Reviews - Multi Platform
Written by Jayce Diaz Thursday, January 13 2011 19:53
Way back during the golden years of cartridge-based gaming, the idea of ripping an opponent's arm off or shredding them to pieces with a bladed weapon seemed completely outrageous. Then along came the likes of Splatterhouse and Mortal Kombat, and everything changed.
Flash forward a few console generations and here we are with a remake of the fabled Splatterhouse, complete with copious amounts of blood. Going from studio to studio during development, it's acceptable to be worried about the overall quality of a game that puts gore and dismemberment above all other elements of design. As history shows, a turbulent development process almost always leads to a half-baked product.
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
Developer: Namco Bandai Games, Bottle Rocket
Platform: Xbox 360/PS3 (Reviewed)
Let's be clear about one thing with Splatterhouse; it had so much potential to be a great game. If it was handled correctly, it might have even sparked resurgence in the beat 'em up genre for a new generation. It really is that ambitious of a title. However, the entire game lacks any sort of polish or refinement. What we're ultimately left with is a sometimes–pretty, sometimes fun game that is so frustrating and cheap that it isn't worth waiting for the numerous 15-25 second load screens to finish.
The premise of Splatterhouse is simple enough. You fill the shoes of Rick, a scrawny college student who accompanies his unusually attractive girlfriend to her professor's evil-looking mansion. Once there, the good doctor appears with demonic monsters that waste no time in tearing your mortal body to shreds. Lying in a pool of your own blood, you crawl over to a strange-looking mask that was knocked over in the shuffle. You put it on and – wait for it – you become a hulking powerhouse that loves to rip monsters apart with his bare hands. And thus begins your never-ending quest to save your girlfriend.
The plot is light enough and stays out of the line of fire in regards to gaining the players attention, though this actually works in the game's favor. The demonic mask has a mind of its own, and loves to occasionally poke fun of Rick's plight and even the game itself. The mask is not shy of breaking the fourth wall from time to time, and his dialog is mostly top-notch, if a little repetitive.
My main complaint with the writing is everything that isn't mask-centric. Rick, the monsters, and the stereotypical mad scientist villain all act and sound excruciatingly bad. Despite transforming into a massive death-dealing brute, Rick still sounds like a skinny nerd, which provides an uncomfortable contrast during dialog-ridden cutscenes. The music is a blend of generic metal and punk that at its best is simply forgotten. Sound effects and music will often fail to play, requiring a reload of the latest save to start up again. Moreover, the voice actor for the Mask itself is Jim Cummings whom, while commendable in his abilities, is also the man behind Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, and Monterey Jack from Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers. It's an unusual way to have your childhood abused when you hear this iconic voice actor openly discuss anal sex and masturbation.
The game is a mixed bag graphically. Rick looks fantastic as he smashes through enemies, getting literally torn to shreds in the process. Being able to see your own bones and organs behind ripped flesh is very cool, and some of the monster designs are visually interesting. However, there are only a handful of different types of enemies (albeit reskinned for each stage), and they all share certain animations and sequences. For example, Rick can perform "splatterkill" finishers – essentially context-sensitive fatalities - on every non-boss enemy. However, there are only about six of them in total, so taking the time to rip someone's head off becomes painfully dull after a short while. Halfway in, you'll avoid these like the plague. The game sports an on-again, off again relationship with cel-shading that actually uglies the game a bit when it pops up. The environments, while well-crafted and interesting, ultimately become nothing more than corridors and arenas.
The shining gem in the coal mine here is the actual gameplay. The act of smashing up foes can be a real treat, especially when you get to do it with a weapon. Shed enough monster blood, and you can become an even more jacked version of yourself, dealing massive damage to the enemy fodder around you. The game is broken up into three core types of gameplay: multi-directional 3D exploration (think God of War), side-scrolling platformer, and arena/boss battle fights. The game does a good enough job of switching back and forth between them, though the exploration bits can go on for far too long. The combat was still entertaining several hours in, which can't be said for other aspects of this game. Boss battles, however, are a major disappointment. There is no tactic beyond punch, punch, punch. You shouldn't be able to take down a seven-story tall monster simply by beating up his foot.
Unfortunately, the game is plagued with a series of problems outside of audio/video. The game can take an unusually long time to load, going from 15 seconds to well over 30 for no apparent reason. Also, while playing on the PS3, the game would freeze and crash...a lot. Save points are far and few between, which when coupled with the games' absurd length, make for the occasional excruciating replay. Some animations don't work as planned, causing enemies to shake violently or even fall through the floor. Collision detection falters during battles with hordes of monsters. This can make objectives like impaling enemies onto spikes to progress completely impossible. Worst of all, expect to be attacked and even knocked into death-dealing bottomless pits during cut scenes. This happened way too much in one particular boss battle during my playthrough, where the minions of a giant worm would attack you during its cinematic entrance. If the game insists on taking the controller away from the player as much as it does, it could at least ensure that you won't be killed the instant it gives it back. Even the Splatterkills resulted in unnecessary player deaths. It's frustrating, and requires the players to sit through painful loading screens.
Splatterhouse is a fine example of a game that just needed more time. Truth be told, the game could be about three or even five hours shorter than it actually is. It's not varied enough to sustain its length. Additionally, the random bugs and peculiar design choices will turn off most gamers. Still, the game does work better than most would think, and if you have the patience for cheap death and load screens, you might even be pleasantly surprised. If perhaps left in more capable hands, a Splatterhouse 2 would be well worth waiting for.
Splatterhouse also features additional downloadable content. Two of such DLC packages come in the form of arena-based survival modes, named "House of Mirrors", and "Heart of the Mansion", respectively. Mirrors gives you access to a powerful shotgun, while Mansion is home to an organic-looking chainsaw. Neither weapon is particularly noteworthy, and the survival mode itself isn't exactly interesting. Fans of the full game may get a kick out of the additional gore, but everything you could possibly get out of this (or any) DLC from the game is already contained in spades in the original game.
58 out of 100