Hoping to release a product closer to the latter, Namco Bandai tasked BottleRocket with crafting a remake of Splatterhouse--the 1988 arcade, horror game. Early last year, Namco Bandai abruptly pulled BottleRocket from the project and assigned the game to their internal development team, with only a few of the original developers remaining on the project. After the numerous delays that resulted from this shake-up, Splatterhouse has finally arrived.
This remake tries to appeal to fans of the original by bringing back series' protagonist, Rick Taylor. The story finds him working to rescue his girlfriend from the clutches of the nefarious Dr. Henry West with the aid of the ultra-violent Terror Mask. While this may strike a chord for fans of the original franchise, how well does it do in bringing in new fans? I, personally, have never played the original Splatterhouse, so this is my first time with the franchise. Now, having run through it, I can honestly say I don't see much appeal in it.
The first thing I noticed is that this game is incredibly gory. From the opening cutscene, I was exposed to vast amounts of bloodshed and that carries through right on into the game. There's so much blood that it'll often spill directly onto the camera. The game does try and use the excess blood as a game mechanic through unique "Splatterkills", performed through quick time events involving both analog sticks, that result in gallons of blood. There's nothing wrong with copious amounts of blood in a horror game, but it quickly becomes too much. After a few levels of watching blood splatter around nonstop, it became painfully clear to me that Splatterhouse offers very little, in terms of substance.
Strip away the game's gore factor and what's left is an average--at best--beat 'em up brawler. The core of the game comes down to beating up bad guys and Splatterhouse doesn't offer up anything particularly innovative to spruce that up. While I was able to clear out waves of enemies with a variety of weapons or by going into Berserker mode, which unleashes the power of the Terror Mask turning Rick into an unstoppable behemoth, I quickly found myself reduced to button mashing to get through any given area. No matter how many enemies were on-screen, mashing the attack buttons would clear out a group of monsters in no time. Only the boss fights required any degree of strategy and even those became fairly easy once I figured out the attack patterns.
The game includes a system for upgrading Rick's attributes, but since I resorted to button mashing, I simply chose to upgrade Rick's health and quick attacks as nothing else seemed needed to complete my task. Worse yet, once I gave in to the instinct of button mashing, I began repeatedly missing Splatterkill opportunities, as I was too busy trying to survive to really enjoy one of the game's few unique features. Once I eventually became desensitized by the flood of blood and guts, it became obvious that, for a horror game, Splatterhouse isn't as scary as it is plainly gross. While I appreciated the idea of collecting excess blood in order to upgrade attributes, it became clear that this game was just offering gore for gore's sake.
BOOM video 5596
What is truly horrifying about this game are the frighteningly long load times that I would run into without installing the game. Getting into levels can take a while, but the longest load times seem to come after dying. Opting to continue left me waiting for well over a minute and the animated loading screen would often lag as the game struggled to get me back to my last checkpoint.
There are games out there that can balance large amounts of gore with an engaging plot and innovative gameplay. The God of War and Resident Evil series both come to mind as personal examples. To me, they ramp up the volume of blood without falling victim to showcasing repetitive gameplay or a dull plot. Splatterhouse fails to reach this level. It tries to use blood and gore to compensate for a poor core experience and, sadly, I found the the results to be boring.
While I didn't grow up on the original series, it's possible those who did will find something here to keep them interested. For those committed to venturing down this path, the game rewards you with all three original arcade Splatterhouse titles.
Recently, it seems that reboots and revivals are all the rage, so it's not surprising Nacmo would reach back and pluck out an old franchise to give it a current-gen face-lift. Splatterhouse falls into the same category as the retail Bionic Commando revival--a series that may have been better left to the world of memories.
This review is based on a retail copy of Splatterhouse for the Xbox 360, provided by Namco Bandai.