Review by hangedman

"Can intestines save an otherwise average game?"

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SPLATTERHOUSE
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This game scared the absolute bejeezus out of me when I was a lil tyke, when it was around in my local arcade. Wowza. At any rate, does it scare people over the age of 8, and is the gore done tastefully? Yes, and no. MORE REVIEW! LOS LOS!

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STORY
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''So, uh, wanna go into that old house in the dead of night? What bad could possibly happen?''

Sadly, as I've played the other two games in the Splatterhouse lineage and know what the whole thing's about, I can summarize the first game. How true this is to what is in-game in relation to what the later games decided actually happened is open to your discretion, but I figure I'll lay everything on the table here.

You play Rick, a seemingly normal Joe. Rick is a parapsychology student that is studying the works of a creepy old doctor, with his girlfriend Jennifer. Rick learns that the laboratory of Dr. Creepy Mc.wacko is still around, but abandoned. The doctor was considered a genius in the world of parapsychology, so of course it's worth it to caper around his abandoned home in the hopes of finding something interesting. So Rick and Jen head out, and it starts to rain.

Rick blacks out, and when he wakes up Jennifer is missing. In Jennfier's place is a hockey mask, and it's on Rick's face. Rick also is wearing a blue jump-suit similar to either operating room scrubs or perhaps a painter's set of cover-alls. At any rate, you look like the bald love child of Mike Meyers of Halloween and Jason Voorhees from Friday the Thirteenth. This, of course, means only one thing: you have to punch as much as possible to rescue Jennifer.

Unfortunately, the only thing we really see about the story is the fact that it is raining, and in fact there is a house. SPOOKY! The opening cutscene obviously leaves a lot to be desired with the game, but I digress.

Based on the story, or what Namco may have said it was after the fact, it's decent. Of course, the whole thing about why an old doctor's house would be overrun by the undead without anybody being the wiser about it leaves something to be desired. Rick really never lets us into his character either, but for a game called ''Splatterhouse,'' it's deeper than I expected.

Story: 6 / 10
How many more gore-fests must be waged in the name of parapsychology?


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GAMEPLAY
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''Yes, evil god of hockey masks, supercharge my punching!''

You punch. You freaking punch until you get tired of punching, stop for a little bit while a new level comes up, and resume your steady regimen of punching. I kid you not. If you're standing still, you're punching things. You punch chairs, ghosts, zombies, disembodied hands, and mirror images of yourself which attempt to punch you. For all your punching, you also have a jump-kick, low-kick, and a slide-kick which has a pretty unique button input.

Really, whenever a problem arises, the only way out is to punch it. Either that, or jump-kick or low-kick it, which oddly enough have the same animation. Slides really are only for use against things that don't fear your deadly punching skills, like bosses.

Really, Splatterhouse is a very average game in terms of gameplay. It's kind of fun to punch people ad nauseam, but after a while, you start wishing for more weapons that might shift from the norm a little bit. There are shotguns in one level, which are actually very useful and fun to use, as they deck anything on the screen with 12-gauges of justice. Other weapons are the ubiquitous two-by-four, as well as a monkeywrench that shows up once, a cleaver, and a javelin. When you get to a weapon, expect it to be in your possession for 10 seconds max. After that, you'll find that you're out of shots, you threw it, or it's just not as good compared to your punching.

Splatterhouse is a little bit behind the curve of games like... Final Fight. Not a good game to be behind. Unlike the ability in every other side-scrolling beat-em-up known to man, Splatterhouse is on a one-level system, like Contra. Instead of moving down, you duck. Evading attacks are a little bit hard to do, unless you hit whatever is attacking you before it hits you. The linear nature of both the game and the game's progression is not the best example of the way things should be.

Aside from the ''hit people'' button, you have the jump button. 2 buttons is not necessarily the best way of creating a good control scheme, but it's passable. Jump over stuff, punch things. For that elite platform that Splatterhouse stands on, punching and jumping over stuff is about the only stuff that you can do, or need to do for that matter.

For a game like Splaterhouse, which taunts its sheer gore factor, it largely ignores a strong selling point of a game of its caliber, which is the fact that beat-em-up games derive a lot of replay and incentive to continue fighting based around weaponry. The weapons in SH show up very seldom, and have a very dicey usefulness.

The game itself gets to be expensive by later levels, where being sent back to a particular point gets a little bit irritating, and the fight back to the boss or room you were at consumes your small amount of lives, the rest of which you lost in that room you continued from. A vicious cycle, I guarantee.

By the way, the bosses are very irritating. Only one has a clear pattern that works well in the game, all the others only make you mad with attacks that are hard to dodge given the game's awkward controls and configuration. The first boss is a succession of leeches, and the second is hard to dodge furniture. The third boss, however, is a giant monster with chainsaw arms and a bag over his head. He'll whoop your ass the first few times, until that you figure out the best way to beat him is to hold down and mash the punch button until he stumbles into about 5 more kicks (after you dump all your Remmington rounds into his chest).

Assuming that you have the deep pockets to beat the game (like me, once), Splatterhouse is a decent ride. The controls are a little bit iffy, given Rick's giant bulk, and about the only thing you can to is punch or kick things for 90 percent of the game. Is it good? No. Is it terrible, no. It's a notch below average, but there are other things that add to Splatterhouse what the gameplay does not.

Gameplay: 4 / 10
You're a little let down after the thrill of all that punching wears off.


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GRAPHICS
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''A fatality on every screen!''

Okay, Splatterhouse was very neat in the way of graphics, this was SH's selling point, and the reason that people put quarters in it. It's so gory, but actually bloody, that you need to take notice. There are so many pain-inducing things to experience in this game that you end up playing for that sole reason.

Punch people, and they squirt and die. Cleave them in half, they squirt and die differently. Skewer a jumping monster with a javelin, watch them as they ooze. Really, there's a lot of diversity here. Jump kicks and punches have different effects, and different monsters provide for an interesting game, like the demons that attack you with a flying head after you hit them. Really, you're gonna wonder what the new weapon you picked up is going to do to that Zombie you see up ahead.

The backgrounds are very good for the arcade version, and are psychotically gory. There's so much internal organs and slain humans / zombies that it's more interesting than the game itself. One level's background is a wasteland of torture chambers, with zombies being dunked into giant vats of acid in the background. Another one is a house filled with what looks to be intestines. It's hard to think that Mortal Kombat was able to steal the show on game violence when Splatterhouse's backgrounds blow it out of the water in terms of realism.

Rick himself is large and dynamic, but given the fact that he's a stumbling oaf this takes a toll on the gameplay. Rick, ironically for being so big, has no more than 2 frames of animation on his moves: punch / kick / slide kick, and the other frame is Rick standing still. Other bosses follow a similar non-moving or stillframed animation. Not good, really not good.

Everything looks great from screenshots, but overall everything moves a little bit choppy. There's no slowdown, but sometimes it feels like it.

Still, even though there are some animation flaws, the graphics are for the largest part excellent, grizzly, and appealing. You'll be less aware of Rick's 2-frame punch when you hit a Zombie with a two-by-four and see his head pop on the background like an overripe melon. Splat!

Graphics: 8 / 10
Amazing detail seemingly at the sacrifice of fluid animation.


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SOUND AND MUSIC
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''Thock.''

I really don't think the sound or music brings anything new to the table. It's very very average, and the music is barely passable.

The sounds are incredibly typical socks, ''ergh''s, smashes, and whatnot. They don't sound like what they should, they sound like a video game's attempt at these sounds. Hit a zombie with a piece of wood, and there's no ''Crack!'' with a chaser of ''Splortch,'' it's more of a ''thwop.'' Disappointing, to say the least. I wish they had foley people really messing with the game's sound, as better sound really would have helped SH's style and execution out.

The music is really generic horror stuff that gets incredibly repetitive. It's functional, but at the cost of being good. I don't think anyone will particularly enjoy it, but nobody would really hate it for such a mediocre level it's at. Unobtrusive is the best word to describe the game's music. It's there, but it could have been easily omitted or replaced with something else.

Given the fact that for such great atmosphere SH gives you in the backgrounds, better sound and music would have helped the game's horror feel out extremely well. It doesn't though, instead relying more on a typical collection of game sounds that it seems like I've heard thousands of times before. Really, you'd have better luck with some guy saying, ''Pow!'' into a microphone.

Not bad, but not good = below average for this genre and niche of game.

Sound and Music: 4 / 10
Below average to the X-treme!!!


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OVERALL
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Splatterhouse is a below average game riding on the high of detail-jammed graphics which were probably the goriest for the time they were released, and to the audience that they were released to.

For the goal SH was obvious at going at, sheer shocking amounts of bloody goodness, it succeeded. However, as a player, I have a different agenda: notably playability, bang for your buck, control, animation, and a few other things. I was happy with the gore and the premise, but ultimately I think I was expecting more out of the game than what was delivered to me. It did serve as a launchpad to Splatterhouse 2, which delivered more than the original, but ultimately Splatterhouse was a game with little substance.

After you get past the shock and the graphics, you'll discover that Splatterhouse is a barren wasteland of gameplay. It's interesting yes, but nothing you haven't seen a million times before in a million other games, an in those games it's often done better than in SH. If you want a good beat-em-up, go play Aliens vs. Predator, Warriors of Fate, or Vendetta. Splatterhouse at it's very core is a game slightly below average that has enough graphical talent to set it into the territory of an average game.

Perhaps a little disappointing is that for the goal of the game, there really isn't too much outside of what would normally be expected in a horror game of this caliber. If you want to be grossed out, it works, but could have been more gross and gutsy. Sure Splatterhouse pushes the envelope, but only with one small shove.

Overall: 5 / 10
Slightly below average gameplay with the highlight of gore-ridden graphics.


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*Remember kids: punching is not the best problem solver... sometimes.


Reviewer's Score: 5/10 | Originally Posted: 01/10/02, Updated 02/18/02


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