The original 1988 Splatterhouse was better known for its philosophy than its game-play. A repetitive side-scroller with sluggish controls, the game achieved fame on the strengths of its horror aesthetic, and for the gory vengeance its Jason Voorhees-esque hero delivered to row upon row of anonymous monsters. These latter qualities remain intact in Namco’s latest entry into the franchise. Rick, the dopey protagonist, still puts on a soul-sucking mask to try to save his girlfriend from a horrible fate, and there’s still an endless horde of demons to be beaten, shredded, dismembered, and decapitated before the end. Thankfully, the new Splatterhouse stretches itself just enough to live up to its B-movie heart.
Speaking of heart… there’s a lot of gore here, though unlike, say, God Of War’s increasingly squirm-inducing eviscerations, Rick’s arm-ripping, gouging, and gutting are mostly too stylized and constant to have much impact. Blood fuels the game’s combat engine, a meaty, simplified brawler that adds a couple extra buttons to the standard punch-and-jump design. The levels are straightforward marches, with few secrets or side alleys, and enemies follow the standard pattern of modern action games: The boss at the end of level one will be back by the midpoint of level three, and this time, he’ll bring friends. Occasionally, some mild platforming or puzzle-solving breaks up any potential tedium.
Going by mechanics alone, Splatterhouse is solid, though uninspired. But the extra touches help elevate it from passable distraction to entertaining diversion. The story, by comics writer Gordon Rennie, is simple but engaging, and Jim Cummings’ voice work as the Terror Mask hits just the right level of snark. There are a handful of classic side-scrolling sections paying homage to the franchise’s roots, and for those curious to see how the series has evolved, all three original games are included, to allow a whole new generation of players to make it through one level, die cheaply, and never go back. Some of the extras, like the topless photos of Rick’s girlfriend scattered throughout, don’t really work, and the difficulty gets a little too close to absurdism in the final levels, but that’s to be expected. For the most part, this is a cheesy, ridiculous ride that’s just clever enough to be the right kind of dumb.