Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
Developer: Namco Bandai Games
ESRB rating: Mature
Release date: Available now
Splatterhouse, a 22-year-old franchise, has a new multi-platform release published by Namco Bandai Games. Any franchise this old is bound to have a high level of expectations surrounding anything released under its name, and based on some of the reviews I’ve read, Splatterhouse is no exception. Most feedback seems to be under the “like it” or “hate it” categories, so before you spend your hard-earned cash, read the only review that matters: mine.
This latest iteration under the Splatterhouse title follows the same storyline as the original arcade and console games. The main character, Rick, is forced to wear the Terror Mask when he and his girlfriend Jennifer are attacked by demons while seeking refuge at Dr. West’s mansion. Rick is left for dead in a pool of blood, where he awakens to the Terror Mask giving him a choice between wearing it and being imbued with enough power to rescue Jennifer, or refusing the offer and dying where he is. Rick’s choice is to don the mask and save the girl, despite his reluctance to give the Terror Mask control of his body. As you pursue Dr. West through the Splatterhouse mansion (and an assortment of other environments), the wisecracking Terror Mask provides you with tutorials in the form of insults and sarcastic advice. For the Terror Mask, if something isn’t sexual, then it’s violent, and if it’s not violent or sexual, then it’s not in Splatterhouse. During your journey you find fragments of photographs depicting Jennifer in suggestive poses. I haven’t found 100 percent of any photo, but there appears to be at least one “wardrobe malfunction” of Super Bowl XXVIII proportions.
There’s such a long list of attack combos, I might as well say that controls consist of mashing buttons in semi-memorable patterns. As you encounter demons and monsters, your goal is to spill as much blood as possible. More complex attacks spill more blood, and if you can time your attacks right, you’re presented with opportunities to perform Quick Time event (QTE) finishing moves. These range from ripping the arms off of your victim to shoving your fist down their mouth and removing their lungs. Spilling blood is rewarding by itself, but the Terror Mask also collects the blood you spill in the form of points that can be used to purchase new combos and upgrades. The Terror Mask-wearing Rick can regenerate his limbs and body parts in real time, but this requires killing enough enemies to charge your Necro Meter. This allows you to perform the four basic Terror Mask abilities: Splatter Siphon (heal), Splatter Slash, Splatter Smash, and Berserker Mode (grow spikes and go insane).
Splatterhouse is far from perfect, and at times it’s downright wonky, but it’s still a good game. The most common complaints are that the controls are loose and the camera angles are inconsistent and don’t properly follow Rick. All of these complaints are justified. If you can make Rick run in a straight line, please tell me how. Even with the correct camera angle, my attempts to run down a straight hallway resulted in a zigzag pattern that would have been adequate to evade sniper fire. The camera angles aren’t much better. As Rick rounds a corner, I have to use my right thumbstick to correct the camera, otherwise it would be pointing perpendicular to the direction Rick had turned. The camera just seems to forget that it’s main job is to stay behind Rick. Anytime you turn around, the camera needs constant adjustment so that you can see what’s in front of you. My final complaint is regarding the load times. Usually I resist dying in a game because I take it as a personal failure as a gamer. In Splatterhouse, I resist dying for no other reason than I don’t want to wait through the excruciatingly long load times. I don’t know why the load times are so long, but this is the most unacceptable aspect of the game.
If I stopped the review here, you’d probably conclude that the game is a failure, but it’s not. In fact, I like most of Splatterhouse, a lot. The whole “save the girl” plot is getting old, but there’s enough humorous dialogue and face-pounding combat to keep it from becoming boring. Some people have found the combat to be too repetitive, but with the number of combinations you can perform, there are plenty of reasons to learn new moves and resist the urge to just mash the X-button in every battle. My wife doesn’t like gaming, so if a game makes me want to show her something (despite the programmed “I don’t care” response), then I know it’s doing something right. While reviewing Splatterhouse, I tried to show her something three times, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but if I’m willing to endure her perturbed responses just so I can externalize my reactions, then I know I genuinely think something is cool. Lastly, I’m not a huge fan of profanity or sexuality in video games; I think they are cheap additions used for hiding shallow storylines and other deficits. But I realize not everyone feels the same, so for some people the amount of gore, profanity and perversion could be the game’s biggest selling point.
In the end, I think most gamers should try Splatterhouse. There are plenty of things to complain about, but if you just enjoy playing games, then you’ll probably like it. I wouldn’t pay for the game at the $60 price point, but it’s worth renting or purchasing when the price drops. If you are easily offended or live with parents or roommates who are easily offended, skip this game. Otherwise, crack your knuckles and get ready for the bloodiest beatdowns in 2010’s gaming lineup.