I'm generally not one for horror games, but Splatterhouse is about as horrific as... blimey... it's so not horrific that I can't even come up with a good analogy. Ah, there we go - it's as scary as not being able to come up with a decent introductory paragraph.
Splatterhouse is a sidescrolling beat 'em up that chose to go down the 'have fun' route, in terms of design, rather than the 'scare the player shitless' one, and I'm looking forward to finally playing it - I'd heard about it here and there, but don't really know why.
Will we be able to navigate the hideously scary hallways and corridors inside the Splatterhouse? Let's jump scare our way into the rest of the article.
It seems like it's been a while on this list since we've had a game that hasn't had oodles of ports to choose from, so I initially thought that getting around to playing Splatterhouse might be tricky. I couldn't play the arcade original, but did manage to play the TurboGrafx-16 version online.
I did not get off to the best of starts thanks to some incorrect button mapping, though, but once I found the right keys to bash, I was off, and there's only one thing that needs to be done in this game - bash everything that moves.
From the start of Splatterhouse you'll need to deal with zombies, bats, creatures belching puddles of acid in front of you, spikes emerging from the floor... things you'd associate with disgust (maybe not the spikes), but presented in ways that simply aren't disgusting. In fact, reading about Splatterhouse in its Wikipedia entry conjured up more disgust than playing it, and that's just because I can imagine more horrific things than arcades of the late 1980s could render.
You can punch and kick your foes from both directions and at different heights, as well as jump over obstacles, but soon enough you'll find yourself in possession of a sturdy stick and one hell of a baseball swing. Sadly it's not the meat cleaver you get in the arcade (hooray for censorship), but it's so satisfying to thwack the shit out of opponents left and right.
It's not troubling, one hit is generally all you need, and bit by bit you'll make progress through the stages. Taking a hit will see you drop your stick (if you have one) and take damage, take five hits and you lose a life and will need to try again.
As you learn to deal with each foe (the hard way, usually) you'll make more progress through the house, and will eventually reach boss fights and more variety in enemy types.
Naturally, I didn't get terribly far, so watched the arcade version which makes the plot a bit more obvious. Despite your looks, you're not the bad guy. Or at least you don't start as the bad guy. You're a fella called Rick who, along with girlfriend Jennifer, are trapped inside the house one stormy night. Rick gets possessed by a Terror Mask, enhancing his strength on his rampage through the house where he hopefully finds Jennifer before it is too late.
Personally, I'm sticking with 'horror villain lives in a dump and has to fend off the creatures that infest his house each morning just to be able to reach the front door so that he can leave to go to the shops' take on the action.
Whatever your take on it, Splatterhouse wants you to have a good time. A challenging time, yes, but a good time. It's not out to scare you, nor is it difficult or punishing for the sake of the theme. If anything, Splatterhouse is our own Terror Mask, enhancing our skills to make us feel stronger.
It feels great to play. It doesn't move the best, but the animations aren't bad. It gets a bit samey and most things are dealt with in a single hit or two, but you are required to mix up your attacks here and there so that you do actually get out of a situation unscathed.
If you just need to let off some steam, Splatterhouse can help you with that goal. There are better beat 'em ups and there are scarier scenarios, but how many games combine the two? Nothing leaps to my mind, save for Splatterhouse.
The house in Splatterhouse is named 'West Mansion', a supposed nod to Dr. Herbert West of H.P. Lovecraft's short story Herbert West-Reanimator, where the character invents a solution to reanimate the recently deceased.
Splatterhouse, developed by Namco Splatter Team, first released in 1988.
Version played: TurboGrafx-16, 1990, via emulation.
Version watched: Arcade, 1988 (arcadegamesfreak)