Splatterhouse still managed to endear itself to us through its intentionally silly approach to horror. The creaky mansion with its gothic flair, the dungeons full of tortured monsters, and the combination of corny synthesized music and head-banging heavy metal reminded us of childhood fascinations with cemeteries at night and bloody drawings scrawled on notebooks by that one kid in school obsessed with Fangoria magazine. It was this sense of horror-with-a-wink that kept us coming back to play the game. We wanted to see what was around the next corner.
Above: Often, what's around the corner is a quiet moment. The pacing is not just constant blood, and in the non-combat areas, HP Lovecraft's influence becomes clear
There are also brief sections where the game goes into 2D side scrolling mode, and while they are basic in gameplay and have some annoying traps to deal with, they’re a highlight of the game. We wish more of the game was like this, because something about the game’s look really comes alive in 2D perspective. Sure, part of the appeal is the throwback to the original Splatterhouse games, but it also simply shows how much 2D really hasn’t seen its pinnacle yet now that we can apply 3D graphics to it. The foregrounds and backgrounds abound with twitching bodies and oozing gore to really give it that old fashioned funhouse appeal.
Above: The comforting green glow of toxic waste really spruces up your dungeon
The tiny amounts of 2D goodness points to a problem that shouldn’t affect such a delayed game: a sense that corners were cut. A big area that suffers from a lack of resources is in the monster variety – get ready for a palette swap-a-thon. This wouldn’t be so much of a problem if the monster design was creative, but for the most part it isn’t. There are variations of zombie-like creatures, variations of reptilian creatures, and that’s about it. Many of the bosses get repeated, and there are not enough unique boss battles (although we must say the fight with our old pal from the first Splatterhouse, Mr. Chainsaws-for-hands, was pretty epic). Even the final battle is just against waves of enemies you’ve fought before.
The real surprise here is the story. It’s actually kind of good. It starts off with nearly nothing to go on, but gradually builds with some cool developments, enough so that we paid attention instead of tuning out until the next gore-slicked battle commenced. Sure, the core of it is standard end-of-the-world stuff, but the twists along the way are actually well done. Heck, they could have easily not bothered with a story at all, so it’s nice to see some effort put into it.
Above: Someone's been gorging on Olestra
No, Splatterhouse isn’t a great game. It’s not even a good game. It is better than bad, though. It annoys with some cheap deaths and some distant checkpoints, and it can grate with its “attitude,” but it’s also loveable in a scruffy way. It’s a game with no pretentions, knowing exactly what it is (and in case you forget, it includes all three fully playable original Splatterhouse games). It knew it was never going to set the horror-action world on fire, and so it’s content to instead bathe the world in blood. And torn-out colons.
Nov 29, 2010