Friday, July 11, 2014

Splatterhouse (2010) review

    Sort of like Devil May Cry, except not as fun. Or fun at all, really.  Splatterhouse (2010) is a game I really should have enjoyed but, unfortunately, has proven to be disappointment to my horror aficionado self. This really should be right up my ally but the gameplay is atrocious, the levels are linear, and even the relatively simple storytelling bugs me. There's much to like with Splatterhouse but, sadly, it's lost under a pile of bad game decisions.

    The premise of Splatterhouse is the oldest one in gaming (well, after Pong). There's a villain, he's stolen your girlfriend, get him back. The particulars are the character is "Doctor West" in an homage to H.P. Lovecraft's Herbert West: Re-animator and the woman is named Jessica, but they could be Dracula and Princess Peach for all their concern to the plot. There's also the minor detail you're only able to fight down the hordes of monsters inside West Mansion due to possession the "Terror Mask" which gives you the power of Jason Voorhees.

The gore and cartoonish graphics are kind of strange.
     Trust me, it sounds cooler than it is.

    The original Splatterhouse (1988) was innovative in its day given it was a side-scrolling beat-em-up which didn't scrimp out on the gore or the fact it blatantly homaged many R-rated horror movies which adolescents like myself were watching religiously. Unfortunately, it had its downsides like the fact its typical "Damsel in Distress" plot culminated in being forced to murder your girlfriend because she's become a monster.

    The 2010 version is still the same old tired plot but, thankfully, removes the element of being forced to kill your girlfriend because she's turned evil. Instead, it's a standard rescue plot. Oh and you also have the option of collection fragments of CGI naked (or barely dressed) pictures of Jennifer.

The chief collectible. M-kay. Well, at least, she's got style.
    Yes, I'm serious. The cartoonishly gory and goofy game uses softcore porn to sell it. Which, to be fair, does fit with the series' Friday the 13th roots but feels like they went for very different fandoms here.

     There's also a weird sort of dissonance to the game. The developers make protagonist Rick into a heroic good guy, the animation is cartoony, and the Terror Mask is voiced by Jim Cummings a.k.a Pete from Goof Troop and about a thousand other children's show characters from my childhood. This is dissonant because of the aforementioned nudity, the hideous monsters shown writhing every cutscene, the heavy metal soundtrack, and several moments of horrific gore. To say the game is tonally inconsistent is understating matters.

     Then there's the fact the game just isn't fun to play. Call me crazy but when wielding the power of Jason Voorhees, I want to feel like a badass. The controls are awkward, combos not terribly much fun, and the monsters are able to tear you apart rather easily.

A shotgun, even a huge shotgun, is not a Slasher weapon.
    In order to kill the majority of monsters quickly, there's a quicktime event involving the sticks which I found difficult to master. Even if you were so inclined to collect the risque pictures of Jennifer (who IS quite well-drawn), the game is entirely linear so you can't explore at your leisure. It's not like Assassin's Creed where you can collect them at your leisure.

    Despite this, I'm still going to give it some credit. The game was obviously made by people who loved the material and wanted to make a good game. I reserve my lowest scores for people who attempt to release crap and charge you for it or games with wrong messages.

    Jennifer, for all her being a literal pinup girl, is portrayed as an intelligent and likable young woman who I would have enjoyed meeting in real-life. The graphics in the game are awesome too and it seems like West Mansion would have been a great place to explore. Heck, they even throw the original games in with the Xbox version.

    It's just there's too much is wrong with this game to recommend it. I enjoyed the original Splatterhouse games and found them to be a fun arcade experience. However, this game didn't really know what sort of tone to pursue and as such it came off as incredibly campy. There's some decent campy horror movies out there but a more serious tone might have helped the game.


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