Every once in a while, a game comes along that doesn’t give a fuck what you think. Well, that game is here, that game is now, and that game is Splatterhouse.
This reboot of the classic 16 bit franchise is like nothing else you’ve played this year, and certainly not like anything else I’ve played in a long, long time. However, depending on your perspective, that may be a good or a bad thing.
You see, Splatterhouse definitely isn’t for everyone, but I’ll tell you right now, for what it is and whom it’s for, Splatterhouse is a great game – and a bloody good time.
Splatterhouse doesn’t conform and it doesn’t pander. It doesn’t apologize for what it is, and it doesn’t try to be something it’s not. Splatterhouse is a pure brawling beat ‘em up in the same vein as classics like Double Dragon, Streets of Rage, Final Fight and of course, the original three Splatterhouse games. You’ll go from room to room and set to set, only to find yourself trapped with a horde of baddies. The only way out? To beat the shit out of everything and anything in your way – only then can you move on. It’s a tried and true formula that is sadly lost on many of today’s gamers – however, such is the way of the brawler, it always has been, and hopefully it always will be.
If you’re familiar with the original Splatterhouse and it’s sequels then you know the story all too well. Guy goes to creepy mansion with his hot girlfriend – guy nearly get’s killed – girlfriend gets taken – guy puts on mask that transforms him into a hulking behemoth – guy kills shit – you win game.
The premise is basically the same but luckily this time around, there’s a whole lot more substance (and blood) in this story. Jennifer Willis has been invited to the mansion of Dr. Henry West to interview the reclusive doctor for her school newspaper. Her loving boyfriend and soon to be protagonist, Rick Taylor, has decided to tag along. We all know what happens next, or do we? Throughout the game you will be treated to cutscenes that not only go deeper into the backstory of our two doomed lovers, but deeper into the mind, madness and true intentions of Dr. West as well. Now, while a game like this could have easily had a throwaway story, and at first glance it seems as if it will – the farther you get into the game, the more you are intrigued to learn just what the fuck is going on here. As the characters and their motives start to reveal themselves – you’ll most certainly become interested in what happens next, and not just in a barbaric, “I need to get to the next room and kill some shit” sort of way.
Said storytelling is helped tremendously by the voice acting of the legendary Jim Cummings as the Terror Mask. Not only does he provide the narration for the surprisingly good story, but also throws out enough profanity and one liners to make Duke Nukem blush. For reference, Jim Cummings may be best known as the voices of Winnie the Pooh and Darkwing Duck (I know him best as Minsc from Baldur’s Gate) so to hear him constantly blurt out lines like “Fuck that thing!!” and “Gotcha Bitch!!” is both disturbing and hilarious. His constant fourth wall breaking commentary serves as the game’s comic relief and the fact that it’s delivered so damn well makes it a welcome addition that breaks up the non-stop gorefest that is Splatterhouse. Like the mask says – “That’s the kind of shit that got us an M rating!!”
The game also looks pretty damn good – especially in full 1080p HD on the PS3. It’s got an over the top semi-realistic look that leans toward a comic book style but isn’t quite cell shaded. This is all due in part to the game’s art director – bad ass comic artist Dave Wilkins. You may know Dave from his work drawing Wolverine, Blade, Cable and The Punisher for Marvel and you may have even seen some of Dave’s work floating around RipTen – including the header image for this review. Dave is into big and Dave is into blood - red, wet, and plentiful. The game reflects Dave’s work very well, and if Splatterhouse is one thing – it’s wet.
But the heart and soul of any brawler is the combat – so without further ado – let’s get nasty.
Splatterhouse features a very basic combat system that will feel familiar almost any gamer of this generation. Square for a fast attack, triangle for a heavy attack, X to jump and O to grab. Simple enough, right? Add in sprinting, blocking and dodge-rolling and you’ve got yourself quite the classic control scheme. While the depth of combat may feel repetitive and trite at first (and it is) as you collect blood from your enemies you will be able to unlock and upgrade moves, as well as add to your health and necro energy meters (which I’ll get to in a bit) so that by the final stages of the game you’ve got an arsenal of moves at your disposal. What’s great about such a system is that there is no one way to play Splatterhouse. Sure, certain attacks work better on certain enemies – but I’ve watched plenty of gameplay videos of guys who play the game in a completely different way than I do, and I find that refreshing. Also – Rick can’t kick – kicking is for pussies.
Under your health meter is a necro meter – which fills as you successfully land attacks and gain blood. You can use necro energy to perform special attacks, siphon health from nearby enemies, and if you have three or more bars full on the meter you can enter Berserker Mode.
Berserker mode may as well be 15 second god mode (metal god mode) because when you activate it, you will gain full health, take no damage, and will turn into an unstoppable killing machine with bone blades protruding from all sides. However, once your necro energy is depleted, you’re back to normal Ricko – even though normal is still pretty big. Berserker Mode is also where the game looks it’s best – Not only does the color palette change completely, but the image quality seems to get better as well (looks as if Namco spent some extra dough on going berserk) Activating this mode may feel like hitting a ‘LoLwin’ button – but it’s always satisfying. Speaking of satisfying – the boss fights in Splatterhouse are some of the most satisfying and memorable I’ve had in a long time. Especially on brutal difficulty – prepare for wide eyes and bloody thumbs.