Splatterhouse is still in good hands

We were shocked to hear about Namco Bandai’s sudden move to take the remaining production of Splatterhouse from developer BottleRocket, especially since we just spoke with co-producers (at Namco Bandai) Mark Brown and Dan Tovar at Comic Con about how important the title was to them. We’ve been trying to get the low-down and confirm if the team behind Afro Samurai were indeed taking over development, but no one seems to want to talk about it. We, however, still want to write about Splatterhouse rather than wait around for rumor confirmations.

For those that didn’t fall in love with Splatterhouse when it first hit arcades or with one of the three console games, here is a brief history lesson. Splatterhouse was first released in in 1988 with more dismemberment and various viscera than the then nonexistent ESRB would know what to do with. Even the first port onto the Turbografix-16 had a “parental advisory warning” on it, so you know its good. While some young gamers like myself had to sneak playing it on a home console (if you’re reading this, sorry mom), gamers like Mark Brown got hooked at the arcades. Brown brags that he was the kind of kid that “saw The Exorcist at the tender age of five-years-old” and quickly pumped all of his quarters into Splatterhouse. “It was the first horror game that I really thought stood out to me.”

Years later Brown started working for Namco and knew from the day he walked in the door that he wanted to resurrect his old addiction. He wasn’t the only one. In fact there was a PS1 project for Splatterhouse that fell through years ago. This was a good thing though because the design bordered on the cartoon and that would have been unworthy of the series. As it is, the producers have been working closely with the ESRB to push the Splatterosity as far as they can and still maintain an ‘M’ rating saying, “The name of the game is Splatterhouse and we need to live up to that name.”

Splatterhouse has a classic premise of a mad scientist, creepy mansion, kidnapped girlfriend and heroic boyfriend. Gordon Rennie, acclaimed horror comic writer, novelist and script writer for Killzone and Rogue Trooper, is on board to flesh out the story for the remake. Most of his attention seems to have been spent on mad scientist Dr. West, protagonist Rick Taylor and the Mask that gives Rick his power. Dr. West, who never physically appeared in the original game, has been given a reason for creating or summoning all of the evil Rick must face. He is trying to resurrect his wife, which to him is worth sacrificing the entire world if he had to, which brings to light the moral question of how far is too far.

Similarly Rick has that same choice because the longer he wears the Mask, the more of himself he looses. In the original game no real story was given for the Mask–it was just there. Here it becomes a new character, but we’re still not being told what it has to do with Dr. West. We do know that it was a sacrificial mask used by the Aztecs, but it didn’t stop there. Absorbing knowledge and personalities from those that wore it before, the Mask has a mind of its own, splitting Rick into two different characters. One the devoted lover, who is willing to sacrifice himself body and soul, and then the bloodthirsty and oft malevolent Mask, which will be voiced by Jim Cummings. Most of the dialogue comes from these two arguing, so it should be hilarious.

The Mask turns Rick into a mini-hulk who, in this new game, looks like if he punched something it would explode. Brown said this was important in staying true to the series. Splatterhouse came out before the survivor horror genre. Players don’t need to worry about ammo or typewriters. Rick is ment to wade into the fray and rip monsters apart, using their heads and legs as weapons. Before a few hits would kill him, but now he shows damage by how much flesh or limbs he has lost. Stand away from the battle long enough and the Mask will heal him. If the trailers haven’t been enough to convince that this game is going to be a bloody good time then picture this very real scenario: monsters gang up on Rick and one rips off his arm, which soon regenerates. Players can then pick up Rick’s old arm and use it to club the bastards that tore it off.

The original game was heavily influenced by ’80s horror flicks. The first game made players feel like they were playing as Jason Voorhees with the hockey mask and Rick’s seam splitting muscles. The same holds true for the remake, though for copyright reasons the Friday the 13th look won’t be coming back. Adding to the skin crawling or scream inducing horror developers were also influenced by more modern horror franchises such as Evil Dead, Dead Alive, Machine Girl, Tokyo Gore Police and even Planet Terror.

We’ve stated before that Splatterhouse looks like it has taken inspiration from God of War and Prince of Persia. Brown confirmed those but added RE4, The Mark of Kri, and Dead Rising. Gameplay is linear and gives plenty of opportunities for platforming, brawling and huge boss battles. With the right elements taken from these games rolled into one, the gore won’t be the only thing to look forward to.

Another major influence on this remake is music. Brown said he and Tover would “have many a late night drinking beer and thinking of ways to torture Rick.” Usually they’d be listening to the Grammy-nominated metal band Mastodon. Their epic albums, heavy music and lyrics inspired them so much that they brought Mastodon to the studio and convinced them to put their music in the game. The main track for the game comes off their new album Crack the Skye, which comes out Mar. 24. At the beginning of the game Rick will be wearing a Mastodon shirt in tribute.

Existing fans can expect to see returning characters like Biggy Man and classic weapons like the 2×4, chainsaw, meat cleaver and shotgun will all be back as well. Everything has been taken to the next level for this 3D remake. Even the mansion has been given new life with portals to transport Rick to new environments. One of these new stages is a closed carnival. “The thought of having zombie clowns was way too tempting.” The gameplay will stick to the single-player format and plenty of DLC has been promised. Also everyone on the team is trying to include all of the original games, so at least we can be sure to see those in a collector’s edition.

This remake brings a lot of new elements to the series and both Brown and Tovar want to make sure their doing things right. They’ve even been in touch with the original creator who still works for Namco in Japan. “Even working for the company, we’re still kind of fanboys and we try to tell him how much we loved the game he made back then,” said Tovar. So far he has liked what he’s seen and so have fans like us; and we can’t wait to get our hands on all the splatterawesomeness later this year.