Splatterhouse Review

Splatterhouse Turbografx 16 box art

Brutal horror Beat ’em Up game with blood, gore and guts.

Story

Jennifer and his boyfriend Rick are two students at the parapsychology university. For a project in school about the legendary parapsychologist Dr. West they decide to investigate his old abandoned mansion, called the Splatterhouse. It is said that Dr. West conducted macabre experiments in the house many years ago, and Dr. West himself has not been heard of since then. Word of mouth has it that Dr. West experimented on mutilated bodies and creating wicked abominations, even breeding new creatures in his laboratory.

When Jennifer and Rick arrive at the West Mansion, rain begins to pour. They decide to enter the dark, creepy house – only seconds later Rick hears Jennifer scream and before he can react, Rick is beaten unconscious. He wakes up later with a mask on his face – the dreaded Terror Mask that is said to grant its wearer inhuman strength. Rick must now face the horrors of the house and rescue his girlfriend!

The Game

Splatterhouse is a brutally difficult side-scrolling Beat ’em Up type game. You play as Rick with the Terror Mask on his face. There are a few basic attacks that you can perform, and overall the game is very simple to grasp. The controls are responsive and feel smooth. Fighting and dodging monsters is what this game really is about. Most enemies die from a single hit so the protagonist surely feels strong. There are few different weapons that can be picked up and used.

The goal is to get to the end of each stage – you can only walk in one direction, but the monsters can enter the screen from any angle.

The whole theme of the game is drawing strongly from well known horror film concepts. There are even references to horror movies such as Friday The 13:th, and Evil Dead. Because of the violent nature of the game, this title has caused much controversy and the arcade version has even been banned from certain arcade halls.splatterhouse3

Content

The game introduces new monsters, traps and dangers with every stage, steadily increasing the difficulty level. Before long just staying alive becomes difficult let alone make progress. This is an incredibly hard and punishing game. Rick can take five hits before he dies, and you start off with three lives and five continues. If you take five hits and die, you’ll have to replay that stage – if you need to use a continue, you’ll need to replay the whole level in which you died. Because of this, you really need to play well, but you also need to know beforehand what enemies are coming – because you really need to be prepared to stand a chance. This game is full of nasty surprises.

Because of the terrifying difficulty level you can’t hope to beat this game in the first few hundred tries. Most people do not have the patience to sit and replay the same levels over and over, and that is perhaps the biggest weakness of this game – it demands perfect memorization if you are to stand a chance.

Some of the stages do have branching paths allowing you to explore different parts of the area. When you have found and tried the different paths you’ll need to remember which path is the best to take next time you play the game. This way you’ll eventually be able to take a short cut or avoid some difficult monster encounters.

Before you reach the end you’ll have to bash your way through seven levels and there are about fourteen different monsters you can encounter. Factoring in the traps, weapons and alternate paths, there is enough to keep you occupied for a while if you set your mind to it.

Graphics

The game looks appropriately dark and gloomy. It’s gritty and is really a blood and gore feast from start to end. The stages mostly loop the same background and those backgrounds aren’t very detailed. It is clear that the focus is mainly on the creatures and their death animations. But even those aren’t overly well done – the animations in this game are generally choppy and somewhat crude. Little does it matter though, the shock-factor is what this game relies on, and as such it is a rare gem of sorts. There aren’t many games out there dedicated to splatter and horror.

Sound

The music sounds like a video game rendition of a horror movie soundtrack – and that does its job well in this game. Tension is easily built up in this game much thanks to the monotonous and creepy tunes that play. This game leaves you wishing for some more cool sound effects though, because those are close to none in this game – what if they actually had sampled screams instead of sounds that vaguely resemble screams? That would’ve been something…

Summary

It’s hard to tell whether the developers of Splatterhouse takes the game entirely seriously or not. The story is a bit on the cheesy side (or should I say simple?) – some would say laughable, but the zombies and monsters look creepy and the music is quite frankly psyching. This is a hardcore challenge for sure, but you will probably not enjoy your time with this game if you don’t find it’s unsavory presentation indulging.

Developed By: Namco
Published By: Namco
Version Reviewed: TurboGrafx-16
Genre: Beat ’em Up
Players: 1
Also Available On: Arcade, PC DOS, Wii
Released: 1990-04-21

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