You know it is true: the more things change, the more they stay the same. In the late ‘80s, Japanese video game publishers Namco released an arcade game called Splatterhouse. Its premise was simple: trapped inside of West Mansion, a young college student named Rick gets resurrected by the “Terror Mask” — a centuries-old artifact. The mask endows our otherwise-dead hero with unlimited superhuman strength and limited supernatural powers. From then on, you (the player) would run around beating the 8-bit tar out of every single critter that happens to wander into the two-dimensional frame the game was housed in.
Splatterhouse became something of a hit, especially for horror movie lovers that had began to yearn for something a bit “stronger” than Duck Hunt. The game even spawned a few “sequels” over the next couple of years, concluding with the 16-bit Splatterhouse 3 in 1993. Overall, the story stayed the same: you wore the Terror Mask and killed everything with your bare hands. Despite the fact all of us long-haired kids that dressed in black and listened to Iron Maiden loved the game, it didn’t mean that it wasn’t a very well-planned game. Basically, it was an homage to several American horror films such as The Evil Dead and Re-Animator, only without any major (or even minor) “plot” to speak of.
In 2007, Namco Bandai (they got married) decided to produce and release a new and improved Splatterhouse — only to put the project on the backburner for several years. In late 2010, the all-new remake of Splatterhouse arrived for both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 consoles. While there is little doubt that the creators of the updated game had hoped it would either bond two generations of gorehounds together or become a big huge mega-super ultra hit in the process (I’m shootin’ for the latter), I have to say that the game hasn’t changed very much altogether.
Sure, as anyone that recalls the original 8 and 16-bit titles will most assuredly notice: things have changed. Most assuredly, they have. For starters, Splatterhouse finally has a third dimension. The graphics actually look good for a change; realistic almost. You can even move in a direction other than left or right (several directions, actually). The gore level has been upped to meet with our modern times and audiences because, let’s face it: even a modernized version of Duck Hunt would contain more blood and gore than the original Splatterhouse!
And yet, despite all of the changes in the graphics, story, music, sound effects, gameplay, etc., the game still doesn’t amount to being much more than a run-of-the-mill walk-around-and-beat-up-the-bad-guys game.
After being murdered by the diabolical Dr. Henry West (Herbert’s brother, no doubt), nerdy Rick Taylor (voiced by Josh Keaton) is revived by the foul-mouthed Terror Mask (whose many expletives are provided with much gusto by the great Jim Cummings, who normally voices kiddie stuff — making his obscenities all the more amusing). West has taken off with Rick’s fiancée, Jenny, and is planning on doing some sort of bloody awful evil thing to her. Fortunately for Rick, though, the Terror Mask brings him back from the land of the dead, granting him the aforementioned superhuman strength and supernatural abilities.
Again, the story here borrows heavily from ‘80s horror flicks (especially those that were HP Lovecraft in nature), but it ultimately doesn‘t give you much to play with — other than dismembering everything living or slightly-living critter in sight. Occasionally, the game switches camera angles — sometimes invoking that two-dimensional feel of the original series. This can be quite annoying to some players (I found it to be rather amusing), but it doesn’t irritate one as much as the controls, which seem to be working a dimension all their own half of the time. The new line-up of monsters is nice — even if they start to have the carbon-copy effect when there are too many of them — and the creatively destructive methods the game’s developers have employed for Rick to disassemble them will have your jaw on the floor at times.
Unfortunately, though: Splatterhouse doesn’t deliver much else. If you’re looking for a retro horror arcade game for modern times, this is it. If you’d prefer to track down the old-school Splatterhouse titles, well then this game is also your golden ticket as it includes the original 8 and 16-bit games as bonus items (cool).
However, if you are hoping to play something that is, shall we say, more story-driven, I’d suggest you look elsewhere.
Splatterhouse is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Nudity, Sexual Themes, and Strong Language. This game can also be found on the Xbox 360.