Review | Splatterhouse
Mask of the Red Death…
Format: Xbox 360/PS3 | Genre: Action | Publisher: Namco-Bandai | Developer: Namco-Bandai | Release date: 26/11/2010 | Price: £49.99
Steve K Peacock isn’t fourteen any more, and he wishes SPLATTERHOUSE knew that.
I DON’T like it when a game comes along that makes me think “you know, maybe there is some merit to the argument that kids shouldn’t be allowed near violent videogames”. Wait! Before you all get the ironic noose of indignation and string me up from the tree of hypocrisy, let me explain!
Splatterhouse is not the sort of game that really condones violence. Yes, it’s a massive gorefest, complete with limbs being ripped off and used as weapons to smash the skulls of your enemies. Yes, you can crush the head of an enemy between your hands and harvest the blood that spews forth. Five minutes in the game will see you cause more exsanguinations than a bus load of hungry vampires headed for TwiCon 2011, but never once do you fall into the trap of thinking that this game has any possible connection to the real world.
The basic premise of Splatterhouse is that you, an annoyingly geek-chic rocking student, have had your girlfriend kidnapped by the apparently immortal resident of a nearby manner, and university professor, Doctor West. When you go to get her back, West sets some hideous beasties on you and runs off cackling with Totty DuJour. You don the conspicuously evil Mask of Evil to get her back, and so begins a few hours of mindless splatting and murdering.
If all that makes the game sound a bit flat, that’s because it is. You can level up and unlock more skills, using the blood of your enemies as currency, which helps things for a while, but ultimately it’s not particularly memorable. For the most part you can force progress by simply mashing the attack button until anything that once contained blood has sprayed it all over the creepy landscape, and the times when you really need to dodge and weave can often be avoided with liberal use of the health drain move. For the most part, this is a game of mindless violence against twisted fleshbeasts and a mad professor, and if that’s what you’re after it does that pretty well.
The thing is, and this is where you’ll start reaching for the noose again, it’s just so juvenile. There’s so much blood, the story is so simple and cliché, that you can’t help but feel that this is a game intended for fourteen year olds. It’s all spectacle and no substance. Incidentally, the reason I’m calling the girlfriend character Totty DuJour is because she exists to be both a macguffin and a source of softcore enjoyment. “Erotic” photos of her are scattered throughout the levels, the sections combining together to reveal a photo of her with her boobies on show. Spectacle.
I don’t mean to come across as a miserable old grouch. I like boobies as much as the next man, but I would like to think I’ve grown beyond the age where they could make or break entertainment for me. Splatterhouse does its boobies and blood very well, and in generous quantity, but what else does it provide?
The combat is serviceable if not particularly inspiring, but for a game based off of a 2D side-scroller it actually does a pretty good job of sticking to the feel, especially as the three retro games are included as unlockable bonuses. It was also interesting to see a damage model similar to that of Raven’s recent Wolverine game, namely that damage takes huge chunks out of your skin. Considering the often chaotic pace of the combat, having an indication of your health apart from the HUD is a nice addition, even if its a bit less ambitious than Wolverine’s in the locational damage.
By far and a way the best feature, however, is the voice of the demonic mask. The sardonic, taunting voice of evil walks a fine line between tough love and utter contempt for you as you play, spitting out hints and observations in a delightfully sociopathic tone. He has an ulterior motive, that much is clear from the get go, but he has more cards up his sleeve to see you progress as he would prefer than the usual shtick. My favourite scene features him taunting you about all the sexual escapades West and Totty DuJour will be getting into, complete with voices, just to build your rage. He helps to break up the monotony somewhat, and is pretty much the only character that seems to actually have, well, character.
But herein lies the rub. Splatterhouse is uninspiring and a little flat, but it’s not exactly bad. It’s just clearly designed for the sorts of kids who want blood and gore in a game because it makes them feel like grown ups. It’s juvenile and daft, but if you’re fourteen you’ll probably love it.
Shame it’s an 18 certificate, isn’t it?