Octurbo: Splatterhouse

Welcome to the final and spookiest Octurbo, after which I consign this feature to the graaaave. And then also yoooou? Because death threats are scary, right? Or lawsuit-incurring. Uh, let's forget I said anything.

So today we take a not-at-all-predictable route and delve into Namco's macabre brawler Splatterhouse. Splatterhouse has a long and storied history you can read all about somewhere like Hardcore Gaming 101, which delves into the few changes made to the home conversions, as well as its less well-known sequels and spin-offs. Honestly, and in spite of this being a deliberate Halloween pick, I'm really more interested in how it plays than worrying about the absence of a reverse crucifix boss or a mask change.

And how it plays is essentially a 2D brawler back when there wasn't a depth of field to work around. Your Jason Voorhees-type dude simply punches monstrosities as they appear to the left and right. While it sounds absurdly basic and could potentially have the same sort of difficulty curve normally associated with Arcade brawlers (i.e. incurring damage is usually unavoidable and you'll need to blow through a stack of quarters to see the ending) it's actually a little more measured in its pace. Enemy and obstacle spawn placements can be memorized, boss encounters can be planned out ahead of time and both your character and the enemies trudge along at a moderate speed allowing you to react in time to surprises. I've heard the home version was deliberately made easier to compensate for that whole "quarter eating" dynamic as well, so by all accounts the TG-16 Splatterhouse is an Arcade/home console conversion done right. Not pixel perfect, of course, but then you can't have everything.

Let's Make This Splatterhouse a Splatterhome

Welcome to Splatterhouse! Splattered with blood, I bet!
'Twas a dark and stormy night in Missingno Forest. Rick and Jennifer had gone to the old West mansion because horror movie, but then Jennifer was suddenly abducted because horror movie and Rick woke up with a cursed mask of horror movie on his horror movie and horror movie horror movie would pay for this with their undead un-lives!
You can punch these gooey zombies, but punching's for suckers.
Instead, it's best to find the nearest conveniently located 2x4 and send them flying. They can't feel things, they're monsters.
These chained up zombies don't seem to hold any ill-will towards their captors, because they are equally determined to stop you. Even if it means resorting to dropping their toxic innards in your path and hoping you walk into it like a dumbass. Hey, their options are limited, all right?
Bat, meet bat.
I hate these Clicker guys. Take them down and their heads continue to come after you, and for some reason they're harder to hit than the bats were.
So here's the first boss. The game does some interesting things with bosses in this game though, so for this particular room we simply have to avoid and take out these hideous gutworm things for a few minutes.
However! The game plays a mean trick on you by establishing early on that the safest place to sit in the room is in the middle, by the fireplace: enemies spawn from the left or right, giving you a change to turn around and sock them as they show up. The very last worm, though, bursts from that hanging corpse and will land on you if you're in the middle. It's sneaky, but it's one of those things you'll always remember for next time.
More zombies and 2x4s. This game and I have an understanding already.
While they don't attack, those skewered and manacled fellows in the background still squirm around. It's disquieting, but then what isn't in this game?
The hanging corpses from the boss room are now regular enemies for some reason. You know, I'm sensing that this is where a lot of Binding of Isaac's messed up imagery came from.
This water sequence isn't quite as bad as it looks, since I can still move at a reasonable clip. The zombies down here are gooier than usual.
For some reason there are also aquatic mines down here. Thankfully, my vertical jumps in waist-high water seem to go as high as they normally do, which is probably fine from a physics standpoint. I mean, probably. I'm no professor of water sciences.
Second boss is similar to the first, in that you're fighting an entire room full of evil. In this case, we're to become a Poltergeist's peltered guest.
This fight is all about memorizing a sequence of events: first there's a bunch of dropping objects you need to walk around to avoid, then you're accosted by a bouncing chair, some spinny knives and finally the eye painting.
The eye painting moves fast but if you swing at the air constantly (or use those handy built-in turbo buttons) it can't seem to get close.
As a final dick move, the poltergeist flees the painting through the shuttered window and, after a few seconds, the chandelier drops. It can finish you off if you weren't expecting it.
"JOSEPH!" "NO! DON'T GO!"
Oh hey, someone gave me a shotgun. That was irresponsible of them.
Ah, you know what? Floormasters might be where I draw the line. I think I've probably shown off more of this game than I needed to. I mean, it's Splatterhouse. Everything you need to know is in the name, really.
Before we end, let's just check out the Japanese version. As you can see, the most obvious difference is that the Arcade version's overtly Friday the 13th hockey mask has been left in.
And just to confirm what happens once you get past those floormasters: Dr Salvador's here to greet you with his extremely high tolerance for pain and impossible-to-overcome range with them there chainsaws. All the spooky threads have been tied up. That's... probably a relief, I dunno.

And that's Splatterhouse. Honestly, I think this is probably the best known TG-16 game after Bonk, or at least one of the better acclaimed ones. It's a little too basic for a brawler, but then what it does well is to create a lot of interesting situations to stick your enormous menacing bruiser in. Instead of goofy bosses like some kind of skeletal Abobo (who would be called Abonebone, of course, but that goes without saying) you have clever scenarios like that poltergeist room. Though most of the regular zombie enemies march towards you single-file like in a Kung Fu Master game, becoming too complacent will make you easy prey for the more devious enemies on the horizon. What I'm saying is that for a brawler without depth, it sure has a lot of depth. If you catch my meaning.

It's time to draw this mini-LP and, indeed, the entire Octurbo feature to an end. I hope you've enjoyed this extensive look into what the TurboGrafx-16 was all about, and have gotten to understand it a little better, though I'm well aware of the big Turbo-CD shaped gap I've yet to pry into. Maybe I'll do all this again next year, but with the added benefit of having Rondo of Blood and Lords of Thunder to look forward to. As (I believe) the earliest CD-based console the Turbo-CD certainly had a lot of interesting ideas to check out.

Until then, have a great Halloween and I'll leave you with a few extra TG-16 links to be getting on with:

The Brothers Duomazov - These guys have been doing the old "what's in the TG-16 library that we didn't know about" lark a lot longer than I have. Same mix of screenshots and commentary, though they actually bother finishing most of them. Pfeh, a few hours of gameplay and a quickly produced article every day is clearly the ideal way to go.

Chronturbo - Chrontendo's little brother is only four episodes deep thus far (for some reason the last isn't on that playlist so you'll need to search for it), but Doc Sparkle's documentaries on every NES/Master System/TG-16 game ever released in chronological order are always wonderfully researched and produced. It's a shame these videos aren't better known around here - but then we aren't exactly a retro-gaming focused site.

Hardcore Gaming 101 - I tend to link to Kurt Kalata's site of essay-sized video game retrospectives a lot, but only because it's the best information resource on the web for many of the obscure games they cover. Though a lot of their articles are subjective viewpoints submitted by enthusiastic amateur writers, I've always thought that our wiki would be much improved if we could drop links to the work that goes on with that site. Beats only having a paragraph or two of explanatory text for all those games that are so esoteric that they don't even have Wikipedia articles. Goes without saying that they have more than a couple of pages on the PC Engine/TurboGrafx-16 too.

GameCenter CX: Splatterhouse - Huh. It seems SAGCCX very recently managed to translate and put out this special feature episode of Arino challenging the very same game I just did. I guess it's not the most surprising coincidence in the world, though, given how few memorable 8-/16-bit horror games exist. If you haven't discovered GCCX yet, then... you might want to free up this weekend?

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