Splatterhouse Review

By on February 16, 2011

Enter the house of pain at your own peril.

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First Impressions
My reaction is

While I can’t claim to look back fondly on the original Splatterhouse, when it made its mark on the NES over 20 years ago, it was definitely a memorable game. Memorable because it was one of the earliest games I played that really glorified unnecessary violence. Plus smacking enemies against walls (in a faux 3D space) and watching blood splatter all over the background walls was…well let’s just say not a commonplace sight in the games of that time. Of course this no longer applies, as gratuitous blood and gore has seeped its way in to the canons of action game visuals. So while the gamers of yesteryear may have gotten over jolting at the sight of blood, one would assume this era’s Splatterhouse would come with a few more tricks up its sleeve. If you’ve already played the game then you would know that that’s hardly the case.

The story revolves around Rick Taylor, a college student who’s girlfriend is captured by a deranged professor named Dr. West. As she gets abducted, Rick is mortally wounded by a demonic beast and as he lay there in a pool of his own blood, a voice tells him to don the Terror mask to gain the power necessary to save his girlfriend. Naturally he complies (who wouldn’t?) and is then infused with the mysterious power of the mask and gets all buffed up (Incredible Hulk style). The mask’s main request? Bucket loads of blood.

The story is apparently written by comic-writer Gordon Rennie and is actually semi-decent, considering the sad state of video game stories these days. Splatterhouse’s graphics also seem to be comic book inspired, sporting a simple cell-shaded effect that may have appeared more interesting had it been implemented properly. Unfortunately the visuals are really shoddy, despite some interesting design choices.

Playing as Rick involves a lot of running around and bashing up hordes of enemy ‘corrupted’ which are essentially weird looking demons. In addition to performing combos you’ll also be able to pick up weapons such as lead-pipes, wooden planks and chain-saws, conveniently left around. Chopped up enemy body parts such as severed heads and limbs are also at your disposal which brings an organic variety to your arsenal. You can even use you’re own arms as weapons should they be chopped off in battle. Of course you’ll regenerate a limb within moments but that does give you a good indication about the type of game Namco Bandai were going for. Gratuitous violence run amuck. And if you had any doubts that excessive use of carnage is Spatterhouse’s order of the day, they are likely to wane after performing your first “splatter kill”. A QTE-based finishing move reminiscent of God of War.

Needless to say, a flurry of red pixels gushing across the screen cannot carry a game alone. We’ve all played enough hack’ n’ slashers to differentiate a robust gameplay system from a flimsy one. This is where Spaltterhouse falls flat. Combat is tedious, the controls clunky and the camera a mess. Despite the inclusion of unlockable moves, purchase-able by trading in blood (a ludicrous currency, albeit appropriate), performing the combos is a drag and won’t always come to your aid when the going gets tough. The game sets you up for a plethora of cheap deaths and, to add insult to injury, you’ll need to hold out for around 40secs as you wait for the game to load, making each death all the more frustrating. Even Splatterhouse’s more inspired ideas stumble due to bad implementation. A prime example would be the sparse side-scrolling sequences. In an obvious attempt to source for its own history, Splatterhouse has various side-scrolling sequences which rely on platforming more than combat. While the idea is interesting, the execution is not. Unresponsive controls mean you’re likely miss time jumps and plummet to your death way more often than you should. The best part of these sequences however is that you won’t need to worry about or deal with the wayward camera or the atrocious frame-rate both of which are generally culprits throughout the entire game.

In addition to the story mode, Splatterhouse boasts a survival mode as well as all three classic Slatterhouse games (each unlockable by playing through the main campaign). Perhaps unsurprisingly, the survival mode is actually significantly funner than the story mode. This is primarily because you are not asked to move around and experience various painstakingly frustrating set-pieces…instead, you’ll only need to concentrate on slaughtering wave after wave of enemies. While the combat is not of particularly high standard, survival mode’s simple set-up sees the game struggle less and, hence, fares better than everything else on offer. Of course, you can load up one of the classic Splatterhouse titles but why would you? The games were lackluster then and have only gotten worse over time.

Though I incessantly question Splatterhouse’s attitude throughout this review, I am well aware that blood, gore and heavy metal do have a fanbase. Be that as it may, it remains an underwhelming experience, riddled with glitches and moments of sheer frustration. Still, if you want to control a brute that eliminates his foes by tearing their jaws and removing their rectums, then give this game a go. While it does lack tact, I can’t help thinking that Splatterhouse could have been a much better game had it built a foundation substantially thicker than blood.

The Scorecard
A constant battle with the controls and camera makes for a generally unsatisfying mauling spree.
The game surely looked much better on paper as some interesting design choices are let down by shoddy graphics and a horrible frame-rate.
Heavy metal fans may enjoy this one, but they’d be better off with a good compilation or playlist.
Having all three classic Splatterhouse games as unlockables is definitely a plus but would have been a more compelling addition they they been any good.
Frustrating sequences and cheap deaths are more brutal than Rick and his Terror Mask can ever hope to be.
In this day and age, there is no way a game like Splatterhouse could have the shock value it so obviously yearns for, not to mention that all the blood in the world couldn’t cover up its various deficiencies.


As an opinionated young gamer many years ago, I made three predictions: 1- Sega would dominate the console wars for 50 years. 2- Simon's Quest would be remembered as the definitive NES game. 3- I would be gaming even more as an adult. I suppose one out of three isn't bad.

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