Namco Bandai’s latest reimagining is more or less what you would expect. Anyone familiar with the Splatterhouse series knows that the game is all about hacking and slashing your way through evil-looking creatures with a guy who kind of looks like Jason Voorhees. Not all is rosy in the history of this next-gen remake though. Having been in development for far too long, and even snagged away from its original developer to be finished in-house. The final product is not necessarily broken or even that bad; it just feels like a game that was never meant to be finished. Even with that said there is still something to be said about violence and gore for the hell of it, and Splatterhouse has that in spades.
The story of the game is identical to the ones before it and as clichéd as ever. You play Rick, whose girlfriend is kidnapped by Dr. West inside his mansion. Rick is then killed as she is taken away and revived by a mask that causes him to swell up like he was stung by 1,000 bees. As you progress through the game the mask explains most of what is going on complete with repeating one-liners and plenty of sexual innuendo. The game throws all the traditional “mature” game themes at you with an abundance of profanity, some compulsory nudity and of course buckets and buckets of the red stuff.
Blood. This is what Splatterhouse is all about and the game is not shy to get that established early on. Every punch you land spills gallons of it, and of course you can dismember and mutilate every enemy in the game. The combat is simple with just two attacks and a grab button with a flurry of button input combos you can combine to perform. As you progress you will collect blood to upgrade your abilities and thus earn new moves. While there is plenty to unlock none of them are more effective than just mashing away with the buttons. That’s not to say the game is a cakewalk, quite the contrary. The game will punish you left and right with loads of enemies and some of the worst checkpoints you can imagine.
You see challenging games can often be rewarding, but Splatterhouse commits the Cardinal Sin when it comes to this; repetition. The waves of enemies repeat often and when you die it is not always because of your lack of skill. There are enemies that can perform one-hit kills and a frame rate that is constantly trying to foil your plans of finding your hottie girlfriend. In fact, each level becomes an exercise in frustration with the only highlight being the somewhat interesting boss battles. I found myself only being able to handle one chapter at a time, and sometimes that was even a stretch. You can also pick up weapons and severed body parts to attack enemies with. These items are extremely powerful and will help you take out stronger enemies much faster. Sadly they are limited and eventually break when you hit too many enemies with them.
Outside of the combat there are other facets of the game that perform about as well. The platforming for example is absolutely atrocious. Your character already has somewhat of a floaty feeling when you control him, and when you are trying to time moves between spinning blades and moving platforms, the frustration truly sets in. There were times I literally jumped into a seemingly invisible wall and had to start all the way back at the beginning of a level. There are also some classic 2D sidescrolling levels that while novel at first, also become overly frustrating thanks to the piss-poor platforming.
Still if you are here for the blood, then you will want to stick around. There has been such exploitation for gore in a game in a long time. The death scenes are truly gruesome and the game is not shy about pouring on the carnage. At times it almost becomes too much as there appears to be more blood than anything else. The collectibles in the game consist of some audio logs from Dr. West as well as fragments of photos of your girlfriend. Granted I am not sure why Jen has decided to keep naked pictures of herself in her purse, but hey we have to get the nudity in somewhere right? You can also unlock the original three games which is a nice throwback, but after you play one it kind of ends there. The campaign is long enough, and in some cases almost too long.
Visually the game looks good in its own way. The comic art style fits the gore quite well and the dismemberment moves are certainly brutal. The first half of the game shows off some nice diversity with good enemy types and creative boss encounters, but down the stretch things become a bit recycled. The frame rate suffers often and can lead to some problems and the camera can be cumbersome at times. However, the worst offender here is the loading. It takes far too long to get back into the action when you die; and you will die often. The sound is good with some decent voice acting and effects. The soundtrack will be hit or miss depending on how much you like angry metal.
Splatterhouse is the kind of game that simply falls victim to its troubled development cycle. Kudos go to the team that got the game this late and had to try and make it work, but that lack of time really hurts the overall product. There is still some mindless fun to be had here and plenty of gratuitous violence, which is something we don’t see a lot of these days. The repetitive combat and frustrating design choices hamper an otherwise solid experience. I recommend renting if you are even remotely interested, but for hardcore fans of the genre there are plenty of better games to occupy the cash in your wallet this holiday.
Review copy provided by publisher.