Review: Splatterhouse (PS3)
Release Date: November 23rd 2010
Publisher: Namco Bandai
It’s been 23 years since Splatterhouse first donned the hockey-mask as an arcade carnival attraction. The new 2010 reheat of the classic arcade brawler is a throwback. I wish I could say that I use the term throwback to imply a game with a legacy, or even a charming glimpse to what video games were like during the end of the Reagan era – but I can’t. Splatterhouse is a throwback. Sort of like a trout with gill rot and roundworms squirming out of its ass is a throwback.
This is a fish you leave in the pond. You certainly wouldn’t ever think of taking it home and tossing it into the fryer.
I know that Namco Bandai was betting the bank that a few of us elder gamesmen would buy into the nostalgia of their new Splatterhouse title. I know I certainly wanted to. And maybe if they would have put a bit more into this arcade beat em’ up other than blood, boobs, and blood spattered boobs, we just might have got on board with the concept and enjoyed it for what it was.
As it stands this is a game that will take all of the finely tuned refinements of your Duel Shock 3 controller – which is now 17 years into its delicate evolution – and turn them into an instrument every bit as blunt and uncivilized as Splatterhouse’s hulking protagonist Rick. Splatterhouse asks you to forget any complex finger training you may have mastered during years of playing tighter and better put together titles in your PlayStation library and just focus on the three buttons that will be your ticket through to the end of the game. Square is your quick attack. Triangle your heavy. Hit circle to grab something by the neck and choose between light and heavy attacks to beat it to death.
Rick is a seven foot tall head-banger who is limited to understanding a few meager concepts and simple ideas at any one moment – his game is no different. The ancient mask he dons – the voice wheezing and coughing inside his head and ours – reminds him that all he needs to do in life is to kill and kill again. To punch. To Grab. Stomp. Thrash. Beat repeatedly with whatever boards, meat cleavers, or battering weapons are laying around. Do this for five or six hours straight to a handful of goons and boss level goons… welcome to Rick’s world.
Welcome to Rick’s game.
Which wouldn’t have been a necessarily awful concept if the game had been a fifteen dollar download on the PlayStation Store – or it had been anywhere near gratuitous enough to warrant a hard “Mature” rating to put the game into the “Cult Status” of other snuff titles like Paradox’s Thrill Kill or Running With Scissors’ Postal games. At least at that point – no matter how fugged-up the gameplay might be – we’d still have an honest-to-god collectible to add to our game collection. But even Splatterhouse’s sex and splatter are nothing more than blunt tools. This isn’t the hard stuff that adults are used to drowning their systems with two shots at a time. Discovering sex and violence in Splatterhouse is like popping the lock off your father’s liquor cabinet and finding it full of out-of-date Seagram’s Wine Coolers… or worse, a case of Sparks energy drinks.
If you’re fourteen you’ll likely pound this juvenile crap and wring out every drop you can ingest into your developing system – praying for a buzz no matter how sick the saccharine alcohol is making your stomach feel. But if you’re actually from and are familiar with the 80′s era – which means that you’re exactly old enough to be part of the TARGET DEMOGRAPHIC Splatterhouse was designed for – you’ve probably aged far enough in life to know that a few boobs, a hundred and fifty gallons of digital blood and guts, and a roving neanderthal beating the same eight creatures to death with his bare hands isn’t worth your sixty dollars or the seven hours it might take to complete the process. No matter how kick-ass the soundtrack might be.
One last deal-breaker for this game is it’s pretty much broken in places. The side-scrolling additions would have been acceptable if there weren’t a major gap between controller input and on-screen locomotion. If any game can imitate the devastating effects of Parkinson’s disease – it’s this game. Prepare to die, and die wholesale during these frustrating sequences as Rick lurches, slides, stops too short, and runs too far, only to get crushed or chopped in half repeatedly.
Also, Splatterhouse has this bizarre “slow-motion” bug in places. When I’d go to pull off any one of the game’s bigger, better moves Rick would suddenly grind down to underwater speed as would the rest of the game around him. The only cure???? Reset button baby. This happened to me at least eight or nine times during my run through Splatterhouse.
Splatterhouse does have a few things that might keep the average gamer swinging Rick’s hulking arms for a few hours longer than maybe his game deserves. The soundtrack rocks. We’ll cover this below in the audio portion of this review. It does get something right that I wish other games – let’s face it, much better games – in this genre should take note of. It’s pretty gawdamn easy to level up Rick in this game. You’ll be able to buy some of the big boy’s better grapples and moves pretty early on in the play cycle. Take it from a guy who’s played all five God of War games – it would be so much less deflating if we were allowed to purchase the exact same package of Kratos’ L1/Triangle moves in the first third of his games instead of during the final three hours of every single GOW title.
If a dickhead like Rick can figure out some of his better holds and tackles four hours before ancient Greece’s immortal God of War…? Hmmmm…
Still, we’re a long way from making anyone responsible for the outstanding God of War series green with envy with this new Splatterhouse game. Easy upgrades be damned.
There’s something charming about Rick himself. I don’t know if it’s the combination of stoner-shorts, wallet chain, and five hundred pounds of mutated man meat – but it kind of works visually. Sort of like Phil Anselmo would work as a WWE wrestler with the right combination of heavy metal bombast and white trash fashion sense.
The backgrounds in this game all blend into one long, laborious nightmare of hallway and bedroom touring. As if the ghost of Ronnie James Dio were taking us on an estate tour of his 300 room villa in hell’s countryside. If it’s not drenched in blood – then it ain’t so much fun to look at. I’m including Splatterhouse’s ragtag collection of enemies and ghouls in that last statement.
High on Fire. Mastodon. The Accused. Lamb of God. The soundtrack wants to kick some ass even if the game its representing wouldn’t know how to. The sound effects need only do a few things: splatter, splash, and drip wetly when the violence subsides… which it does abundantly. The voice acting sort of melds into that same mentality.
Splatterhouse doesn’t have it. Probably wouldn’t have played it if it did have it.
Splatterhouse wears out its welcome not too far after your body and mind might subconsciously readjust to the weight of sixty dollars missing from your wallet. For once it’ll be easy for an adult American male to understand the value of his money. It was good money while you had it… too bad it was traded for seven hours of sexual retardation and gore so chopped up and choppy it quickly became tiresome and meaningless.
Splatterhouse is repetitive and broken. Save yourself some time and finance and just download the game’s soundtrack on iTunes for a much more painless 9.99$. Then run around your bedroom ripping pages out of old issues of Playboy magazine, punching and gutting pillows and furniture as the music screams in the background. The aura you create will be similar to a night hacking through this new adaptation of Splatterhouse.
The only difference is that you’ll still have fifty dollars sitting in your back pocket – unless of course, you’re in need of a new wallet-chain…