When you hear all the (bad) news about how the government and parents are trying to ban and/or censor violence in videogames, it kind of makes you think what the hell these parents were doing when games like Splatterhouse originally came out back in 1988. Splatterhouse was a gaming milestone, in my opinion, that paved the way for gruesome beat-’em-ups such as Zombie Revenge on the Dreamcast, but also paid homage to the horror/sci-fi film industry in ways that games fail to do nowadays.
Splatterhouse takes place in a nameless town in a building called the West Mansion. Over time, this place came to be known as the “Splatterhouse” due to its parapsychologist host, Dr. West, creating some of the most vile creatures known to Namco at the time of production. Being parapsychologist majors themselves (who knew there were so many?), Rick (our soon-to-be-masked hero) and Jennifer (the soon-to-be-missing girlfriend) visit the “empty” West Mansion as part of their research. Upon entering the house that West built, all goes dark and Rick wakes up bloody, alone, and masked. This homage to the Friday the 13th films gives Rick the strength he needs to get through numerous levels of mutant ownage and find his missing arm-piece.
The TurboGrafx-16 controllers much resemble NES controllers, in that there is only a D-pad and two action buttons. This limits our new best friend to only having a “jump” and an “attack” command, but this is really all he needs. As for Rick’s offensive, the kid is pretty much a panty-waist in later levels unless he equips himself with (what I like to call) “friends”. Without the help of his trusty equalizers, he is sadly limited to punching, low kicking, and jump kicking.
To even things out, Rick can pick up various melee weapons that are automatically dropped when he is attacked or, when he needs to, climb or descend a ladder to progress the game further. Also along the way are various firearms and one-time-use throwing items such as wrenches, etc. These become your best friends later, as you will find yourself on the receiving end of a zombie sex train and will need to defend yourself from afar.
The difficulty of the game goes from being about amateur to “OMGWTF!”-hard as soon as a certain boss fight occurs. Otherwise, the levels themselves consist of walking, jumping, and bringing down the hammer of justice to mutant baddies.
The soundtrack itself does a great job emulating generic spooky effects and an Evil Dead-ish atmosphere. No specific track really stands out, but while you are actually playing, it does a good job keeping up the pace; it’s just nothing to write home about.
As for graphics, I personally feel that the TG16 system itself was overlooked by gamers too much. Some games look great for their time, and Splatterhouse is a great case to prove my point. It didn’t sell very well, but it looks and plays as solid as any linear 2D beat-’em-up game. Sure, the ability to move up and down and the non-linear mazes in the later Splatterhouse installments on the Sega Genesis gave the game more breathing room; but let’s not forget where we started, okay?
Overall, the animations are decent, the gore is balls-out and the game is a blast no matter how old it is. What I would have liked to see to improve the game (and most likely increase the overall sale of the game) would have been to include a two-player co-op mode. The story is already corny enough that throwing another parapsychology major into the group wouldn’t have hurt anyone except Jennifer (*chuckle*).
If all 12 of you people who purchased TG16s still have them and don’t already own a copy of Splatterhouse…shame on you. If you were smart enough not to buy a system doomed from the start (see: Atari Jaguar) and prefer to emulate the classics, Splatterhouse should be on the top of your list.