This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Splatterhouse.
Isn't being an adult great? You can go on all the fairground rides, drink yourself to death, and put your dick in all kinds of magical things. Sometimes I like going to hospitals for terminally ill children and just rubbing it in: "Wow, you guys really suck at arm wrestling! Anyone catch the new R-18 rated film? I have - it's not that great. Hey, you know what would be funny? If the Make-A-Wish Foundation came around and you asked to be sexually initiated by a large, creepy man. That'd throw them a curveball, wouldn't it, the smug, philanthropic cunts!"
But the tragedy of being an adult is that once you can do everything denied to you as a child, you're smart enough to not want to anymore. There's one glorious moment when you first gain independence and realize nothing's stopping you from eating jelly every meal of every day, but then after a few difficult shits you never want to clap eyes on the stuff again and your emotional maturation is complete. And that's Splatterhouse in a nutshell: a childish jelly binge followed by tedium and diarrhea.
Splatterhouse is a remake or reimagining or whatever your preferred name is for desperate milking of any cow with the slightest brand recognition no matter how skinny and choleric. It's one of those for the classic 2D brawler series from the unforgiving arcade days, when games were designed to snatch more children's pocket money than Lee Drummond. The thing is, as classic as it was, Splatterhouse was never particularly good; it was a slow, single attack button side-scroller made remarkable only by its grisly visual design reminiscent of the inside of a Cornish pasty which won the publicity lottery when it sparked some kind of inevitable moral controversy. But in today's enlightened, joyous, post-Michael Atkinson days, a violent game trying to sell itself with gore comes across as hopelessly quaint, even a little bit backward. It's like a gay fellow standing on a desk and shouting "I'm out and I'm proud and if you're offended then you can just deal with it all the way back to Straightsville, Charlie" in the lobby of his local YMCA.
But there is something to be said for a game whose stated goal is to wallow in retched, gushing excess. Splatterhouse certainly seems to have that ambition. Copious blood, limbs flying off like graduation caps, and there are even collectible pictures of big, juicy naked tits just for the sake of covering all the hedonistic bases. But once you're mentally tuned into the Caligula mindset, the gore swiftly starts to feel repetitive and unsatisfying. One of the posters I saw for this game bore the tagline "He'll Rip Your Head Off." This is at least accurate, but it would be even more so if it were followed by the words "...And That's All He'll Fucking Do."
In classic wad of gore fashion, you can grab weakened enemies to do finishing moves, and most of them just involve pulling off the closest thing it has to a head. How about a little creativity, my man? That one fellow you killed by shoving your hand up his arse and pulling his rectum out was original, or at least it was before you did it fifty fucking times. And in some cases the in-game animations are so choppy and the monsters are such messy piles of cartilage that I'm not even sure if what I'm ripping off was attached to them in the first place; I could be just undoing their bow ties for all I know. The goriest bit in the game is right at the beginning, when your human self's intestines plop out, and even that left me wondering who'd spilt all that unrealistic-looking cranberry juice all over the place.
In-game combat is your standard light attack/heavy attack/dodge/grab wa-hey based somewhat around swiftly switching between targets mid-combo and actually works quite well. Even if it's made way to easy by the ability to make all the enemies stop fighting and give you all your health back in what I like to call the "taking my ball and going home" move. But the natural flow of the combat is ruined by the game trying to cram more juvenile gore into a soberly packed suitcase. The finishing moves are the worst offenders. You'd think the essence of a quick-time event was that they need to be quick. Otherwise they're just -time events. In total, Splatterhouse has dropped something like eight hours of my life making me watch the same three or four overlong death animations fifty bazillion times until I regard the shredded meat and gushing stumps with same bored dispassion I'd use to spread jam on my croissant. And it's not enough for your guy to simply throw off an enemy grapple, he's got to also then bang their head on the floor for five minutes like he's rubbing his dog's nose in a clandestine turd while I nip off to bring the laundry in.
The story is: you are Rick Taylor, skinny, pointless nerd who escorts his girlfriend in blissful ignorance to the house at number 31 Blood Monster Death Avenue only to be gutted and left for dead as she is dragged off by the resident horrors. But then a mystical mask - perhaps representing some metaphor for steroid abuse - persuades him to put it on, transforming him Charles Atlus-style into a socially adequate muscle-bound hunk. But as with any Faustian bargain, Rick could be worse off for it. The mask has its own agenda, whispering dark temptations into Rick's ear, promising power in return for submission, foreshadowing some inevitable conflict between - whoops, end of game!
That's it? Absolutely nothing between Rick and the mask gets resolved, so it might as well have just been playing classic FM into Rick's ear the whole time for all the point the foreshadowing had. It and the momentously disappointing boss fight reek of another game rushing things toward the end as the deadline loomed. Seems there's an obvious way to avoid this: make the intro first, the ending second, then everything in between. That way if anything feels rushed or cut down, it'll be one of the bits in the middle no one cares about, while the ending is what people will remember. That's why girls will always, always love you more if you finish into their face.
There's also the game's filthy habit of throwing fiddly instant death traps at us right after lengthy melees without the courtesy of a savepoint in between. We both know I'm awesome, Splatterhouse, stop making me prove it. On a related note are the bewildering nods to retro Splatterhouse where the game shifts inexplicably into a 2D side-scroller, complete with irritating platforming that fits in as painlessly as a scalpel into a bell-end. But this is dancing around the broad Maypole of my overall criticism, which is that Splatterhouse is just desperately unpolished, glimpses of potential painted over with caked-on layers of idle excess.
Finally, fatally, it's also bugged up the butt. The sound kept dropping out. In fact, the entirety of the final boss's overall quick-time event finishing move took place in sullen silence. If this happens to you, why not try to recreate what it was supposed to sound like by, say, feeding ravioli to your dog? Or throwing wet laundry onto a tile floor? Or sticking the game up your big, fat arse?
Wearing the face of another, fatter man: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
Jennifer must have some fucking awesome tits to justify all this, those things must shoot rockets or something
I've been trying to find a replacement mic, okay