|Beat ’em up
Playstation 3, Xbox 360
Reviews based on the Xbox 360 version
|Publisher: Namco Bandai
Developer: Namco Bandai
Release Date: November 23rd, 2010
|Achievement Guide Available|
This version of Splatterhouse is simply jaw dropping. Clearly aimed for a niche-market of Horror and Heavy Metal fans, this game is just a well designed step into a non-stop, fast paced gorefest along the lines of such classics as the first two installments of Evil Dead, but with far more violence, blood, and guts. Again, you play the role of Rick, who has been tweaked into being a metal-loving college nerd, which is obvious due to the Mastodon band t-shirt that appears in the cut-scenes prior to this becoming one with the mask. The story plays out like a top-budget horror film that was created to resemble an early b-movie, or a cheesy horror comic book, which becmes obvious when you realize the story was created by Gordon Rennie, who spent time working on the comics Necronauts and Judge Dredd. The story line to this is extremely effective in taking a short amount of gaming time to show the relationship between Rick and the Mask, his need to do what it takes to save the love of his life, and explore the history between all the characters, including Dr. West himself, and his lost love, who is the epicenter of this entire video game.
Of course, the mask itself takes center stage, and introduces a great deal of dark humor. There are plenty of comedic moments where the mask’s sarcastic attitude about murder and sacrifice make for an important piece of character growth between Rick and the Mask. Of course, there are times where the one-liners are more self-aware, such as “See, this is why we got a Mature rating in the first place,” as well as “Show him why we call this Splatterhouse!” when facing larger opponents, as if to build up how epic the game is, and for the die-hard fans of the series, it does just that. Essentially, this character plays the role of the Devil, as Rick makes a deal with it to save his love, Jenny, as he lays on the ground bleeding out from a wound that is later described through the various backtracking cut-scenes in the game. These scenes appear after every two “phases”, which is the games version of chapters. Each phase pushes the chapter forward a bit more, but it typically isn’t until the end of every other Phase that the story really begins to come to light, having Rick travel through various locations and time periods, such as a short time after the incident at Dr. West’s Mansion, to a Wicker Man movie-based sacrificial scene in the past at Dr. West’s stomping grounds of Miskatonic, which proves to be the pivotol role for the story, but in itself then becomes a little far fetched to believe, acting as something you might expect from a Back to the Future sequel if it were a slasher/occult-themed horror flick.
But, despite this issue, the story goes along nicely throughout the game, and each character is woven into place, making it all come together nice and tight for this series of coincidences, all leading to an ending that will both irritate any gamer, fan of the series or not, but also delight those who actually enjoyed any aspect of the game. The final stage, however, does leave a little more to be wanted in the long run. While the concept of the creature ties into everything that has happened since the start of the game, making this portion of the plot a constant that isn’t revealed until the very end, it also just feels a little tacked on, much like the deleted scene of the first Blade movie where the original plan for the villain was to have the vampire become this giant Blood God creature that Blade had to fight. The problem is you don’t actually fight the creature of this stage, but instead have to fend off the hordes of creatures that race to the altar in hopes to kill Jenny and complete the sacrifice, while the climactic boss slowly approaches the altar. This may not seem like much, but it can be a wear on your nerves if you’re not too careful in how you attack these things at, and before they get to, the altar.
The game itself is quite enjoyable, and clearly takes from the Hack and Slash styles of games in the vein of God of War from the PlayStation series, but it’s just not quite the same, taking more of a Beat ‘Em Up approach to the action on the screen then anything, and shades of classics side-scrollers shine through in both the 2D open gaming, which follows a pretty strict linear path, as well as the 2D side-scrolling stages incorporated for sheer nostalgia, and quickly become a guilty pleasure to the game, regardless of how well the player thinks they work with the story. In the 3D environments, you’ll often be surrounded by hordes of creatures you need to smash into a bloody, gore-filled oblivion with your fists, their fists or head, and random weapons found throughout the stages, but thanks to the new regenerating health system from the strengths of the Mask, you also get the option to pick up your own severed arm and pummel any and all enemies in your sights, which will send any gorehounds into giddy schoolgirl laughter. However, there’s nothing more fun then finding a blunt instrument, and hitting your opponent so hard that the enemy flies into a nearby wall and splats like a fly struck with a rolled up newspaper. Of course, these weapons carry over into the 2D environments as well, and these are the most fun, but also the most treacherous as there are objects in your path such as swinging spiked balls on chains over open pits, and raw sewage falling from pipes above open pits.
There’s actually a good deal of new tidbits incorporated into this remake. Not only does your health regenerate, but you also get to go into what is called Berserk Mode. Berserk Mode unlocks itself through natural progression in Story Mode, and it temporarily gives Ricks an invincible state, as well as spikes from the tops of his wrists, as well as in his back, and allows the player to perform countless Splatter Slices and Splatter Smashes during the amount of time that your “Necro Bar”, which is what you build up using blood to unleash this power, is still active. These Splatter attacks can be performed outside of Berserk mode, but each attack takes away one bar off the Necro meter, and consist of a Slice with two long daggers out of your body coming together like swords to sever enemies limbs and torsos, as well as the Smash which is just a strong, Berserk-related attack that actually shatters the ground and goes on a path. Both are enhanced by the other new feature, which is a Skills Upgrade option, which handles more then just those skills. Of course, the Necro bar will also allow the user to siphon blood from neaby enemies when low on health, as well as to regrow Rick’s severed arm if need be, as this causes Rick to move slower, and hold back on his attacks. It also temporarily paralyzes the enemies nearby after replenishing your health. All of this is done by Blood you acquire right from the beginning of the game, which is where you are first introduced to Berserk Mode as well, though it’s too much for Rick to handle.
Blood, however, becomes another constant in the game. Everything is blood in the game. You need to spill blood in some areas to advance. You need to acquire blood to build your skills up. You need to use blood to fill the Necro bar and attack with special moves or replenish your health, which doesn’t regenerate over time like your limbs do. You’re going to need this blood, especially if you want the most out of your game. As you progress through Story Mode, you unlock extras to keep the replay value of the game going through two different extra modes, as a difficulty level. Once you complete Story mode, “Brutal” difficulty unlocks, which actually comes off pretty easy if you acquired enough blood through the game to upgrade many of your skills. You also unlock a special exclusive mask that the description hints to giving Rick more strength, but I have yet to see any real difference other then a Jason X knock-off. Outside these, you also unlock the three classic Splatterhouse games for every two phases you complete. These include perfect ports of the Genesis versions of Splatterhouse 2 and Splatterhouse 3, though I don’t remember the sound effects being as low as they are in number two, and a fantastic port of the Arcade version, not the Trubografx-16 version, of the original Splatterhouse. So, those new to the Splatterhouse series will get a chance to understand the story of the series that is incorporated in this game, as well as play against many of the enemies through the originals that have been reworked and brought into this one game.
Of course, there is one more thing you can unlock, and it’s where everything you’ve done and experience in Story Mode counts, and that is the Survival Mode. You unlock the six arenas as you continue through the game. Each Arena consists of twenty waves of enemies you need to kill as fast as possible, as you are graded with a rank between S for the best time, and F for the worst time. In each arena, there are also ten “secret” missions, which include staying alive for up to two minutes, stepping on fifty boreworms, getting 25 Splatterkills, and killing in Berserk mode. Of course, these missions make it rather difficult to get an S rank, especially having to perform so many Splatterkills, which is another element of the game that’s new, and yet another God of War clone element. These Splatterkills are initiated when you beat an enemy to the point where it’s about to die, then press the B button to enter a black screen with rather trippy colors that highlight Rick’s muscles and the creature’s distorted bodies, leading you to press (once or repeatedly) kep buttons, or move the analog sticks, in the manner the screen tells you just to kill an enemy by ripped it’s head off, or ripping it’s intenstinees out of it’s asshole. Yeah, that’s right, you punch it in the ass and rip it’s insides out. But, these Arenas are still challenging, and get harder the further you progress into them. These also count towards the completion of the game, as there is a Stats screen that keeps tabs on everything you do, including specific kills, how far you are in the specific difficulty, how many upgrades you unlocked, how much blood you acquired, things of that nature.
The soundtrack to this game is the kind of soundtrack that should go to many games, but doesn’t. Splatterhouse features original music by many well known Metal and Punk acts, and many are actually surprising to see on here, such as Goatwhore‘s song “Apocalyptic Havok”. Of course, Mastodon makes an appearance, and it’s a bit of a given due to the aforementioned Mastodon Crack the Skye shirt he wears in the cut-scenes, but also included, to name a few, are The Haunted, High on Fire, Lamb of God, whcih are all bigger name bands that wouldn’t shock the average Metal fan, but the inclusion of bands Mutant Supremacy and Terrorizer are a little shocking to see on there. Of course, these tracks mostly play during key moments of the game, such as the end credits, as well as major boss battles, and the songs always seem to fit the mood perfectly, though sometimes, when the game decides to lag, the song will be a little overextended, and ends up repeating itself, much like during the credits, as if switching to another song would be such a difficult task. Of course, for as great as these songs are, when you’re trying to do the Arenas in Survival Mode, these songs continue to play, and eventually start to get a little old, especially if playing this game for long periods of time. Luckily, these songs don’t play during the loading screens, though something probably should, as the loading is the only real drawback to the game. Sometimes the loading scenes just seem to take forever to load, whereas if the next portion of the stage is taking a while to load, Rick will just stand there waiting to be allowed into the next room. However, sometimes you can’t get into that room because your enemies haven’t turned to blood yet, though they have been dead for a little while at that point.
But, of course, what game would be complete without collectable achievements? For the Xbox 360, and now for the PlayStation 3, it seems achievements are everything, and for this game, many of them seem tedious, but they can acquired on the first playthrough of Story Mode, as well as the earlier part of the Second Playthrough on brutal difficulty, which you need to do to reach 100% in Dr. West’s Journal, whether you do it for fun, or for the specific achievements. However, these achievements feel like achievements. The harder ones to obtain have a higher point value, while the easier ones have the lowest point value, making you work for those points and leaving you feeling like you accomplished something…at least, if you’re that die hard into the achievements. However, this game, as mentioned, does feature collectables, and they appear in two forms, really. The first is twelve phographs, or record players, scattered throughout Dr. West’s Mansion that actually gives a little backstory to Dr. West and the goings on in the mansion, much like the audio recorders from the Bioshock series did to explain certain characters and grow them, though many didn’t even appear in the game. However, the one thing more games need to keep gamers interested in actually collecting these items are the bits of photos that Jenny had taken of her, which range from sexy poses, to softcore porn, and it’s pretty safe to say she has both an amazing body, sexy rack, and Rick is a lucky digital sonofabitch. The very first photo you can put together is in Phase One, and it’s a full frontal shot of Jen topless and in panties. Of course, there are fragments of pictures in Survival Mode too, but these are found in chests instead of found all throughout the stages like in Story Mode, but you need to stay alive through Survival Mode until all the pieces drop in order to get them, and sometimes it can feel like an eternity.
So, there you have it. Splatterhouse is a game that stays true to B-Movie horror films, especially the whole Grindhouse style that recently swept through the cinemas. The story, though sometimes cheap, is very well done and fast paced, and the controls are great, though the timing on certain parts of the 3D levels where you need to jump to white shining parts of the screen and destroy them can be a bit tricky, and the Splatterkills take some time to get accustomed to. But, despite those faults, this game is about the violence, gore, tits, and, of course, the blood. Spill enough blood, be rewarded by becoming stronger. In the end, Story Mode is something that can be plowed through in a single extended sitting, but it’s so well done that fans will almost have to go back for that second playthrough on a harder difficulty. MAny were pleased with the way the story of Darksides: The Wrath of War was told, as well as how the characters developed, and that’s about the same concept that is taken here, except Splatterhouse has no shame, and neither does Jen. If you’re looking for a great way to kill time, or looking to just destroy everything in your path and leave a trail of blood behind you, Splatterhouse lives up to the hype, and in many ways seems to go above and beyond that same hype, as well as gives gamers plenty of reasons to keep playing.
Physical review copy of this title provided by personal funds.