There hasn't been a Splatterhouse game for quite some time, with Splatterhouse 3, the last installment into the franchise, appearing on the Sega Mega Drive in 1993. Bearing this in mind, Namco Bandai thought they would revive the franchise and take it back to its roots, so this title is a huge reboot of the original, which appeared in 1988. The result is a rather interesting and certainly more bloody affair. In fact, this game probably contains has more blood than anything else.
The plot is quite similar to the original, but only in its premise. After that, it doesn't really bear any similarity. You take the role of Rick, a University student who's going to meet with Dr. West. He's only going though, because Dr. West specifically asked to meet with his girlfriend Jennifer. Things don't turn out too well for Rick though, as Dr. West kidnaps his girl and he's brutally stabbed by one of Dr. West's allies.
There's salvation for Rick though, as he knocks into a sarcophagus while being hurled through the air and inside is a mask. Rick puts on the mask, becomes a super human and sets out to save the love of his life.
You'll be hard pushed to find any tear jerking moments throughout, but given the fact you're a huge hulk ripping the limbs off of demonic beasts, if you're looking for a story with large amounts of depth, you're probably looking in the wrong place. Instead, Splatterhouse does provide a witty dialogue between Rick and the mask and it'll occasionally score a smirk. Most of the time it's just there for filler, much like the story. In other words, you'll probably just ignore it and prepare for the next action scene.
Initially, the game might seem a bit unforgiving. But that's only if you play it like you'd expect to play a normal beat 'em up. The reason for this is that despite being a huge hulk of a man, you'll still take a considerable amount of damage when you're hit and to top this off, you'll often find yourself surrounded by numerous enemies. Just using the standard attacks won't do you much good here.
To make things even worse, you can get your limbs chopped off. And while you can then use said limbs as weapons, it can become quite a hinderance to only have one arm as you can't evade, do as much damage, or run quickly. Fortunately this regenerates over time.
The key to success in Splatterhouse is obviously, don't get hit. But it's just as much about maintaining your Necro Bar and using your abilities wisely. There are four main abilities which you'll learn throughout, the first of which allows you to leech health from nearby enemies - getting pummelled now makes a little bit more sense.
You'll also get a Berserker move, which requires a little bit more of the Necro Bar. However, it restores your health and allows you to do crazy damage until your bar runs our, or you un-toggle it. The latter moves, Slash and Splash, are more one-time things. They only use one bar of the Necro Bar, but they will do large amounts of damage to anything in range.
Now, to fill up your Necro Bar, you need to procure blood. This can be achieved by stepping on Blood Worms, but the most common way is to pummel enemies using your standard attacks. The more violent the kill, the more blood you'll gain from your foes' rotting corpse. It's a very tasteful system and it's also used for upgrading your character with new moves, more health and more access to weapons - of which there are a nice selection.
Many beat 'em ups suffer from fatigue, because you'll just be mashing the same buttons again for hours, and Splatterhouse suffers from this too. It tries to counteract it with a variety in the enemies and some novel puzzle elements, but you'll still end up just mashing your two attacks until you get enough for a special move. The developers also attempted to break things up with the inclusion of some throwbacks to the original titles which aren't that welcome.
Every so often, you'll find yourself in a side-scrolling section. And the more they happen, the more unnecessary they feel. It's nice that the developers can pay homage to the original titles, but they add nothing to the game and in fact, probably disconnect the core gaming experience. The platforming elements, both in the side-scrolling sections, and in the main part of the game, are also horrendous. You'll probably die more times on these than you will from enemies.
The camera can also be quite a pain as it seems to want to wrestle with you quite a lot of the time. It's rather rigid and it doesn't seem to like being moved, unless it's on its own terms. This can lead to situations where you'll be stuck against a wall being ground to a pulp - not fun. Graphically the game isn't too bad though and the fact Rick's body gets deformed when he's hurt is a nice touch. The voice acting can also be quite funny in parts. Oh, and it's probably the most gory game of this generation, which makes sense given the prominence blood has to the gameplay mechanics.
Each phase of the game will take around 30 minutes, with the overall experience clocking in at around 6 hours. But there's at least some form of replay value in the form of Survival Mode. There are quite a few of these to choose from and they'll pit you against 20 waves of increasingly hard enemies. On top of this, there are secret challenges that you'll need to perform, like, don't take damage for a minute. Through doing these and throughout the main story, there are also some saucy pictures of Rick's girlfriend to find.
Splatterhouse is a pretty decent beat 'em up and at times, it's quite a lot of fun. However, it's really let down by some poor design decisions, like the inclusion of the side-scrolling sections and it's difficult to understand why. It's a remake of the original title, but that doesn't mean it had to reference it so heavily like that when the rest of the gameplay has been brought up to date. Either way, if you're a fan of beat 'em ups, Splatterhouse will keep you entertained for a little while.