Some of the ‘older’ gamers among us no doubt remember the controversy surrounding the original Mortal Kombat and its fatalities. Deemed ‘not suitable’ by Nintendo, it was toned down for the home version. Years before that, however, Splatterhouse was released in arcades and not much later on console systems, where it was deemed so violent that parental advisory warnings had to be printed on the box. This year brings us a reboot of that title, which also contains its original predecessor as an unlockable feature. And much like the original, this is a game that is about gore, guts and blood. A lot of it. Within a minute of being handed over control of the main character, copious amounts of blood start shooting all over the area you start out in.
In the 2010 edition of Splatterhouse, which is a retelling of the story of the first Splatterhouse games, you control a character called Rick who is fatally wounded by bad guy Dr. West. West also kidnaps Rick’s girlfriend Jennifer before leaving Rick to die, but that is when Rick finds the mysterious ‘terror mask’ that saves his life and transforms him into a Hulk-like version of ‘Jason Voorhees meets Gladiator’. The mask becomes a character of its own, as it speaks to Rick in a way not too far off from Evil Dead’s Ash style, helping Rick along in his quest to retrieve Jennifer while answering the Mask’s yearning for blood.
Which brings me to the game’s overall feel. If extreme amounts of blood and gore are not your thing, then this game might not be for you. Also, don’t expect game of the year material here, just as you would never refer to Evil Dead as Oscar material. This game is meant as a very specific form of entertainment, pure and simple, and as such might not appeal to everyone. But if you enjoy movies like Evil Dead which combine gore with a dark sense of humor, this might just be the game for you.
The actual gameplay resembles a fairly straightforward beat ‘m up, where (unfortunately) mashing the same few buttons over and over again gets you a long way. In shorts bursts, the experience is satisfying, but level after level of room after room of creatures to slaughter can be draining. The gameplay itself is quite generic in that sense, which is where the blood and the one-liners make or break the game depending on who is playing it. Splatterhouse does a nice job of adding a twist to the gameplay though, as it included sections where the game shifts to the traditional 2D view of the originals. Though the 2D levels aren’t groundbreaking themselves, it’s a nice addition that I would absolutely love to see in a new Prince of Persia title.
On the technical front, Splatterhouse performs well but never truly amazes. One weaker point is the load times, where you might find yourself waiting for quite a while as a level reloads after Rick is bested by one of Dr. West’s creatures. The transitions from 3D to 2D and back are a nice touch, but it’s never the graphics or sound that stand out. The delivery is all about the style and content, and the technical aspects are secondary to that. This is not a problem in itself, but it makes the quality of the gameplay take a much more prominent seat and that is both Splatterhouse’s strength and its weakness. To fans of the (almost cult classic-like) genre, this is one of the top titles you can get. To others, it may feel too generic in terms of gameplay or too over-the-top in terms of blood and gore. As more of a casual fan of the genre, I enjoyed Splatterhouse but didn’t fall in love with it. If you’re a hardcore fan, add a full point to my score. If you’re not, subtract one.