The lights are on
Reminiscing on 2010’s Splatterhouse always brings a smile to my face. It’s a guilty pleasure to be sure. There’s no amount of spin I could create to justify Splatterhouse’s faults. The game was universally panned by reviewers and if I were to cast a critical eye as well, my list of nitpicks would be pretty substantial. I’m not here to act as an apologist. I can’t, in good conscience, defend Splatterhouse’s technical merits. I can, however, offer a personal testimony on why I think a game about ripping off torsos, smashing baddies, and dousing everything in gallons of blood is pretty damn awesome.
My love of absurd horror movies has me predisposed to the game’s backdrop. It’s dark, gory, and yet goofy. Picture Sam Raimi taking on the directorial duties of a Lovecraftian flick and you’ll get a feel for the Splatterhouse world. The main protagonists, Rick Taylor and the Terror Mask, are a ridiculous recipe made up of several iconic slashers. Take the wit of Freddy Krueger and the vulgarity of Chucky and mash them inside the hulking force of nature that is Jason Voorhees. That’s your hero, everyone.
Liberal amounts of fan-service is strewn throughout the game with references to several horror movies and the classic Splatterhouse titles. These references are often overt, but they never failed to elicit a chuckle or at least a knowing smirk from this fan. Collectibles can keep you coming back, especially if you want to dive deeper into the backstory of Dr. West and his mansion which, admittedly, is far more interesting than your typical slasher flick. And if collecting naughty pics of Rick’s girlfriend, Jennifer, is your thing, perv it up. They’re everywhere. However, the most notable unlockables are the playable versions of the three classic Splatterhouse games.
While the setup of Splatterhouse is definitely up my alley, that’s just one part of the game. Combat is another chunk and one that really satisfies the brawler in me. There’s a free-form combo engine that allows you to piece together light and heavy attacks and grabs. Unlockable strings further deepen your arsenal as well as the handy ability to hulk out into an unstoppable juggernaut. Holding some attacks in a string slows down everything around you and lets you aim the impending smash at the desired enemy. Once the hammer falls, you feel the weight of it. It’s a fun mechanic and really helps make you feel like a badass. Further down the road, enemies become a little tougher (or frustratingly cheap, as the case may be) so you’ll want to use this tactic a lot to direct the carnage. Mindless button mashing will only get you so far. Eventually, you’ll understand the flow of combat: when to block, when to roll, or when to go all out and tackle someone and axe-handle chop them until they’re squishy. I won’t go so far as to call the combat tactical, but there’s a definite ebb and flow that you’ll need to connect with in order to keep the appearance of absurdly long continue screens to a minimum.
The smile that Splatterhouse brings to my face is made from equal parts endearment and embarrassment. It’s low-brow, superficial, exploitative, but ultimately great fun for horror fans such as myself. It’s not an underrated game by any means, but to me, it has all the trappings of a cult classic.