It's been a while since Splatterhouse meant anything in gaming circles. Well, to be honest, it didn't mean too much in its heyday, either. Back in the days before age restrictions, it was the sort of thing that we morbidly fascinated by as children, with its over-the-top gore and chainsaw attacks.
It's been almost two decades, but while the old games have lost almost all their shock factor, the name 'Splatterhouse' is still strong, even in today's climate of Saw and the like. And with all current gen's technical wizardry to draw from there's much potential here for greatness. We've finally gotten our hands on a playable demo of the 360 version and this is what we thought:
The first thing you notice is the blood. This is an extremely bloody game. It splashes around everywhere, coating lead man Rick in a goopy scarlet gown. It's not just for show, though – draining enemies of blood recharges your health bar. And the more blood you physically have all over you, the more powerful the Terror Mask becomes.
Above: Beware, kids. Bodybuilding may look cool, but it shrinks your head
It's an interesting thing, this Terror Mask. Whereas before it had little impact on the gameplay, it's now got a personality all of its own. It makes black humoured quips and goads you when you're doing badly. It's also responsible for Rick's vastly altered appearance. In the cut-scenes that precede the first level, you get to see Rick how he really is - a physically fit but regular-looking guy. As soon as the Terror Mask takes hold, however, he's beefed up to a demon-sized physique.
He lumbers around the screen, smashing enemies with his powerful arms and making the whole game look like a grotesque, twisted nightmare dimension. It's responsive to play and dead easy to pick up but, while we're told there are loads of combos, it certainly doesn't look like it's going to trouble Bayonetta in terms of combat depth.
Weaker quick attacks can be coupled with charged heavy blows and you can pick up small to medium enemies and throw them where you like. There's also an evade button, which allows you to dodge quickly - but it doesn't make you invulnerable, which means you'll need to learn enemies' attack patterns to survive.
The developers aren't pretending it's a deep, tactical game. Product Manager Blaise Rodier seems very pleased that new Splatterhouse is still all about killing dozens of enemies in as brutal a manner as possible. Chainsaws, shotguns, 2x4s… you can even lose your own arm, pick it up and use it as a makeshift bat (don't worry, it grows back). It's highly reminiscent of Platinum Games' MadWorld, especially when it comes to context-sensitive finishing moves.
There are huge spinning vents to mash things with, spikes protruding from walls to force through demon bladders… there's even a charming little 'puzzle' that requires you to force four demons down into 'impalement chairs', which feature milk bottle-sized spikes with bulbous tips (so once they're on there's no getting off). It's sick stuff, but you'll keep watching to see what the game will come up with next.
Above: Hint: Lemon juicers do not make very good chairs