This ain't Jim Carrey's Mask.
I'd like to open this review by telling you a story about the game. A few minutes into playing Splatterhouse, some husk-like monstrosity tore off my arm and proceeded to eat my face off. This would have sucked, save for the fact that I survived... and now my arm was on the ground. I picked up the arm, and killed the bad guy with it.
[image1]Let me say this one more time: I beat a monster to death with my own severed arm. It's like this game is speaking to my soul.
If that little tidbit hasn't clued you in yet, this is a silly game about shock and awe. There's a great deal about Splatterhouse that's fun; in fact, it's one of the few games that, after I had played enough to gather the info I needed, I kept on playing, because it had some truly enjoyable segments. Splatterhouse is, to some extent, the Adam West Batman of videogames; much of the presentation is so horrifyingly bad, it defies the conventions of good sense, but it somehow works its way onto the good end of the spectrum, leaving you confused and wanting more.
The plot behind the game is largely insignificant: You're a dude who puts on an evil mask to gain power and keep your girlfriend from being killed. Along the way, you kill monsters, and pick up softcore porn of your girlfriend in various poses. Maybe I can't understand the appeal behind this, as a gay male, but I guess some people can only get off by ripping a beast's head off and searching for nudie pics. [You just need pics in a different... package. ~Ed.] Blood and boobies, for the win!
Rather than try for any semblance of a gritty and realistic game, Namco has imbued Splatterhouse with an almost cartoony look about it. The graphics are tight and well done, and there's little disparity between the incredibly gory cut-scenes and incredibly gory gameplay. And, oh yes, there will be gore, and lots of it.
[image2]When you reduce an enemy's health to a certain level, you can perform a variety of finishing moves, which turns the violence up to 11. I remember staring stupidly at the screen in shock and sick euphoria, as I clicked a series of buttons, ripped a monster's jaw apart, and reached inside to pull out his lungs. Given that the main currency of the game is blood, you're encouraged to rip out lungs and pull off arms wherever you go, in increasingly violent actions - be it by beating on monsters with their own appendages, severing them with huge blades, or impaling them on large spikes.
As much as I'd like to laud the gameplay alone, the sound is equally worth mentioning, if only for a brief moment; the "evil mask" is voiced by Jim Cummings, a man with a delectably evil growl. Despite (or perhaps because of?) his constant off-kilter jokes, his voice makes the game ridiculously entertaining, as though ensuring that you know that Splatterhouse is a game, not a prissy work of art. You may very well fall out of your chair laughing, when after you quit the game, he ruefully calls you a pussy. It's almost pitiful, as though he just wants a friend to really come back, bro!
You'll likely notice, though, that this game has been given a 'C', a grade that doesn't quite jive with all the above gushing. When this game does something right, it does it right; but when it does something wrong, it pounds that facet of the game deep underground, to rot in a horrifying hell of pain and suffering. Virtually every good aspect of the game is somehow counteracted with something equally bad, if not far worse.
While the incredibly stupid-bad cut-scenes and badass executions are strangely loveable, no person in their right mind should have any particular desire to see them more than once (or twice or three times); these things might generate a little laugh, sure, but their shock value doesn't last. While the variety of unique scenarios each stage presents is nice, they cease to be exciting after the first time and starts becoming a chore.
[image3]There is a reason I mention this: Namco, learn how checkpoints work. Splatterhouse is a game designed to make you die, over and over and over again; while the beastly difficulty can be fun in and of itself, being sent back through ten minutes of cut-scenes is almost physically painful. Yeah, okay, I'm not an uber gamer who can conquer these digital lands; but I don't need to be punished by running down the same hallway five times, watching the same increasingly awful mini-movie five times,and being given a tutorial on breaking doors five times. Just once is enough, thankyouverymuch.
What exacerbates this that most cut-scenes, if not all of them, are unskippable. Which means if you watch a fifteen-minute gorefest and miss the quicktime event (yes, those things), you have to watch the movie all over again. Or if you decide you want to rip a guy's head off for more blood, you get to watch the same head-rip-off movie that you've already seen a dozen times before.
Furthermore, while the gameplay is designed to embrace repetition (as most arcade games do, and by the way, the classic arcade versions of Splatterhouse are unlockables), Namco saw fit to add RPG elements into the mix, wherein the monsters grow increasingly stronger and you have to use their blood to level up. Given that this is, at its very core, a brawler-style game, there's a sort of dissonance in being told to buy a new combo, when mashing the X-button would be just as (if not more) effective. While there's some depth in purchasing new moves, a la God of War, the real depth should have been focused more on basic combat.
Ultimately, Splatterhouse is a fun game when taken in tiny chunks. It is something that, if already in your shelves, wouldn't be a terrible thing to pop into the PS3 for ten minutes at a time. But given its unrecoverable flaws, it's just not worth buying, in favor of any number of more polished titles. Worthy of a rent, in short. Splatterhouse delivers an initial shock, a giant middle finger that's sort of cute and hilarious when you first see it. But like a fart in an elevator, that hilarity quickly gives way to nausea and regret.