Welcome back to another Halloween Blogtober post! Today’s horrific highlight is the arcade cult hit Splatterhouse released by Namco originally in 1988.When I selected what games I wanted to go over for the month of October I wanted to stray(mostly) from the most commonly mentioned scary Halloween-themed games(Resident Evil, Silent Hill, etc.) and also use the opportunity to discover something I either had never played before like Vampire: Master of Darkness or Splatterhouse. I’d known about the series for quite some time, but like so many other games out there simply had yet to sit down and play it. I played the game as part of the Namco Museum collection on my Nintendo Switch which worked out pretty well as from everything I have read, it was a really good port of the game, along with being uncensored unlike the Wii Virtual Console version.
Upon merely glancing at Splatterhouse it is not at all a surprise that the game is heavily inspired by American horror movies of the 80’s, particularly slasher films like the Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street series. It follows a similar side-scroller, beat ’em up as other popular arcade games of the late 80’s like Golden Axe, Double Dragon, or Final Fight. Unlike the aforementioned titles, Splatterhouse added the grisly setting and gratuitous gore(for that time at least) that would become the trademark feature of the game, as well as source of concern and controversy. The game has a very grisly, grimy look and feel to it that no doubt made it a very unique experience in arcades when it was first released. Sadly, the game only saw arcade releases in Japan as the violence it contained was considered too graphic, along with some religious imagery like the level 4 boss – Evil Cross which depicts an upside down cross floating midair surrounded by spirits. The backgrounds of many stages simply show corridor walls inside the mansion, but others feature pictures of gruesome monsters in chains or in other stages, leech-like creatures called Body Eaters lunge at you from within heaps of gore and viscera. The game pits players against the array of monstrosities primarily fought with just your bare hands. There’s also a number of weapons to pick up such as a meat cleaver, 2×4, or even a shotgun.
The game begins with parapsychology student Rick and Jennifer, his girlfriend and fellow university student traveling to West Mansion, better known as the “Splatterhouse” due to the horrific experiments being conducted there by Dr. West, who is said to have vanished. We find Rick unconscious at the start of the game before the Terror Mask(a VERY familiar looking hockey mask…hmm) floats down fuses itself to his face transforming him into a menacing jumpsuit-clad brute with super strength. He then must make his way through the Splatterhouse as he attempts to rescue Jennifer. There are seven levels in total to punch, chop and….splatter you way through, each level consisting of several stages with many containing upper or lower branches to traverse. Rick fights his way through Splatterhouse’s corridors of unimaginable terror before finding a group of monsters surrounding Jennifer as she lay on unconscious. She is then transformed into a grotesque monster that attacks Rick before finally pleading to be put out of her misery, she then collapses and disintegrates(NOT Avenger’s style). Rick then discovers a tear in the floor of the mansion which gives the appearance of the Splatterhouse itself having been wounded, he then follows an enemy into the gory crevice to discover this to be the womb of the mansion itself where the insidious creatures are birthed. Rick then fights his way through the end of a long visceral passage all while being attacked by monsters known as Oba – monster fetuses(that look like mere bubbles) floating directly at you, making them very difficult to hit. Rick finally reaches Mother – a giant…womb responsible for the monsters within the mansion. Now begins the final showdown with the final boss named Hell Chaos, which takes the form of a giant mutilated head protruding through the ground with giant claws emerging from underground to swipe at Rick as he destroys Hell Chaos and by doing so, the Terror Mask as well.
Splatterhouse provides satisfying gameplay on par with its arcade contemporaries developed by Konami and Capcom. The play is what you would expect from a beat ’em up of the era, pummeling anything in your path or jumping over the various booby traps located in the mansion. As the case with many games of the genre, utilizing a jump attack is a must, especially later in the game as enemy movement becomes more erratic. There’s also a sliding kick that takes a bit of practice to master, but proves invaluable as it’s one of the strongest attacks in your repertoire. I love the wonderful “splat” when introducing the ghastly creatures inhabiting the mansion to Mr. Meat Cleaver, rending them in half. This feeling further enforced by the sound effects as a you can hear monsters being splattered onto the background wall or the heavy thud when using your fists of fury to smite your enemies.
Splatterhouse is also notably the first arcade game to be issued a parental advisory due to the violence and was unavailable to play in North American arcades. It received a port on the TurboGrafx-16 in 1990 which scaled back of some of the violence and gore. Splatterhouse 2 and 3 were released on the Sega Genesis in 92′ and 95′. Titles like Splatterhouse and Mortal Kombat(which proceeded to steal most of the attention surrounding violent video games in the early 90’s) this no doubt assisted in the Genesis’ reputation as being the console for the “mature” gamer in contrast to Nintendo’s family-friendly public image. The censored TubroGrafx-16 version of Splatterhouse was made available on the Nintendo Wii Virtual Console in 2007 before the uncensored version being released as part of the Namco Museum in 2017. Splatterhouse is definitely for anyone who loves the grisly over-the-top violence and gore of 80’s slasher movies, though due to its controversial history and cult-game status, I imagine many, if not most slasher movie fans have played already given it a playthrough or two.
That’s all I have for now, we’re approaching Halloween in a matter of days and I have a few more games to go over before the month is over. Have you played the Splatterhouse games before? If so, what did you think? How many games out there have you become aware of or played mostly as a result of it being controversial? Let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading!