Giant Bomb Review

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Splatterhouse Review

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The splatter is most certainly on display in this functional, yet indistinct beat-'em-up.

Splatterhouse is probably not a game that was in dire need of rebooting. The original 1988 arcade game, and subsequent TurboGrafx-16 release, mostly served of interest due to its highly graphic (for its time) violence. At its core, the game was a fairly forgettable beat-'em-up with a few interesting monsters to bludgeon and eviscerate, but the sheer amount of blood and gore on offer (again, relative to other games of this era) made it an enticement, even in its heavily edited TurboGrafx form. Basically, it was all guts, no substance.

 Don't let the jorts fool you: Rick is as brutal as they come.
And yet, here we are with a modern-day take on the franchise. Arguably the most interesting thing about this remake--apart from its protracted development history, which makes for interesting reading elsewhere--is that the reverse is largely true here. The modern day Splatterhouse for the Xbox 360 and PS3 is a game that manages to construct a more interesting gameplay experience around piles upon piles of largely forgettable gore. This is still a fairly standard beat-'em-up, but there are enough wrinkles, tweaks, and amusements here to keep a player functionally engaged through the entirety of its story. Simultaneously, no matter how much blood, viscera and spinal fluid the developers see fit to dump on you, it's exceedingly difficult to muster up more than a casual shrug at the sight of it all.

The set-up for all this "house splattering" is a pretty typical boy loves girl, boy and girl visit creepy mansion of lunatic doctor, lunatic doctor kidnaps girl and leaves boy for dead, boy finds ancient Aztec ceremonial death mask and uses it to become a hulking, jorts-wearing juggernaut of death kind of deal. The talking death mask transforms Rick, the aformentioned boy, into said juggernaut for entirely self-serving purposes. That said, Rick has little choice but to work with this demonic mask, since he would ideally like to save his comely young girlfriend before the doctor turns her into a sacrificial vessel and unleashes some creatures that exist halfway between Hell and Earth.

Halfway Between Hell and Earth would make a pretty good heavy metal album title, as would much of the stuff found in this game, really. Splatterhouse is basically the video game equivalent of a gigantic ASCII devil horns, a metal and gore geek's fantasy of grotesque violence by way of screeching guitar solos. As you run through this game, alternating between the weak and strong attack buttons to form accidental combos and periodically picking up boards, machetes, chainsaws, and even the occasional weaponized severed limb to ramp up the damage, licensed tracks from the likes of Mastodon, Five Finger Death Punch, and Goatwhore will often begin blaring in the background.

All the while, the spirit ensconced within the mask goads and curses at Rick to do better, makes fourth-wall breaking cracks about M-ratings and the nature of what makes a Splatterhouse, and occasionally takes the well-deserved opportunity to call him a pussy. This kind of dialogue could have been deathly with the wrong combination of writing and voice acting, but here it's generally chuckle-worthy, thanks in no small part to the delivery by veteran voice performer Jim Cummings. It's just a shame the rest of the game's voicework is pretty boilerplate, and that the game frequently suffers from audio mixing bugs, where dialogue gets drowned out by metal guitars or otherwise chops up into glitchy nonsense.

 You could paint the Great Wall of China a lovely shade of red with all the blood in this game.
I haven't harped terribly much on the mechanics of Splatterhouse because, quite frankly, I have a hard time remembering very many of them. At some point the specifics of the beat-'em-up gameplay all blend together into one big, gooey, red paste. Learning the game's basic combos and attacks is most certainly important, as is earning blood, which is your primary purchasing method for additional combos and special attacks. Odds are most players will never get to a point where they memorize all these attacks, since you rarely need the most complex ones outside of the game's hardest difficulty setting--which is a real bastard, by the way. More often, though, you can satisfactorily blow through each room full of zombie men, animal-esque mutants, and various other grotesqueries by button mashing to your heart's content.

Fortunately, that serves the game just fine. The combat is largely satisfying, if not overly exciting. There are some nifty kill moves you can pull on weakened enemies. These launch you into quicktime events and play out like low-rent versions of Mortal Kombat fatalities. The main problem is that there just aren't enough of them. You've seen all the ways to kill one enemy type by the first or second time they appear, so repetition does tend to set in rather quickly. Still, it's a beat-'em-up, and repetition is kind of the thing with these games. If you aren't willing to put up with a little of it, even in light of how brutal and decently entertaining the combat can be, then this is definitely not the game for you.

Where Splatterhouse falters is in the areas where it tries to veer outside of the standard beat-'em-up trappings. As a throwback to classic Splatterhouse--which, by the way, you can unlock a playable and well-emulated version of in the game (uncensored), along with Splatterhouses 2 and 3--the game will periodically morph into a sidescroller, letting you knock enemies silly from a different perspective, while also avoiding pitfalls and traps via copious amounts of jumping and ducking. In theory, these are a nice little nod to the classic games, but the controls for the jumping and dodging sections aren't quite responsive enough to avoid becoming a frustration. It's even worse in the non-sidescrolling platforming bits, where you're hopping from highlighted jump point to highlighted jump point. The timing is just janky, and for all the tough battles I ended up fighting through over the course of the game, the trifling little jumping bits proved to be infinitely more vexing, simply because the controls lack the necessary tightness. There aren't a million of these sections, thankfully, but there are enough to be a royal pain the ass, especially due to the atrociously long load times that plague both versions of the game. How do you make a game where you can die instantly, and force someone to sit for 30-to-45 seconds just to load up the last checkpoint?

 Splatterhouse's monsters alternate between decent throwbacks to the games of old, and generic creature crap.
The game's visuals are a bit of a disappointment. I am a self-professed gore junkie, but much of what Splatterhouse passes off as gore feels rather bland and superfluous. Interesting kills--and, to that point, interesting enemies to kill--are largely overshadowed by your ability to simply paint the walls with ungodly amounts of fakey-looking blood. This goop has the consistency of a bad spaghetti sauce, and while it's amusing for a bit to see Rick completely drenched in the junk, after a while I think the red detectors in my eyes started to fritz out, because I just stopped noticing or caring. There just isn't enough variety in the ways to kill, or in the designs of the enemies you're fighting, to really give all this violence the visceral impact you'd want. At least the basic visual style of the game, with its faux-cel-shaded design and frequently brutal environmental aesthetics, is nice enough to look at. Now if only the frame rate could stay halfway consistent...

Above all else, Splatterhouse is a game that screams "competent." Specifically, it screams it with a guttural heavy metal growl over the deafening din of grinding power chords and machine gun blasts of double bass, while simultaneously vomiting a fire hydrant's worth of blood all over the screen. That all that gratuitous violence and gushing gore manages to inspire so little reaction is perhaps more a testament to where we as a society sit now compared to the late '80s. More to the point, it speaks to the notion that a bunch of bleeding freaks and severed torsos maybe isn't quite enough to sell a game all by its lonesome anymore. It's good, then, that Splatterhouse has a bit more going on upstairs than the games it originally spawned from. This isn't a game you're likely to remember for too terribly long past its conclusion, but if you're a die-hard nostalgist for this franchise, or just someone looking for a decent outlet to punch, stab, and batter the living hell out of some crap for 10 or so hours, Splatterhouse will scratch that itch. Alex Navarro on Google+
70 Comments
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Posted by moelarrycurly

Navarro is still pro.

Posted by SMTDante89

Good review

Posted by ShadowConqueror

Neato!
Posted by Homeslice

From the QL, and knowing absolutely nothing else about the game, this seems fair.

Posted by Legend

I might check this game out.

Posted by MysteriousBob

I'm a huge fan of the original trilogy who was once hyped for this game. I might get it when the price is repeatedly cut (which shouldn't take long) just for the original games which are much, much better than Alex seems to believe. Simple, yes. But classic.

Posted by RobotHamster

Navarro needs his own cartoon pictures for his reviews.

Posted by JJOR64

I still want to check it out.  Maybe I will pick it up once the price drops to $30 or so.

Posted by Frostler

This looks...different. Idk about the buy though.

Edited by Ghostiet
@RobotHamster said:

" Navarro needs his own cartoon pictures for his reviews. "

Yeah. He's shitting those reviews like crazy lately, I can't see a reason why he's not given a picture set.
Posted by Carnage1290

Didn't have much hope for this one anyway.

Posted by Australia

I would be hard pressed to be more apathetic towards a game than I am to this. 

Edited by mazik765
@RobotHamster said:

" Navarro needs his own cartoon pictures for his reviews. "

I think he needs to get back to his own website actually...
Posted by Bloodgraiv3

Fair review. 
Posted by CornBREDX

Ya, i'm getting this game when I have the money.
 
Even if its not super great, i like the throw back, Jim Cummings, and needlessly insane violence.
 
On that note this series always makes me think of that one episode of the Simpson's that talked about video game violence a long time ago where Bart was trying to get that one game and Marge was going crazy over that. I dont know why it made me think of that. I think the game in the show had a similar title or something.

Posted by csl316
@CornBREDX said:
"On that note this series always makes me think of that one episode of the Simpson's that talked about video game violence a long time ago where Bart was trying to get that one game and Marge was going crazy over that. I dont know why it made me think of that. I think the game in the show had a similar title or something. "
Bonestorm!
Posted by ZmillA

those jorts are fooling me

Posted by SuperSambo
@mazik765 said:
" @RobotHamster said:

" Navarro needs his own cartoon pictures for his reviews. "

I think he needs to get back to his own website actually... "
Fuck.
 
You.
Posted by RiotBananas
@mazik765 said:
" @RobotHamster said:

" Navarro needs his own cartoon pictures for his reviews. "

I think he needs to get back to his own website actually... "
Posted by CornBREDX
@csl316:  Yes! Thank you, i was totally trying to remember what the name of that game was haha
Posted by Jayross

Content! Happy thanksgiving!

Posted by zaglis
@SuperSambo said:
" @mazik765 said:
" @RobotHamster said:

" Navarro needs his own cartoon pictures for his reviews. "

I think he needs to get back to his own website actually... "
Fuck.  You. "
Indeed. Fuck that guy. More Alex Navarro!
Posted by Cincaid

As usual people will focus more energy on the person who wrote the review, rather than the review itself.
 
Nice review Alex, will probably pick it up when it's a bit cheaper.

Posted by Video_Game_King

Well, we know that. What we really want to know is whether or not the house is on display. Is it? TELL ME, DAMN IT!

Posted by GunnBjorn

That they didn't have licensed music from Cannibal Corpse for this game, is beyond me! ; )
Posted by buft

I played splatterhouse quite a bit in my younger years but its never been a series I have ever wished to return to, it didnt stick with me the way mario or sonic did, i think im gonna give this a miss, maybe a $10 pickup next summer when the games are few and far between.

Posted by SubwayD
"Splatterhouse is basically the video game equivalent of a gigantic ASCII devil horns"     
 
That's about all I need to see. Sold twice over!
Online
Posted by Cirdain
@mazik765 said:
" @RobotHamster said:

" Navarro needs his own cartoon pictures for his reviews. "

I think he needs to get back to his own website actually... "
fuck you
Posted by Feanor

Damn are things really so slow for screened that one of their main writers can do so many game reviews? I know its the least visited whiskey site but damn. 

Posted by Undeadpool

COOOOOOOOMPEEEEEEEEEETEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEENT!!!!!!! \m/

Posted by Mystyr_E
@csl316: 
get 2, I'm not sharing with Caitlyn!
Posted by Blair
@Cirdain said:
" @mazik765 said:
" @RobotHamster said:

" Navarro needs his own cartoon pictures for his reviews. "

I think he needs to get back to his own website actually... "
fuck you "
Agreed.
Posted by Rasgueado

Just like he says... it's alright. Not too good, but not terrible. It took half of the first level for me to recognize the voice of Minsc from Baldur's Gate. There were a few times when I almost thought it sounded like the voice of Caleb, but since he posted a link to Jim's credits, I guess not.

Posted by JoelTGM
@mazik765 said:
" @RobotHamster said:

" Navarro needs his own cartoon pictures for his reviews. "

I think he needs to get back to his own website actually... "
WTF?  You don't think Alex knows his video games??
Posted by Psykhophear

Aww, I was expecting for a four-star rating. Not that I don't trust Alex but I'm sure he knows what he's doing.

Posted by Mar

Not defending this game nor the original. But I really dislike reviews that open with a casual dismissal of an old game as 'nothing but gore' with 'no gameplay'. Sure, the gameplay wasn't entirely interesting but the - apparently - superficial parts of the gore actually combine to make a game that had more atmosphere and an art design that was groundbreaking for the time. Horror games were a rarity back then and this game filled that gap as well as making the genre its own by being one of the best.
 
I think in the context of a review it's not best practice to give a one paragraph panning of a decade old previous title. All it does is bring up questions of whether the writer has played the game enough to legitimately come to those conclusions, or indeed if the writer played the game in context (when it was released) or whether they just played the inferior console ports or, perhaps, the emulated version included in this new release.
 
Not trying to be negative here. Just this is one of my pet peeves in writing and critical reviews.

Posted by Darknaut
@DOUBLESHOCK said:
" @mazik765 said:
" @RobotHamster said:

" Navarro needs his own cartoon pictures for his reviews. "

I think he needs to get back to his own website actually... "
WTF?  You don't think Alex knows his video games?? "
Haters gonna hate. I guess a guy who wrote about and reviewed video games for years, and worked on them too, has no business doing guest reviews of 'em. 
 
Anyway, good review. This is more or less where I expected it to fare, so no shocker there.
Posted by mazik765

 @SuperSambo:  @zaglis:  @Cirdain: @Blair: Thanks for the advice, it has been dually noted and let e assure you it was a unique and personal experience every time one of you sent a 'fuck you' to my inbox.
 
@Darknaut said:

" @DOUBLESHOCK said:
" @mazik765 said:
" @RobotHamster said:

" Navarro needs his own cartoon pictures for his reviews. "

I think he needs to get back to his own website actually... "
WTF?  You don't think Alex knows his video games?? "
Haters gonna hate. I guess a guy who wrote about and reviewed video games for years, and worked on them too, has no business doing guest reviews of 'em.   Anyway, good review. This is more or less where I expected it to fare, so no shocker there. "

I never said he didn't know his stuff. He just annoys me.
Posted by MaddProdigy
Good review, I really like reviews like this that involve less opinion and more explanations, lets me get a feeling for whether the game's right for me.
 
@Mar:  A few sentences referencing a decade old title sounds just about right, no need to go into detail beyond that. In fact I'd say it wasn't even necessary at all, plenty of game writers just mention that the game is a re make and move on. If he thought the game was "nothing but gore" then fine, that's his opinion, and you have some wierd pet peeves if one of your peeves involves other peoples opinions not matching your own. How should game writers adress that. Search the internet and decide "Well this guy liked the game. So I guess it was a ground breaking, visceral experience even though I didn't get that at all." Nah man. He did it right. Not riding his nuts, just sayin haha.
Posted by StillVictor

I'm playing this game right now and I'm loving it. I must be halfway through. I have to agree with Alex's review, though - it's a 3 star game. 
 
I really like the combat, it feels simple enough but still challenging. The dialogue between the mask and Rick is awesome. I like the setting and the story so far. The fact that I like metal also helps a little.
 
It has technical issues. Frame rate is inconsistent, there are sound glitches, the platforming parts are trial and error, and so are the side scrolling sections of the game. Checkpoints are weirdly placed, forcing you to redo large portions of the game after dying, occasionally. Load times are way too long.
 
None of those issues are game breakers for me. I'm willing to tolerate them, since I love the good parts. But based on my experience, the review is spot on.

Posted by JackSukeru

Did not expect a review of this game. I always love the concept of a guy being forced to borrow powers from a self-serving demon, but from what I saw in the quicklook, I think I'd get sick of the combat pretty much right away.

Posted by Krystal_Sackful
@mazik765: 
Yo, nah.
Posted by DrPockets000

Alex, your journalistic style is fantastic.  I love reading the stuff you write.

Posted by EgoCheck616

I thought the quick look made the game look pretty good. Sure, it has some issues.  
People said the same thing about Just Cause 2 and it didn't stop me from spending 70hrs getting the platinum on it. 
 
I'll have to check this out when the price dips a little bit.

Posted by Scrawnto
@Rasgueado said:
" Just like he says... it's alright. Not too good, but not terrible. It took half of the first level for me to recognize the voice of Minsc from Baldur's Gate. There were a few times when I almost thought it sounded like the voice of Caleb, but since he posted a link to Jim's credits, I guess not. "
Oh man! I was trying so hard to figure out where I had heard that voice. It's funny, I started playing Baldur's Gate again, and I just recruited Minsc.
Posted by Hayamo

I would personally give this game a 4, but I don't disagree with your points. I just had more fun with it I guess. The thing that seems to be left out is the very tongue and cheek story. It is very aware of how generic it truly is and doesn't really try to surprise you because it knows you won't be. My favorite part though is having Darkwing Duck insulting me throughout the entirety of the game.

Posted by GetEveryone

The first image is a terrible mess of red. I have no idea what's going on, but its fucking messy.

Posted by bybeach

I`ll never touch this game, but from the QL the review has the ring of truth. It is probably a competent game. And mind you, my nose isn't totally up in the air, I liked Manhunt..and I may even check out the QL for a bit again because I'm bored at the moment. 
 
But I would never spend money on this...I'm kind of like what that mask thinks of  Rick. I'm waiting for a steam sale for Torchlight...thats what I want to buy.

Posted by Vitor

God Dammit Navarro, it's about time you got your own set of score related avatars.  
 
I'm sure the fine folks over at screened.com wouldn't mind - your moonlighting is hardly top secret information.

Posted by Wuddel
@RobotHamster said:
" Navarro needs his own cartoon pictures for his reviews. "
This.
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