SplatterHouse, released in 1988, is Namco's touching tribute to slasher films, and also one of the big Namco games that never made to the Nintendo, at least in the states. You can thank NOA's "family values" game approval policy at the time. Gameplay is oversized side scroller fun, lots of blood and gore. You're Rick, some poor sod who makes the mistake of going to Reanimator's mansion. A vacation he says! His girlfriend gets kidnapped, and he ends up killed by demons. He gets resurrected by the "Hell Mask", which makes Rick look consipcuously like Jason Voorhees. Instead of killing dumb kids at Crystal Lake though, he decides to bust some undead heads in through seven levels, preferrably with whatever weapons he can, including big freaking sticks, axes, and shotguns.

SplatterHouse was a pretty large arcade hit, both in the US and in Japan, and although Nintendo never did bend to gamers' demands to bring it to the NES in the states, I don't know if they would have liked what did come out Famicom-wise: a super-deformed comical take on the entire game, with bosses including Dracula (apparently in a disco!) and a Giant Ghost Hamster. In 1990 though the game was brought home proper, for NEC's PC Engine (AKA the Turbografx-16). Namco also ported the sequel to the SEGA Mega Drive/Genesis in 1992, and then made Splatterhouse III direct-to-console, again for the SEGA 16-bitters. There was also a version of the original for the FM Towns Marty. I guess that's worth noting. If you wanna play it emulated, get the MAME port of your choice.

World Court --- Mirai Ninja

The game was remade in 2010 as a 3D/part side scroller interactive game for the XBox 360 and Playstation 3. It received mixed reviews, but did a great job of storytelling and producing a horror game that was clever and not in the survival horror genre.

It's a circular story told via the game and a few cutscenes - and the fact that they hired a comic book author to script it shows. It's clever and fridge logic makes it a lot more horrifying in the classic sense.

The game opens with you, the protagonist "Rick" waking up as a hulking, steroid-muscled brute with a mask welded to your face. Turns out that you've been reanimated and upgraded from your death by an artifact called the "Terror Mask". At the very first, the mask attempts to take more control of Rick's body and you start the game in the atrium of the mansion you're trapped in working in what is later called "Berserker mode". Berserker mode is insanely fun as you basically have massive power and bone-shards coming out of your arms and you can pretty much carve anything around you into small pieces. Having whetted your appettite for carnage, the game drops you back into normal mode, the story informing you that Rick's human body literally cannot withstand being in that mode 100% of the time.

You wander through the mansion, collecting blood from discarded enemies. Blood allows you to do two things: with enough of it you can re-enter berserker mode for a short time, which becomes incredibly useful for dealing with bosses later on in the game. It also allows you to "buy" better powers, including upgraded attacks, more time in berserker mode, and so forth. You gain more blood from something called a "splatterkill" - when an enemy is injured enough you go fullscreen with a black background and can hit a certain button and if you jam the twin sticks on the controller in the requested configuration you rip the arms or torso off your enemy, showering everything in blood.

What then follows is third person three dimensional bludgeoning and carving of various enemies (non-human, which is why I have few moral qualms about this - you take apart demonic beings and zombies), as well as upgraded versions of the classic side scroller complete with spiked "stomping" platforms and required jumps over instant-kill chasms and so forth.

Should you die (you get sufficiently injured and don't have the blood to perform a "blood siphon", basically pulling health out of nearby enemies, or you fall into a chasm, etc) then you restart from the last checkpointed area in the story. If you go away and come back your last checkpoint is saved.

There have been some complaints about the game mechanics - the 3D is sometimes clunky and glitchy, but it's a lot of fun to rip a teratoid's arm off and beat him to death with it, and should Rick find a discarded meat cleaver, there's a rush and dismember move that's a lot of fun to hit a group of zombies with at once. And of course, if the bosses in a level are too difficult, with the right kind of luck and enough blood, you can super-charge into the terror mask Berserker and go absolutely HAM with flying bone-blades and at higher levels, reality-warping strikes that make the ground rise up in spiky shards killing everything in its wake.

But the cleverness of the storytelling here is that it incorporates three levels of horror storytelling:

SPOILERS BEGIN HERE:


Obviously with a name like "Splatterhouse", you're going to have splatterpunk level gore. There's that nice visceral slasher horror flick vibe of gushing severed limbs, squicking body horror of ripping out giant eyeballs and so forth. Discarded laboratories have slick wet floors, and you pass by certain levels by impaling teratoids on spikes, hurl creatures into spinning blades to harvest enough blood to make engines work, or, in a move the terror mask breaks the fourth wall to wink at the player about - a level where you impale three creatures onto what amounts to spiked anal dildos to hold them in chairs that move into a pulverizing chamber. (The comment - "It's this sort of thing that got us an M rating.")

The story has to explain how a Gothic Victorian mansion can have what amounts to a small skyscraper's worth of levels underneath, including creature-filled dungeons. So they explain it by having the main antagonist, Herbert West, an expert in something he's a consultant for the nearby university in - "necrobiology". As time goes on you realize that he's practicing weird science, and has not only lived multiple lifespans, but multiple lifespans in a strange perversion of time. More on this later. It also turns out that West isn't exactly all there and all human. In an attempt to restore the life of his dead wife, Leonora, West has made a deal with strange, awful powers that the Terror Mask was able to escape from and into this world - which is why he has a vested interest in helping Rick. It also so happens that your girlfriend "Jennifer" happens to be a dead ringer for Leonora, and him sacrificing her at the next eclipse will tear open the veil between the two worlds, setting the evil powers free. So we have a weird Lovecraftian Gothic Weird Science Horror in play here too, with nods to arcane symbols, Chthuloid monsters, and science melding with the occult at the fringes.

Time doesn't work in a linear sense - through "portals" you see a post-apocalyptic New York City where you've failed and Jennifer is dead. You see an earlier time when Leonora is still alive thanks to West's magic - and it turns out she is not killed by cholera as previously supposed, or by the townspeople trying to burn her as a witch, but by you, when she is set on fire, reveals her true demonic form and you're forced to kill her because she's attacking you. It explains why West, upon first seeing you, reveals that time appears to be a Moebius strip without beginning or end, and gets overly angry with you. The true horror comes at the end when you "save" Jennifer from sacrifice - but she dies anyway and her soul is replaced with whatever malevolent spirit claimed Leonora hundreds of years ago. Rick tries to take off the mask, having made a pact to only live as symbiotes until he saves Jennifer - but the fact that what is neither Jennifer nor Leonora walks the earth (making the prediction of the post-apocalyptic New York City a reality) voids that arrangement, and the mask refuses to give up Rick's body. The whole mission was a failure, and everyone involved is trapped - trapped in a Groundhog Day-style ever-descending Moebius strip of violence and decay.

It also makes for a killer sequel hook.

A sequel is not likely to be made, though. The project was initially started by a development company who were fired for performance reasons but rehired just to complete the game. As others have said, the mechnics are clunky. Other complains include repetitive challenges here and there and a few which required some Google searches to complete - the game breaks a cardinal rule that you can either have combat, OR puzzle solving, but not both at once. The game compounds this further by imposing time restrictions on a combat/puzzle solving hybrid. In terms of game play - some parts of it are entertainingly gory and violent, and others are pants-shittingly annoying and rage-quit inducing.

But the whole effort is saved by the excellent storyline, and the inclusion of not only the classic arcade game Splatterhouse as a playable bonus, but also Splatterhouse 2 and Splatterhouse 3. You can also just abandon the whole notion of story play and simply try and kill as many things as possible in a few arena levels, also. One of the project managers is a punk musician, and he arranged a gorgeous and appropriate score for these levels - with tracks by The Accused, Goatwhore, Lamb of God, Mastodon (Rick is wearing a Mastodon T-shirt in his pre-mask human form), Five Finger Death Punch and others. Nothing better than hearing punishing double bass rhythms and chuddering guitars as a backdrop to blasting zombies to smithereens with a shotgun.

The only other miss that one could give is that it's thoroughly unfeminist. The woman is just there to be rescued, so it's already on the shit-list of the Sarkeesian crowd. But worse still, Jennifer was a photographer and you can find pieces of her photos in your travels. Find them all and you get to keep the photos - many of which feature her topless and posing suggestively.

Be forewarned.

But then again, this was made for the kind of teenage boy for whom muscle worship, gorezones and breasts were the Holy Trinity of any endeavor, and it was the only video game to make the cover of Fangoria. It may not have been the best game on earth, but as a discarded title, for $10 at Game Stop you can get three classic Splatterhouse games, a neat interactive movie to play, and the ability to happlily spend a half hour dismembering and destroying various unearthly Lovecraftian creatures while guttural musicians scream and dual guitars wail over a machine-gun beat. Heck, it's worth $10 for the backing tracks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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