Happy Halloween, and welcome to a new tradition here at World of Meh. I’ll be writing a weekly review, looking back at games from the past. And considering that I’ve been playing games from the NES days to now, that means I have a lot to write about. Yes, that includes last generation’s stock of PS2, Gamecube and XBOX. But since it’s Halloween, and with the upcoming release of the new Splatterhouse, it seems a good time to talk about the original games. Especially since they’re going to be bundled in the new game as unlockables. So, let’s dig in and see what we had back then.
And here we have the original. And yes, that is our hero punching out a demonic worm. Kind of shows what we’re in for. Story-wise, we have a typical Mario situation. Hero’s girlfriend is kidnapped by monsters, has to go save her. Rick, however, was left for dead as his girl Jennifer was kidnapped when they entered Dr. West’s mansion. Apparently, West had somehow brought out the demons of hell. Thankfully, Rick is saved by the Terror Mask, an ancient artifact that bonds to his face, given him incredible strength. Now it’s up to him to rescue Jenny and stop the horrors in the Splatterhouse.
Starting off as an arcade game, then being ported around to several consoles, but only the TurboGrafx-16 in the US, Splatterhouse is a typical sidescrolling arcade game. You have five health points, 3 lives, and can kill pretty much anything with one hit. Actually hitting them without getting hit first is the trick. There is a difficulty curve here, but like a lot of old school games all it takes is practice and memory. You can actually play this game and not get hit once… after playing it a lot of times. There are lots of weapons, although with the exception of the shotgun, they only offer cosmetic differences for how your demonic foes die. And none of them can be taken beyond a section. It’s up to you if you think that is a problem.
Graphically, there is a lot of atmosphere. Corpses hang from the ceiling, things move around in both the background and foreground. And the music has a slow build of dread as you play. And the bosses are some of the most memorable. From the room of corpse that spawn boreworms, to the possessed room like out of Evil Dead, each boss shows up and tests your ability to recognize its pattern. And even when you kill them, they always try one last attack in their death throes. Other bosses include the inverted cross in the church (removed from the US version), Biggie Man the dual-chainsaw wielding monster, and Jennifer herself, turned into a disturbing monster. Nothing’s worse than watching the woman you’re trying to rescue beg for release before turning into a monster and needing you to kill her. After that, you face the final boss, and escape the house.
Yes, a depressing ending in a game. Not usual. But there would be more. The Turbografx version is currently available on the Wii virtual console, if you can’t wait to try the Japanese arcade port hidden in the new game. There are some changed kills and Rick’s mask is a purple-red instead of white to avoid a lawsuit from Jason of Friday the 13th.
Sequels are always a rough time. You never know if they’ll match the greatness of the original. Splatterhouse 2 was thankfully just as good. Released on the Sega Genesis (Megadrive for our readers outside of the USA), it took place three months after the conclusion of the original. The manual tries to give more of an origin to the Mask, but it’s rather silly. Apparently it came from Cancun. Like many great evils.
Rick has been having nightmares about Jennifer. And the Mask. And when it finally appears to him, it tells him that Jennifer is still alive. With the redesigned mask on (now looking like a skull instead of a hockey mask), Rick sets out to find Jennifer and settle the battles with the evils in the Splatterhouse.
Graphically, everything looks darker and more detailed, musically it all sounds great. And the same gameplay returns. Move right, punch things’ heads off, grab weapon, fight boss, dodge that last death throe attack. It was still fun, and again, the difficulty is the same. When you find Jennifer still alive in the demon realm, there are all sorts of theories. One is that her soul was taken and a demon was in her body last game. The other is that it was a fake Jennifer. Either way, she’s alive, and the last sections of the game have you escorting her out. Thankfully, she can’t be killed. You just have to survive to the last boss, and settle the fight at last.
Again, you can find this one on the Wii virtual console if you can’t wait to unlock in the new game.
Several years have passed. Rick Taylor has married Jennifer, become both a Wall Street broker and a father, and has all but forgotten his battles. Buying a mansion in a nice town in Connecticut, Rick hopes to live out his days in peace. You know that plan is just screwed from the get-go.
The Evil One, the entity behind everything that’s ever happened to Rick and Jennifer, needs a psychic child to help in the ritual to bring him to the human world. As luck would have it, Rick’s son David fits the bill. So, Rick’s home becomes the new Splatterhouse, and both his wife and son are kidnapped. The Evil One hopes that by keeping Rick busy searching for them, he will manage to finally escape. But as always, the Mask shows up to help, now looking like a hybrid of a hockey mask and skull. And the stakes have never been higher.
Graphically, this is a major upgrade. The animations are smoother, and the sprites are gloriously detailed. And there were actual cutscenes using that digitized actor tech that they used in the original Mortal Kombat. Very sweet.
Gameplay, this was the most radical changes in the formula. First off, instead about being a straightforward kill-everything-and-leave affair, this was a quest. Each level was one floor, with lots of rooms, and a time limit. Depending on the stage you were on, if you didn’t complete the stage in time one of your loved ones may die. Yes, a time limit where you don’t directly suffer. The other gameplay change was instead of the old sidescrolling, 5 hits and you’re dead, we had a style reminiscent of Double Dragon, moving in eight directions on an isometric plain, with a health bar that can be refilled. Bashing enemies needed combos now instead of just one punch and done. Rick could turn into a demon creature (seen on the cover image above). There were four endings, depending on if you failed to save anyone, saved only David, saved only Jennifer, or saved them both. If you managed to save them both and defeat the Evil One, the Mask revealed that the whole trilogy, it’s been using you to defeat its enemy and take over the world. So the final battle was an epic face-off in Rick’s soul between him and the Mask.
Sadly, as far as I know, the third game was never ported to Wii, so you’ll get your chance to play it when the new one comes out. I no longer have my old copy, so this segment was written from memory.
Happy Halloween everyone! I’ll see you all next week for another Retro Review.