Review / Splatterhouse (Xbox 360)

Blood, gore, severed limbs and lacerations. If the thought of drowning in a tide of red stuff puts a twisted smile on your face, you might just like Splatterhouse. The modern reboot of a 16-bit “classic,” this is a game that revels in schlocky, ultra-violent juvenilia. But if you’re unmoved by splashy viscera, it’s an uninspired experience. Because beneath the ripped flesh and twitching spinal columns, Splatterhouse is pretty ordinary. A simple hack ‘n slasher, there’s plenty of breadth, but not much depth to anything but the blood.

You are Rick Taylor, a nerdy 20-something who has his girlfriend stolen away and is left to die by the demented Dr. West. With his guts spilling out all over the floor, Rick has just moments to live. His only chance of surviving is to don the Jason Vorhees-esque Terror Mask. Transforming him into a bulky killing-machine, the mask allows Rick the chance to rescue his girlfriend from the Dr’s grotesque monster-filled mansion. There’s just one catch; the Terror Mask needs blood. Lots of it.

You start out with a light attack and a charged heavy attack, along with a grab that allows you to grasp one of the Dr’s monster army and kick them with a squidgy splat against the wall. But that’s just the start. By collecting blood you can add a plethora of new moves, combos and dashes to your repertoire. From grabs that allow you to swing enemies around your head, to scything charges, there’s plenty of variation. There’s no denying that Splatterhouse offers a solid move-set.

By far the most interesting moves, however, are the Splatter Kills. Horrifically nasty, these are QTEs that see you ripping bodies in half, tearing out internal organs and jamming your arm up monster rectums, amongst other things. They’ll make you chuckle. The first few times, anyway. By the end you’ll just be hoping there was a skip button.

The mansion is crawling with the Dr’s grotesque creatures. Capable of ripping you to shreds with just a few vicious swipes, they offer quite the challenge. As do the creatively brutal, hulking bosses. Fittingly, considering the source material, Splatterhouse is uncompromisingly tough.

Take too much damage and lumps of flesh will be sliced, scratched and torn from your body, exposing bones and organs. Expending some of the blood from your collection you can regain health from the monsters surrounding you, a process that involves… I’m not sure. But it looks nasty. Sinews are ripped out of your enemies and you kind of suck the health in through them. It’s suitably grim.

On and on you trudge through the mansion, with the sardonic mask narrating, cajoling and contributing the odd chucklesome fourth-wall breaking quip. You hack and slash at everything in sight with a selection of spikey bats, planks of wood, meat cleavers and even the series’ iconic chainsaw. Occasionally your arm will fall off which can then be used to bash your aggressors over the head with it, too. But regardless of the implementation, the monsters routinely explode with a constant, numbing amount of blood and gore.

All of which is decently executed. It only goes terribly wrong in the 2D platforming sections, especially the earlier ones. Included both as a nod to the original game and – presumably – to offer relief from the monster-pulping, they are utterly frustrating. The instant-deaths, crappy jumping and long reload times combine to wipe out any cheery, juvenile goodwill you may have for the rest of the game.

It’s a shame because, elsewhere, care and attention has been lavished on Splatterhouse. There’s a sizable amount of content on offer, with challenge modes and different masks, as well as a series of collectibles – pieces of a nudey picture of your girlfriend – dotted around the mansion. The two original Splatterhouse games are on the disc too. You won’t be short of content.

But, ultimately, beyond the lashings of blood, there is little to get genuinely excited about with Splatterhouse. Only those with a real love of the series’ roots, or a penchant for ultra-violent gore, will find pleasure in the game’s ocean of blood. A solidly efficient game – aside from those 2D parts – Splatterhouse fails to match up to its genre counterparts. Better brawling experiences can be found elsewhere.

+ Plenty of fan-service to the original
+ Combat offers some grizzly thrills
+ The Terror Mask’s running commentary is wonderfully tongue-in-cheek

– Violence gimmick wears off quick
– Horrible platforming sections
– Dull, old-school level design