Howdy boils and ghouls, this is The Deepthroat Ghoul, and since Halloween is coming up in two days, today, I am going to review Splatterhouse 2010 for the Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360.
Now before I begin, let me tell you an interesting story: I got the PS3 version of Splatterhouse on Christmas 2010, and I was a bit reluctant to play this, because it received bad reviews from Gamespot and IGN (two hugely overrated video-game review websites), but being a huge Splatterhouse fan, I had to play it. And once I beat this game twice, I think those reviews are full of shit! I don’t know what the fuck they were expecting, but I am very content with it. So, without further adieu, let’s take a look at Splatterhouse.
In 1988, long before the video-game industry had the age rating system, Namco released Splatterhouse, a horror-themed arcade beat-em-up, which was criticised for its huge amounts of blood and spooky atmosphere, so much that it received a censored port on the NEC TurboGrafx-16/PC Engine in 1990. But the game was so successful, that it spawned a 1989 prequel on the Nintendo Famicom, Splatterhouse: Naughty Graffiti, as well as two Sega Genesis/Mega Drive-exclusive sequels (Splatterhouse 2 and Splatterhouse 3) in 1992 and 1993.
After the release of the third Splatterhouse, the franchise was laid to rest, biding its time, while Namco went on to create their more popular game franchises, Tekken and Ridge Racer.
Sometime in the mid 2000’s, Namco, who had merged with Bandai to become Namco Bandai Games, announced that they were bringing Splatterhouse back, and that the development duties were going to be handled by BottleRocket. However, the development of the game is not as straightforward as you might think, because in early 2009, Namco decided to cut BottleRocket from the project, because of a “performance issue”. So the game’s development was handed over to Namco’s internal development team, who had recently completed Afro Samurai. However, a few weeks later, Namco had a change of heart and had hired members of the original development staff from BottleRocket to help finish the Splatterhouse game, which was released in November 2010.
The story (written by Gordon Rennie) has you play as Rick Taylor, a nerdy college student and all-around rocker, who accompanies his girlfriend and fellow student/rocker, Jennifer Willis, to the ginormous West Mansion, home of Dr. Henry West, a scientist in necrobiology, for an interview. Just as they arrive and Rick is working up the courage to propose to Jennifer, they’ve attacked by Dr. West and two of his experiments, who kidnap Jennifer and fatally wound Rick, leaving him for dead! But luckily, Rick knocked over a sarcophagus, revealing a ancient skull-like mask known as the Terror Mask, which talks to Rick, saying it will help him save Jennifer if he puts it on. With no other choice, Rick puts the mask on and is transformed into a hulking beast, and now he must stop Dr. West and this race of demons called “The Corrupted”, save both the Earth and Jennifer, and most importantly, get laid.
The game has 12 levels, each of them referred to as “phases”, in which you’ll be chasing Dr. West and crushing his beastly goons across space and time from the West Mansion to a ravaged New York City in the future to a deserted theme park and back! Along the way, you’ll meet some of the classic Splatterhouse bosses, such as the chainsaw-handed Biggy Man, and your doppleganger Mirror Rick!
Splatterhouse plays like your standard 3D-style beat-em-up, in the same vein as God of War, Devil May Cry, and Dynasty Warriors. Besides the usual grabbing and jumping, you have two different ways to attack your enemies: Fast and Directional. Fast Strikes are fast, but a little weak, while Directional Attacks are a bit stronger, and they can also be pulled off as charge attacks. You can mix these up to do cool combos. Plus, Rick can both roll and sprint, and those are pretty useful when you’re caught between too many monsters, and they can be used for more creative attacks. And as you progress through the game, you can collect blood by either taking it from your fallen foes or stomping on reddish-pink slugs called Boreworms, and use that as currency to buy new moves to unleash more pain on Dr. West’s cronies.
Now when a monster is about to die after you’ve giving them a good thrashing, they will have a red outline surrounding their body, and that’s when you can perform the Fatality-esque SplatterKill, where you have to either hold both analogue sticks in certain directions, or push a certain button, and Rick will do many different things to said monster, like crush their head with his bare hands, rip both their arms off, break them in half, etc.
Besides your usual health bar, you also have a Necro Meter, in which you fill up by again, collecting your enemies’ blood, and you can do three different things, two of which involve another button called Mask Moves: First off, if you hold down the Mask Moves button, you can do Splatter Slashes with the Fast Strikes button, and Splatter Smashes with the Directional Strikes button, which both help clear up the battlefield of monsters much faster, but it will also take away some blood from the Necro Meter. Second, still using the Mask Moves button with the Grab button, you activate the Splatter Siphon, in which you can restore your health by stealing blood from your enemies if you’re running low on energy, and that too drains your Necro Meter. And last but not least, when you fill your Necro Meter up to a specific point, you can enter Berserker Mode, in which the Terror Mask temporarily transforms Rick in to an even bigger hulking beast! You’re much more powerful in this form, and you can wipe the floor with some of the harder monsters a lot quicker!
Also, you have plenty of weapons to pick up and slaughter your opponents with, such as the 2×4, the meat cleaver, the shotgun, and best of all, the motherfucking chainsaw! Hell, you can even rip off an arm or a head from one of the monsters and use that against them! At some points in some of the levels, there will be 2D-style sidescrolling sections as a nod to the classic Splatterhouse games. Although, back to the 3D sections for a bit, the camera is good for the most part because you don’t pay attention to it, but it’s only bad when you notice it, so you need to be careful that you don’t have it at the wrong angle when you’re getting ganged up on in a a corner. So that’s all I can say about the gameplay, which will take some time to get the hang of when you first start, because you know the old saying: Rome wasn’t built in a day.
There are three difficulties, one of which has to be unlocked: Coward (Easy), Savage (Normal), and Brutal (Hard). In a good move to try and keep the game from getting repetitive, some of the monsters are quite difficult, such as bigger ones that can take so much damage before dying, and the ones that can slice off one of Rick’s arms, rendering him pretty much useless until he can grow another one. However, the boss battles require a lot of strategy, such as the old “wait for the boss to attack, react by quickly moving out of the way, then pound on them until they die” method.
Anyways, like the classic games, Splatterhouse is still challenging, even on the Easy setting, because I died many times, but that didn’t stop me from playing, no sir, it made me wanna get back up and make those monsters really sorry they messed with the sheer awesome brutal force that is Rick Taylor! And I’ve seen lots of reviews (such as IGN and Gamespot) that call this game “a mindless button masher”, which is clearly not the case, because if you rush into battle just button mashing – to quote Jason “Lord Kat” Pullara of Until We Win – you’re gonna die… a lot! So that’s why you need strategy and careful use of your special moves in order to survive. That’s a big learning curve for all you impatient gamers to get past. Now, there will also be some sections where you’re gonna do some platforming, and you’ll need good timing, or you’re gonna fall straight to your doom and restart from the last checkpoint.
Now then, for PS3 and 360 standards, the graphics really have a nice comic book feel to them, and you can only see them perfectly on an HD TV. While his nerdy human appearance is based on Howard Drossin (the man who composed the music, which I’ll be getting to in just a moment), Rick’s muscular character design is pretty much a mix of all his designs from the classic games, especially the Terror Mask, which has the skull-like features it sported in the Mega Drive sequels. All the monsters, especially the bosses, are all neatly designed, especially Biggy Man and Mirror Rick! And as you can see from the above screenshot, it’s really interesting to note that Mirror Rick’s Terror Mask is coloured red, which is a cute little nod to how the real Terror Mask was changed from a white hockey mask to a red mask with black accents in the American PC Engine port of the first Splatterhouse game to avoid having Rick look too much like Jason Voorhees from the Friday the 13th movies.
The music… it’s debatable. But after listening to it during my run, I kind of like it, as it swings back and forth between very calm and really intense, with licensed songs being used for the boss battles! And you have Howard Drossin to thank, since he composed the entire music score, including some retro tunes for the sidescrolling parts. Also, the sounds definately match up to what Rick’s hitting the monsters with, whether it be his fists, the meat cleaver, the chainsaw, or any of the weapons!
The voice-acting in Splatterhouse is top notch, and it’s interesting to note that the Terror Mask is voiced by Jim Cummings, who is better known for his roles as fellow Disney characters Darkwing Duck, Winnie the Pooh, and Big Bad Pete, as well as Dr. Robotnik in the SatAM Sonic the Hedgehog cartoon. Also, to make things even more sweeter, Rick is voiced by Josh Keaton, who also did the voices of the young Revolver Ocelot in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Spider-Man in Spectacular Spider-Man, and Destroyman in the two No More Heroes games.
Looking for a good reason to play through Splatterhouse 2010 again? Well, as you progress through the main adventure, you can pick up pieces of photographs on Jennifer, listen to randomly-placed phonographs about Dr. West, along with reading unlockable entries from his journal, and unlock not only arenas for the Survival Mode, but also the classic Splatterhouse trilogy to play with! The Survival Mode has you battling massive waves of enemies until you either win or die, ’nuff said. Moving on to the other extras, I enjoyed reading Dr. West’s journal, since it truly shows us all his slip into madness over time, but the photographs of Jenny are nothing but eye candy. And I’ve saved the best for last: you get to play the original three Splatterhouse games! They’re all perfectly ported over, although Splatterhouse 3 has had its cutscenes redrawn for legal reasons which would take too long for me to explain. One small letdown, not too big, is that you won’t find Splatterhouse: Naughty Graffiti here, so you’re gonna have to play that on an emulator.
So anyway, let me wrap this up. Usually, when a game gets bad reviews, it’s best avoided. I mean, IGN gave it like a 4, while Gamespot gave it like a 4.5, and now that I own it, I have no clue what the fuck they’re talking about! The reason Splatterhouse got such bad scores really is because none of IGN and Gamespot’s reviewers never took the time to beat Splatterhouse 2010 all the way to the end. Namco could have also taken the easy route and just gave us a compilation of the original Splatterhouse games, but many of us have already played those to death! This game gives me the nostalgia of the classics, and brings more to the table! But if Namco did bring us a compilation of the classic games, it would’ve gotten like a 8.0 from Gamespot, IGN, and GameTrailers.
There’s nothing more I can say about Splatterhouse 2010, except that it’s a really fun game with a great story full of hilarious one-liners, chilling scares, the odd plot twist along the way, and most importantly, good old bone-shattering, skull-crushing, limb-slicing, violent nostalgic action! Now with all that being said, and keeping all those things in mind, I’m gonna give Splatterhouse 2010 a total score of 8 Terror Masks out of 10.
So until next time, gamers, Happy Halloween, and to quote the narrator from Count Duckula, goodnight out there… whatever you are!