawed yet memorable gem in my gaming library. I confess I’m usually the reviewer with lax standards thus my treasure in this regard could very well be your trash. To each their own!