PlayStation 3 | Xbox 360
Review By Steve Farrelly @ 06:01pm 06/12/10
Splatterhouse is one of the most buggy and incomplete games I’ve played in a while (and I’ve played plenty of Fallout: New Vegas), but for some reason it’s awesome. It’s interesting that in this day and age of crisp visuals, powerful technology, countless platform offerings and myriad genres, Splatterhouse can come along and do absolutely nothing original, be buggy as hell and even mess up attempts at side-scrolling nostalgia, yet still be awesome.
This is because the game is violent beyond belief and as a result, the decidedly messed up gamer in me is having a blast with it.
If you’ve ever played the classic Splatterhouse which was both in arcades and on the SEGA MegaDrive and SNES, you’re probably going to remember that it was a game ahead of its time in the form of just how adult it was. The themes offered throughout drew influence from classic horror and injected them into what was essentially an Altered Beast clone, but being as young as I (and I bet a lot of you) were back then, it was cool for the mature stuff on its own.
The same can be said here. Essentially this is just a modern beat ‘em up that makes no apologies for being as up front about its selling points as possible. The game knows its draw is in its gore, swearing and nudity (yep, nudity), which is all thinly held together by a needlessly complicated story of time-travel, ancient masks and student-filled experiments.
It’s also needlessly lengthy. There’s not a lot of meat here beyond learning a few new moves, facing off against different enemy types and facing bosses in annoyingly crafted end-of-level situations. What little puzzling there is here is also a bit on the nose and usually just involves grappling an enemy and impaling them on something sharp to activate a switch somewhere.
The collectible portion of the game is just you grabbing torn pieces of photos of your kidnapped girlfriend Jen, half of which are where the game’s nudity component comes in (obviously making the search for these more important), or blood. Blood is the game’s currency which you use to purchase new moves, or upgrade existing ones or your health etc. It’s not overly deep, but offers something beyond simply mashing. Moreover, a lot of the differing enemy-types need to be defeated in specific combat patterns, which also makes the game less of a brainless affair, but it’s not as deep as say God of War, which is kind of saying a lot when you think about it.
There’s an odd system too, where your defences can be immediately broken through, even by low-level grunt enemy-types who then only need to hit you a few times and your energy is basically down to zero. It’s annoyingly frustrating, and their consecutive attacks seem quicker than the time it takes you to recover and fight back. In this scenario, your only option is to run or dip into your collected blood to refill your own HP meter (a welcome addition, actually) which renders all enemies on-screen motionless until you stop the maneuver. You can string together reasonably deep combos most of the time though, and manage all of the enemies around (often quite a lot), so it’s not all bad.
In terms of level-design, the game takes you into small arenas in the form of large rooms in the mansion you’re traversing through, or out in the open in later levels (which includes the insides or what appears to be a giant monster inside the Statue of Liberty). These are obviously connected via obligatory corridors which usually spawn a few grunt enemies for you to tackle. You can pick up weapons such as marge machetes, wood with nails or even severed limbs (including your own, which grow back momentarily). There’s an in-game counting system that tracks your use of all of these alongside enemy-types faced, or how you dispatched them to follow your path in unlocking the associated Achievement or Trophy.
The bugs you’ll encounter throughout are ridiculously long load-times, jumpy frame-rates, poor collision-detection, equally poor responsiveness to button inputs (side-scrolling jumps are the worst), muffled sound or no sound at all (where there clearly should be sound) and other tidbits that just make the game feel unfinished. There’s a lot of potential here, and if the game had spent even another six months in Q&A testing it would have been so much better. There’s an in-menu option for Downloadable Content though, so maybe we’ll get some patches down the track, but somehow I don’t think any of these will fix the game overall.
Having said all of that, again I can’t stop playing the bloody thing. There’s just something charming about a game that knows it has nothing to offer beyond mature content and is unapologetic in its presentation of said content. There’s no false bravado here, and the game’s opening; with its growing river of blood from your own wound fountain essentially sets you up for what’s to follow - that is a bloody beat ‘em up with lots of swearing, lots of gore, bewbage and metal. This combination alone should get people excited, and I would recommend even a play-test if any of that interests you, just don’t go in expecting it to be anything more (and on many levels, a lot less).