Video Game Review: ‘Splatterhouse’ Goes For Bloody Overkill

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CHICAGO – Just as home gaming was gaining popularity in the late ’80s and early ’90s, Namco released an ultra-violent variation on the hit platforming games of the day called “Splatterhouse” (and followed it with two sequels). In the world of video games, nothing ever really dies, it just goes away until it gets remade. Twenty-two years after the first “Splatterhouse,” Rick, Jen, Dr. West, and the Terror Mask have returned in one of the bloodiest games ever made. It’s going to be a gory Christmas.

HollywoodChicago.com Video Game Rating: 3.0/5.0
Video Game Rating: 3.0/5.0

How gory? More than once in “Splatterhouse,” you will pummel an enormous creature until it falls into a position in which you can then punch it in the ass and pull out its insides for your kill move. Good times. And that’s just one example of a game that seems to be intent on stretching the boundaries of the M rating with buckets of blood, creatures bursting like balloons, limbs being used as weapons, and some freakish environments that seem to be made up of nothing but guts.

Splatterhouse
Splatterhouse
Photo credit: Namco Bandai

Using H.P. Lovecraft as an inspiration, “Splatterhouse” tells the story of a poor guy named Rick. His girlfriend Jen is kidnapped by the nefarious Dr. West and then the unlucky bastard becomes “victim” to the Terror Mask, a talking, living mask that gives him the superhuman powers to save Jen before the good doctor opens the gates of Hell. The story and its enemies are actually surprisingly loyal to the first “Splatterhouse” with many of the original game’s villains reimagined for 2010 graphics engines and level design.

Splatterhouse
Splatterhouse
Photo credit: Namco Bandai

“Splatterhouse” is a game designed purely for gore fans. If you’re coming to the title looking to blow some creatures up with a 2x4 or learn the fine arts of a running chainsaw, the experience does offer a few visceral thrills. When it finds a rhythm and you’ve become attuned to the controls and various creature weaknesses, it can be stupid fun, reminding you of the days when you were a teenage boy who just wanted to see something blow up real good.

The problem is that most people playing “Splatterhouse” won’t be little kids. They’ll be adults or the new generation of gamers and if you’re one of those people who aren’t incredibly forgiving of common platformer problems then “Splatterhouse” will disappoint in a few areas. The story is actually relatively strong for a game like this one and many of the enemies and environments are memorably-designed. But the problem is that every element of the game repeats itself roughly a hundred times. Remember that aforementioned ass-pulling fatal blow? It may be fun a couple times but two dozen? The element of overkill plagues “Splatterhouse” to the point that you just want to be done even when you’re only about halfway through because you know the developers have no more tricks up their bloody sleeves.

Part of the problem with “Splatterhouse” is the repetitive nature of the combat. The game follows the classic “light/heavy attack” structure with a few upgraded combos as the story moves along but it suffers from the classic problem of most mediocre button-mashers in that its mechanics are unrefined. Certain attacks work better on certain enemies but the combat never feels organic. You don’t control it as much as smash buttons until the bad guys die.

Splatterhouse
Splatterhouse
Photo credit: Namco Bandai

And it’s not just the controls that feel unrefined. Enemy AI is laughable at times and brilliant at others. Quicktime events are sometimes unresponsive and ridiculously repetitive. Load times can be insanely long. And you can’t shake the feeling that the game is really nothing more than a series of challenge rooms. Clear the room of enemies and move on. And so on. There’s never a decision on where to go or what to do — just another room of asses to punch.

Perhaps the coolest thing about “Splatterhouse” is that as you play through the game you will unlock the original three games in their entirety. Technically, this is four games in one.



Your enjoyment of “Splatterhouse” comes down to expectations. If I silenced my critical faculties and merely enjoyed the game for what it was, I could see how people could enjoy the brutality of the title as a purely action-driven experience. Just get in, enjoy the carnage, and get out. Not every game needs to be story-driven or subtle. Sometimes you just want to see the difference between a chainsaw and a 2x4. The fact that the game is repetitive enough that there’s not much difference is disappointing but only if you look closely enough to notice.

‘Splatterhouse’ was released and developed by Namco Bandai. It is rated M (Mature). The version reviewed was for the Xbox 360, but the title is also available for the PS3. It was released on November 23rd, 2010.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

By BRIAN TALLERICO
Content Director
HollywoodChicago.com
brian@hollywoodchicago.com

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