Review: Splatterhouse (360/PS3)

Posted: November 24, 2010 in Action Games, PS3, Retro, Reviews
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Splatterhouse (2010) review

A Gory Abode

Before I get into the venom, the new Splatterhouse does a few things right. The story, while a pretty by-the-numbers Hollywood take on HP Lovecrafts’s works, is well written, entertaining and well acted. It begins much the same as the original Splatterhouse game, with Rick Taylor being killed and his girlfriend Jennifer kidnapped by the nefarious Dr. West. The Terror Mask finds Rick and makes a deal to help him get Jennifer back, although the Mask doesn’t make it clear what he gets out of it. From there it descends into pretty typical the-stars-are-right-and-the-old-ones-are-a-coming mumbo jumbo, but the repartee between the Mask and Rick is pretty funny, with the Mask voiced by Jim Cummings (whom, much to my surprise, I recognized from Darkwing Duck). The voice-overs in general are of high quality and are often pretty funny. But the trash factor is pretty far over the top. Not that the original Splatterhouse was a classy affair, but I liken this remake to Rob Zombie’s Halloween reboot- it’s ugly, disgusting, and it doesn’t care how lowbrow it gets.

Splatterhouse PS3The music fits very well – fast, thrashy heavy metal during battles and berserk mode, a more subdued, classic horror score during exploration, and remixes of tunes from the original Splatterhouse during the side-scrolling segments (with John Carpenter-esque synthesizer).

The game starts out reasonably well, with hordes of enemies and some clever uses for them in puzzles, but it soon descends into tedium. There are several reasons for this. For one, let’s not split hairs: gameplay-wise, it’s a God of War clone. Now, that in and of itself isn’t a bad thing. It’s just that it’s not a very good God of War clone! The gameplay gets tedious fast – the enemies are pretty run-of-the-mill, and most of them take a considerable amount of punishment. This leads to one thing: lots of button mashing. These days, that’s not the mark of a good action game. The funny thing is, when you enter berserk mode (where Rick sprouts blades from his fists), the game begins to feel like a very good God of War clone. Unfortunately, you can rarely afford to use this, because it takes forever to fill up your berserk gauge.

Aesthetically Nasty

The game’s chief selling factor seems to be its gore, and in that case it does deliver, with the spotlight being on the game’s “Splatter Kills”, or, in the common tongue, quick-time events. Initially, these are pretty cool, until you figure out that there are only two for each of the regular mooks and only one for the bigger enemies. Each one is merely a pre-rendered cutscene that prompts you for control input. There are never any variations in camera angle or content. Every one plays out exactly the same throughout the whole game. You do get more blood (which powers you up) from a Splatter Kill, but they take so long and disrupt the flow of the game’s action so much that I went right back to button mashing.

The game has a depressingly small variety of enemies. Those enemies in the first level? You’re going to be seeing them in every stage. And the number of punches taken to kill them never changes. You can upgrade your skills, and buy a few combos, but you can’t upgrade the power of your attacks. This can be frustrating in later levels where you get more and more enemies thrown at you. This is one of those games where even when you’re superpowered, enemies seem to take way too many hits to kill.

Conversely, the bosses are about the most fun you’re gonna have – particularly the chainsaw-armed Biggy Man. This is easily the most exciting and enjoyable moment in the game. But the bosses are almost a breather compared to the monotony of the main levels. Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Shouldn’t the boss be the final exam at the end of the class?

Gory scene from SplatterhouseThere are also a few platforming segments in the game. And quite frankly, they don’t work. These come in two forms – there are Prince Of Persia-like moments where you jump from one flashing ledge to another (this appears maybe five times in the whole game). The other form is in the side-scrolling segments which are supposed to recall the original game. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work very well because the controls aren’t any different from the rest of the game except for the fact that you can move on only one plane. These segments are full of mashy things, spikes, bottomless pits- all instant death. Now, these would be bad enough on their own. But Rick’s jumps suck. The controls are worse than the arcade original. How hard is it to implement decent jumping controls? Even Castlevania: Lament of Innocence nailed jumping, and it was a terrible game! Which brings me to my next issue.

With Death Comes Loading

Loading times. Everytime you die, you get to sit through a twenty-five second loading screen! Presumably because the game installs nothing to your system’s hard drive; I hope you like that loading screen, because if you buy Splatterhouse, you’re going to be seeing it a lot. I don’t know if the 360 has the same problem, but twenty-five second load times for this? These levels don’t have any side paths or areas to explore. They’re as linear as all-get out. You pretty much go from point A to point B. Once in a while there’s a side room or two, but they never stray far from the main path. You’re on rails. In the original arcade game, this was not the case…

And no review of this game would be complete without a mention of the lovely timed mission towards the end of the game. Where you fail the stage if you run out of time. And they throw difficult enemies at you, and when you fail you get to watch that twenty-five second loading screen again. I sure LOVE those loading times, Namco!

The graphics range from very good to very bad. Some of the environments would barely pass muster on the PS2, while others look fantastic. Some areas are sharply rendered, while others use low resolution textures that are almost as unappealing

Along your travels, you can collect pictures of Jennifer. In various states of undress. Now, I realize Splatterhouse is pretty much 80s Horror Flick the Video Game’, and 80s horror flicks are well known for delivering on gore and nudity. But seriously? It’s more than a little tasteless. Although the images are pretty well rendered. So it’s good to know the team spent time on SOMETHING, because they sure as hell didn’t spend it fine-tuning the gameplay. Who needs even difficulty, interesting enemies or more variety in heavily advertised Splatter Kills when you’re good at rendering digital nudity. Again, I refer back to the Rob Zombie reboot of Halloween, because that’s what it feels like. Something familiar with a heavy layer of grime that wasn’t there with the original. I would have been perfectly fine with this- if the game played well.

Fight scene in Splatterhouse for Xbox 360A few bugs of note, too – sometimes the camera gets stuck and won’t move ( I had to restart my console). The game also sometimes has noticable pop-up during a cutscene. At the start of one, Dr West didn’t appear until a split second after he began talking. Sometimes sounds just don’t happen, or they’ll pause and then begin a few seconds later (speech, mostly).

The only remaining appeal the game has for me are the unlockable original Splatterhouse games- you can unlock the arcade original and the two Sega Genesis/Megadrive sequels (although the Turbografx and Famicom games are missing, so a proper “Splatterhouse Collection” this is not). The ports are decent. However, they’re pretty bare bones. You don’t even get instructions or artwork- not that you need them, but most compilations I own (take the Sonic Mega Collection or SNK Arcade Classics) at least offer a control layout, and usually a bit more.

The Final Verdict

I can’t recommend Splatterhouse to anyone. Not to hardcore fans of the series, not to gamers in general. The game is monotonous, disappointing, and tedious. Maybe if you really like lousy God of War clones…well even then there are better clones of it out there. If you’re looking for a bloody action adventure, this year has seen God of War III, Dante’s Inferno and Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. Any of those would be a superior choice. If you desperately want the three original games, then please wait until the game’s price drops. There are so many good games out right now that there’s no reason you should suffer through this monstrosity.

I’ll summarize by paraphrasing Edgar Wright’s fake Grindhouse trailer:

“If you are thinking of buying Splatterhouse, DON’T. “

Leave this house locked and throw away the key.

  1. The reviewer has it completely wrong! Though some of the elements have a god of war 3 feel, it does not play like god of war 3. The addition of the side scrolling level with the 80’s hard as heck jumping brings back grand memories! The story is fantastic, with great voice acting. I am a huge fan of GOW and this is not GOW nor does it try to be like it. The combat is very deep, difficulty is much steeper than god of war, many unlockable extras, etc. Fantastic game! id say 8.5/10. Definitely worth a purchase!

    • As the writer of the review I’m going to say that it’s the worst game I’ve played since the last Alone in the Dark. And you have grand memories of long load times and clipping problems? Face it, this game is a bargain bin title waiting to happen, and is a disgrace to its series.

  2. Bruno says:

    im a game designer and i feel sorry for you Chad. The game has its troubles i agree with you in many points, but the game is awesome. You said that you have some camera troubles? I stoped playin Castlevania LOS because of that the camera is yout worst enemy on Castlevania and it doesnt happen in Splatterhouse. You say its a GOW mod just because the button sequence?? That isnt motive to define a gender or a gameplay. The game is pretty much what i was expecting. Ripping heads, arms and bloody that was what i expect from it. The loading really sucks, but the game has lots of extras lots of stuff to do. If you ´re dying so much change the difficulty to Coward (Easy) this game means to be HARD it´s for hardcore players not for noobs… I would gave an 8 for Splatterhouse. (gow isnt hardcore as this, any noob can finish it in one day)

    • Um, yeah. Out of curiousity, Bruno, what games have you designed/worked on? I’d love to see your credits.

      I wasn’t dying a lot because I’m a bad player, I was dying because the jumping mechanics were poorly implemented, because the timer was idiotic, and because the enemies were cheap. If good jump mechanics are that hard to implement, why have they existed since Pitfall on the 2600?

      Be as “hardcore” as you want. I’ve been gaming since I was young, and I don’t have to put up a front. If being “hardcore” means not having fun then I want no part of it.

  3. Rondal says:

    While I’d have to agree that some of the gameplay mechanics could use some fine-tuning (I suffered from quite a few cheap deaths thanks to imperfect jumping and running sequences), but would have to say the game is “a bargain bin title waiting to happen, and is a disgrace to its series” is a pretty harsh statement. Quite far from being a simple “button masher,” Splatterhouse offers ample opportunities for strategy with its 50+ different moves.

    In fact, the new game took a giant step forward in my opinion, providing an homage to the past series of games in the franchise (including numerous horror-themed Easter Eggs sprinkled throughout) while beefing up not only the visuals but the story as well. Dan Tovar and his team did a standout job and created one of the best “remakes” I’ve witnessed in either film or video games in recent memory.

    • Well, my opinion is that the game was a waste of time. That’s how I feel about it and you’re welcome to disagree. But like I said, I can’t recommend the game based on my experience with it.

      I cite my chief query in reviewing as ‘is the game fun’? And I just didn’t have a lot of fun playing it.

  4. Joel says:

    Let me just say that this game is AWESOME! I love this game. I have lost a lot of sleep because I cant put the controller down. It has its glitches but its way better then most of the stuff thats coming out today. Don’t believe this review.

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