Friday, 1 December 2017

Scrolling Fighting Games #15

Splatterhouse (1988)
By: Namco Genre: Fighting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 21,700 (one credit)
Also Available For: PC Engine, FM Towns, PC
Download For: iOS

While the type of characters you'll find yourself controlling in most scrolling fighting games are varied, you can generally rely on them having some sort of background in martial arts and the games being based in urban environments, but that's definitely not the case with this Namco classic. Here you play as Rick, a parapsychology student who along with his girlfriend gets trapped in a spooky old mansion in which they had sought refuge from a storm. Naturally, she soon goes missing while he apparently winds up dead. Luckily, amongst the many treats contained within the mansion is a 'Terror Mask', said to contain the spirits of the dead, which attaches itself to Rick's newly-expired corpse. It looks like a hockey mask making Rick look more like Jason Voorhees (coincidentally I'm sure), but it also happens to resurrect him too.

Cutting a 'Deadman' down to size on the first stage...

That's most fortunate in itself but it also apparently turns him into a badass as well. Armed with his newfound bravery, as well as a set of large muscles, he sets out to find his beloved who (presumably) lies at the end of the game's seven probably-terrifying stages. These are all directly side-scrolling (as opposed to semi-overhead like Double Dragon) and take place in and around the 'cursed mansion'. They are also all filled with many grotesque, demonic creatures of various types who all head straight for Rick. The first you'll encounter are called Deadman (generic monsters). Then you will meet Top Heavy (which have detachable heads), Hanging Dead (decomposing corpses), and Water Dead (sludge monsters), as well as smaller but still irritating pests (even more so in some cases) like bats, leeches, zombie dogs, and numerous other treats as well.

The first boss encounter is a mass leech attack!

As Rick trudges through the slimy, disgusting locales he has a limited repertoire of moves with which to dispatch the hideous occupants with - namely, punch, kick, jumping kick, and sliding kick. That's not quite all though, as there are also some helpful items lying around which he can make use of too, like meat cleavers, a two-by-four, shotgun, and axe. These obviously extend Rick's reach and can all be used for the rest of the stage you find them on, but they are dropped when you take damage and cannot be used against the bosses who lie in wait at each stage's climax so they shouldn't be relied upon too much. The bosses don't always take the form of a large monster either - the first features a mass leech attack while the second puts Rick up against an angry poltergeist - but there are of course some large and formidable monsters lurking in the shadows later on.

Watch out for the rotten corpses falling from the ceiling!

It gets pretty tough too. You get four hit points (represented by realistic-looking hearts opposed to the usual kind) for each of your three lives and there are restart points but you still probably won't last long to start with. With some practise it won't take too long to get through the game though, as like many arcade games it's pretty short, but who cares about that kind of thing when the game looks like this one? It was never really flashy from a technical point of view - sprites, animation, scenery, backgrounds etc, are all decent enough but they're nothing special, and the stages could be considered somewhat dreary in terms of colour, but the aptly-named Splatterhouse has always been about that notorious (at the time) horror theme, specifically the many grotesque creatures that you face and the graphically violent means of despatching them.

Whether you're getting green slime puked over you or disintegrating demonic creatures with well-aimed shotgun blasts, that's what the game was famous for and that's why it was successful. Look past that and you'll find a game that's rather short, very simple and quite repetitive. I guess you could say that about many games of that time, especially arcade games, but replaying stages can become a chore once the initial appeal of the gore wears off. It's true that there really wasn't anything else like it at the time, and even now it's pretty unique to go back and play thanks to its premise, gruesome graphics, and sombre background audio which collectively give it the kind of atmosphere you just won't find playing one of the more conventional brawlers, but you'll probably find it's not as great as it's reputation might suggest either.

RKS Score: 6/10

Gameplay Video: here's a video of the whole game being played by one of the talented fellows at Arcade Games Freak (check out their great channel here). Oh, and don't watch if you want to avoid spoilers!


1 comment:

  1. Thank God that they don't have a CHRISTMAS themed ones
    But still that would fit better for "Halloween Special" xD