Splatterhouse is the bloodiest and most violent game in the world. We might as well get that out of the way straight away. The 18+ age limit is one of the game's sale arguments, and it makes games like Mad World and Mortal Kombat look like the most peaceful hobbies you can have. It's a game where everything from small worms to medium-sized trolls have bodies that seem to consist of thousands of liters of blood. A game where sadism is encouraged, where you can bend open the jaws of your enemies and literally tear their lounges out. Splatterhouse goes as far as letting you use your own torn off arm as a blunt weapon.
All this violence is backed up by a lot of attitude and a messed up story. You play as the loser Rick Taylor that is beaten to a bloody pulp while an evil scientist escapes with his girlfriend Jennifer. A hockeymask, which looks like it's been borrowed from Jason Voorhees, speaks to you and asks you to put it on. It then turns Rick into a steroid monster and the blood bath can begin.
In classic God of War-style you then get to kill everything that gets in your way. From time to time you'll come across easier puzzles that are usually solved with a lost of extra violence. Like impaling enemies on spikes to use them as weights. The mysterious mask is constantly talking to you and spits out macho-oneliners while you collect blood to buy upgrades. Jennifer has also remembered to tear up topless-pictures of herself that she leaves as a breadcrumb trail for you to follow. Handy!
In order to create some variety, Splatterhouse shifts between two and three dimensions. From a rather traditional brawler where you go from room to room, the game turns into a Super Mario Bros platformer where you need to evade traps, jump over holes in the ground and defeat enemies at the same time. Well, it's Super Mario Bros without Mario. Or Bros. And definitely no Super. These parts of the game are the ones I like the best, but they still come with their own problems. If Namco had put more energy into this aspect and turned Splatterhouse into a downloadable title, I think it could have been a success.
There's some good stuff in Splatterhouse, but if you scratch the surface it soon becomes obvious that most of it is bad. The game mechanics are primitive and you don't really have to use any form of finesse despite the huge array of techniques you can choose between. Splatterhouse is soon turned into nothing more than a constant spamming of the X-button and the fights become repetitive fast. After 15 minutes you've already gotten used to all the flowing blood, and you will soon start to wonder when you'll get to see a bigger variety of the same execution moves. The enemies stay mostly the same through the game and there's hardly any real challenge even on the higher difficulty levels.
Even worse are the dirty tricks that Namco have used to fake challenge and the game's longevity. There are plenty of situations where you can die instantly, and when you play through them for the first time without any idea of what's coming it usually means a guaranteed death. You'll just have to start over, which is annoying enough; when the game's worthless checkpoints force you to play over a large part that you've already finished once it becomes incredibly frustrating. The bossfights are completely worthless as well - they might not be very hard, but they are unbalanced, too long and often it's unclear what you are actually supposed to do.
The original Splatterhouse was released in arcades back in 1988, when the Friday the 13th-movies were big hits. It was deemed incredibly violent, and it was even banned in many places. The original game and its two sequels are included on the disc of this new version, which is a nice touch. Together with the two dimensional sequences, the humor and the mask's oneliners, they are the best parts of the game.
Otherwise, Splatterhouse feels low budget. The graphics are primitive, the camera work often worthless, the controls aren't nearly as precise as they should be in a game in this genre and the overall presentation is generally dodgy. On paper, it has a fun concept and attitude, but in practice it's not nearly as entertaining.