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Splatterhouse Review

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On 12/25/2010 at 03:08 PM by Chessa DiMola

Namco should've left this series back in the '90s.

Only grab this when it hits the bargain bin if you want the older Splatterhouse games in one easy package.

Back in 1988, Namco both developed and produced the sidescrolling beat ‘em up horror title, Splatterhouse. The game was considered so violent at the time that a special parental advisory warning was slapped on the packaging, even though the game had been drastically toned down for Western audiences. Recently Namco Bandai has resurrected the series, reimagining the once controversial title for modern gamers. Unfortunately, the end result is nothing more than a bland, mindless beat ‘em up riddled with issues that no amount of gore or nostalgia could compensate for.

The story follows the main character Rick, who tags along with his girlfriend Jennifer one night on a visit to her professor's mansion as she was requested. Just as Rick is about to propose, one of Professor West's experiments attacks the couple; kidnapping Jennifer and mortally wounding Rick. As he lies dying in an overly-exaggerated pool of blood, an artifact known as the Death Mask speaks to Rick and explains that he will heal Rick's wounds and help rescue Jennifer if Rick puts on the mask. Left with no alternative, Rick dons the mask and is drastically transformed into a beastly almost inhuman monstrosity.

Naturally, as a reimagination, I can understand why developers would want to follow the original formula closely, so let's take a little look back at the original Turbografx PC title. Players walk along a 2D path, occasionally pick up weapons, and slaughter enemies. If that sounds beyond thrilling than you most certainly won't be disappointed as, with the exception of being mostly in 3D, the game is practically identical in concept.

Split into several chapters, players will find themselves wandering through Dr. West's mansion on their quest to rescue Jennifer; a quest that is solely based upon slaughtering enemies in a mindless, and poorly duplicated, God of War manner. No, forget manner, the majority of mechanics found within Splatterhouse blatantly rip-off the popular series. The "X" button jumps, square performs a standard attack, triangle triggers a heavy attack, and circle initiates a grab.

After sufficiently damaging an enemy it will glow red, allowing players to execute one of the game's signature violent finishing moves using a quick-time event. Unfortunately, the sequences are incredibly lengthy and literally remove players from the action around them by replacing the scenery with a black and red background. If there were more than one unique finishing animation for each enemy type, I could see how performing the action may be more enticing; however, as it stands, the move is nothing more than a time wasting annoyance.

Also, as players kill enemies they will collect red orbs...sorry, spilt blood which will allow them to upgrade their character's stats and unlock new combos/abilities. Fortunately, for those who don't actually care about silly game elements such as strategy, even the middle difficulty setting allows players to easily breeze through any enemies they will encounter, including the boss battle, which are laughably easy. This ease factor is only exacerbated by the rate at which a player will accumulate the spilt blood points; by the end of the second chapter I had already maxed out my health bar. Combine this with the game's signature health restoration move, and the experience is indescribably easy.

Granted, not everyone enjoys a challenging title, but there's really just nothing more to Splatterhouse than its combat. Worse of all is that the enemies begin repeating almost immediately, and while a new foe will occasionally be introduced, a good whack in the face with a sharp weapon, or hell, even the nail studded 2X4 will take them out in one or two smashes.

Besides utilizing one of the several weapons scattered fairly generously throughout the game, players will eventually be able to take use of Rick's ability to lose his limbs, since they will grow back over time. If a weapon isn't in view they can always grab his bloody arm and start hacking away, though – as with all of the other weapons – the item is only useful for so many hits.

In addition to weaponry players will be able to activate Rick's super strength for a limited period of time, enabling him to decimate any enemies around him. Though, to reiterate, the ability is pretty much pointless considering the easy of the game. The only time this really comes in handy is during the boss battles, and for no other purpose than to shorten the fight time.

Moving on to presentation, the mansion itself and its enemies aren't even frightening. For a game that seemingly tries to take itself seriously through its attempt at cryptic dialog and metal soundtrack (which seems to randomly initiate) it succeeds only at being a bit comical. In fact, the only things frightening about Splatterhouse are its camera, horrendous 2D platforming, glitches, and awful load times.

Even better is when the majority of the aforementioned issues combine. There's nothing like being stuck inside of a small room filled with enemies, equipped with a camera that just will not follow your character in a manner conducive to slaughtering dozens of the same enemies. Combine that with the fact that the camera takes its time rotating, and while you're trying to get away from the enemy horde, the framerate begins giving out. You’ll find your character becomes stuck in a corner for no apparent reason and then you wind up getting killed, giving you the immense pleasure of sitting through the fifteen second loading screen which is slowing down as badly as the game.

The only aspects of Splatterhouse worse than everything already mentioned are the 2D platforming sections, which I can only assume were thrown in there merely as a salute to the original title. Not only do these sections feel painfully tacked on, their design comes across as being nothing but lazy. Kill a monster, avoid some spikes, roll under a box, jump over a gap in the floor, and then, hooray, it's over.

What Splatterhouse desperately needed was some slight variety in its gameplay; that or a variety of different enemies that required more strategy to kill than just pressing the square button. The only two activities players will have to distract them from the constant combat are activating an occasional recording of Dr. West's research and finding picture scraps of a topless Jennifer.

I suppose for die-hard fans of the original, the title may not be so bad, as nostalgia just might be enough to overlook the extreme shortcomings of the game. A genuine perk of owning the title is that all three of the original Splatterhouse games are included - players simply have to make a certain amount of progress in order to unlock each of the three.

Simply put, the entire Splatterhouse experience felt incredibly thrown together. It seemed as if developers conceptually had some good ideas, but after creating the general game elements, had no idea where to go from there. Without any depth to the combat or variety in its gameplay, gamers are left with nothing more than a stale repetitive experience surrounded by a story that takes itself far too seriously, where the most exciting goal for players to achieve is piecing together a pair of digital breasts.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:

All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.

These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.

This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.

Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.

Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.

A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.



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