"I'm Housin'"

Before games were considered a form of violent stimuli, even before the Mortal Kombat Kontroversy, there was Splatterhouse…

Sadly, my first memory of this game (and the following series) came not from a sneaky arcade experience or quick download, but from my first year at school during the dreaded Religious and Moral education class we were forced to suffer through. After an intimidating lecture and an apparently false story of pre-teen fratricide, everything about this game seemed so exhilarating. The “controversy”, which later turned out to be a mere parent advisory warning, didn't do anything except fuel my desire to play this landmark and influential title.

“Influential?” you may ask. Not only was Splatterhouse one of the first games to incorporate excessive violence and horror, it was a landmark in the creation of the famed survival horror genre. Without Splatterhouse, it wouldn't be too crazy to assume we'd have no Resident Evil or Silent Hill today.

The instant you begin, Splatterhouse's impressive atmosphere drags you into its macabre world. Young parapsychology major, Rick, and his girlfriend, Jennifer, flee to safety through a dark forest. As lightening rips through the sky and rain smashes into the ground, they find sanctuary in an ominous mansion. The overly studious couple have arrived at the mansion to conduct research on notorious Dr. West, a man rumoured to have committed numerous atrocities with the reanimation of the dead. Unfortunately, these experiments were a “success” and within minutes of entering the mansion, Jennifer is dragged into the darkness while Rick is attacked and left for dead. An unknown power suddenly plunges into Rick's body; a hockey mask (a rather unsubtle plagiarism) attaches onto his face and revives him. With renewed strength, Rick marches into a world of terror...

Terror being a rather pleasant description, as Rick wakes up he is surrounded by tortured creatures imprisoned in cages or speared against the wall. Inhuman wails of terror echo throughout the room, grotesque blasphemies of nature shuffle towards Rick, but with these new powers, a swift punch from his cinderblock fists is enough to shatter the skulls of the creatures that crawl towards him. His power is enough to fell most of the creatures he encounters with one blow; however, the job can be made easier with appropriately placed household items. With that “feeling you get with a good piece of wood in your hands” (Yes, I did plagiarise that unsubtly from Spinal Tap) you can paste oncoming monsters against the wall with ease. Numerous other household items can be used, such as wrenches, knives and, ..err shotguns, to pulverise the oncoming parade of biological heretics.

You'll walk through desolate halls, laden with rotten meat and fiendish booby traps. Using careful timing, you'll have to leap, punch and slide through an array of pits, spikes and puddles of acidic vomit. Enemies make up for their unintelligence by sending wave after wave of creatures towards you, however, with your superior strength, you'll cut, smash and crush through hoards of beasts to get to a grisly battle with a boss. An onslaught of maggots, possessed furniture and a horrendous dual-chainsaw wielding creature are just some of the treats waiting for you. I won't lie to you, you will die on your first try. Rick only has four hit points until he expires, and you may have less if you've just trekked through an entire level. Make sure you've consumed a decent quantity of Pro-Plus tablets before facing a boss, to keep those reflexes a little extra sharp! If you don't keep your eye on the ball, then it's going to get ripped out and fed to zombies!

While Splatterhouse's macabre charm and grisly atmosphere is a fantastic hook, the clunky controls. While Rick's primary attacks are usually enough to handle most monsters, his sliding kick is nearly impossible to pull off. Another unpleasant issue is attempting to jump over pits, which lead to alternative areas if you're unlucky enough to plummet down one. Rick's beefy figure isn't one made for such athletics, and you'll occasionally be sent down to the depths. These usually consist of plodding thought flooded areas, hitting swamp creatures with 2x4's and leaping over floating obstacles. Ironically, your jumping problems only further increase the difficulty here.

Thankfully, this flaw is only a minor one, and while the controls are relatively sluggish it's not that hard to get used to them. The fact that Splatterhouse has such great aesthetics, is packed to the brim with over the top violence and provides a chilling and stimulating platform experience is enough to overshadow any minor technical flaw. And remember, next time you watch Pyramid Head getting his freak on with monsters, it was Splatterhouse which gave him his libido in the first place!

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 02/06/08

Game Release: Splatterhouse (US, 02/28/89)

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