"You've got red on you."
With an epic quest that began a little over a decade ago, the King of Carnage has returned to us in better shape than ever in a blood-drenched redux driven by revenge, ultra-violence and a whole lot of badassery. Full of abhorred mutations from another dimension and a mask with questionable (but very helpful) intentions, Splatterhouse begins as it typically does... with Rick Taylor reborn in blood and fueled by hate thanks to the mysterious Terror Mask.
Of course, one of the many things this new version of Splatterhouse does well is provide a plethora of more background information than previous entries in the franchise, essentially combining the storylines of all three games into a singular mythology.
As a horror fan, Splatterhouse is a fairly beautiful game to behold. Chock full of decay, dismemberment and a welcome variety of different worlds the game offers up, each made available thanks to a series of portals that appear throughout the game's eight hours of gameplay. Among the highlights are an evil carnival park called Dandyland, West Mansion (past, present and future), a slaughterhouse, and even the bowels of Hell itself. The most impressive visual of all, however, has to be the "regeneration effect" which reflects the damage Rick is taking in real time with exposed bones, torn flesh and even a missing arm all in real time. The cut scenes are also well done and unlike many games, watching them is actually an important part of unraveling the game as you will likely discover in the mirror maze level.
The various residents of these twisted worlds are as diverse and wicked as their environments with everything from Zombies to The Forgotten filling out the ranks. The larger demons such as Abhores and Beasts are even more intimidating, but even they don't compare to the sheer gargantuan boss battles between the likes of Biggy Man or Experiment 765 (a mammoth ape-like monstrosity that is simply awe-inspiring). Rick's certainly no slouch, though, with the mask granting him the massive frame of a wrestling juggernaut that clearly takes its cue from Splatterhouse 3. A boatload of bonus content fills out the ranks with a selection of alternative masks.
A hard mix of MadWorld (see review here) and Evil Dead: Regeneration, Splatterhouse is a true hack 'n slash experience whose strength lies primarily in a rather complex, yet rewarding, battle system that boasts a mind-numbing 90 different moves. There's your average light and heavy attacks which do a reasonable bit of destruction, but an assortment of weapons (chainsaw, shotgun, bats, pipes, cleavers, machete, 2x4) and power-ups bring combat to another level. Enemies can be dispatched with any of the methods above or, if weakened, Rick can initiate a mutilating Splatterkill (via a button mashing mini-game) that sends those demons screaming back to Hell and gain Rick a few extra BLOOD points.
Speaking of which, BLOOD is the currency in Splatterhouse (naturally) and you're going to need plenty of it. The more insane your kills, including chaining attacks, the more opportunities you'll have to improve Rick's list of moves. This isn't just some RPG element for show either as it will take some real strategy and skill to predict which upgrades you'll need most to survive the night. Even on "Coward" mode the game can be unforgiving the most unfair of ways, especially when it comes to running, jumping or generally any other obstacles. In later stages be prepared to see the irritatingly long loading screen a lot thanks to imprecise platforming mechanics, one misstep is all it takes to send Rick plummeting to his demise or see him sliced to ribbons by a random trap.
For some one playthrough might be enough, but for a die hard "Son of the Splatter" such as myself there is tons of replay value at our disposal. The aforementioned alternative masks serves as only a precursor to the multiple Survival Arenas you unlock by progressing through story mode, each of which offer up additional photos of Jen (both clothed and buck naked). Add to that the original three games in the Splatterhouse franchise and multiple difficulties levels and you're sure to have you hands full for a good while.
Even earning achievements are worthwhile with many of them providing references to horror genre classics like "Army of Dead Evil," "Bad Taste," or "Be Garbage of Cesspool" which is an homage to Wanpaku Graffiti courtesy of none other than our recent contributor, Rob Strangman. Also be sure to catch Rob's name in the end credits as a special thanks from the game's creators for all his consulting assistance during the game's production. That's pretty awesome!
4 out of 5 Terror Masks