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2 Reviews

Splatterhouse

Review: You might have a bit of red on you...

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Before kidnapping your girlfriend, Splatterhouse's insane Doctor West made sure to do one very important thing: tear up several photographs of her with her jubblies out and leave them scattered about not only his mansion, but several other ghoulish dimensions, so that you can discover and collect them all on your delightful adventures.

Not your girlfriend obviously, she's probably fine, but the protagonist's. The chap in the mask. There's probably an Achievement for finding them all, but we missed out the left tit on level two so we can't be sure.

That's the level of immaturity you face in Splatterhouse, a third-person beat 'em up that revels in its own depravity and bloodlust. The idea is simple: in a world where swearing is very big and very clever you've come across a mask that, much like the mask in the film The Mask, transforms you into a cross between The Incredible Hulk and Friday the 13th's Jason.

Using your newfound ability to literally pull the lungs out of stuff, you embark on your mission to track down your girlfriend and save the world from annihilation at the hands of The Corrupted, who are presumably quite frustrated with being such a generic form of evil.

This means traipsing through room after room of monsters of varying strengths and sizes, calling upon a massive array of melee and weapon-based moves. Light attacks can be quickly strung together to dispatch smaller enemies, while larger attacks can be charged and aimed at the tougher guys. You can grab the demonic hellspawn to open up another dozen avenues of punishment, from hurling them at spikes to swinging them around by their feet like a proud father. Sufficiently battered enemies will glow red - grappling these guys will trigger an elaborate takedown with enemy-specific QTE sequences having you tear off their arms, rip open their faces or messily break them in two.

Clean sweep

Counter-intuitively, things are slightly neater when weapons come into play. Blades allow for neat dismemberment, slicing heads off with little fuss. Shotguns deal quickly with large groups, and chainsaws effectively turn you invincible for a short time while you giddily shear through flesh like an overworked butcher. You can also use any body parts lying around. You can, for example, beat things to death with your own dismembered arm. All the while your sentient mask wisecracks with voice-acting decent enough to make you wish there'd been some more camaraderie written into the script.

Pressing the left bumper will tip you and your mask into berserker mode, while holding the left trigger will open up a suite of mask-enhanced attacks, taking the various combos into something approaching 100 or more. It's an extensive moveset, which is handy considering the sheer quantity of enemies you'll be taking apart. Their blood acts as your currency when unlocking skills and upgrades, from increased weapon durability to new moves.

Shame then, that beyond its comprehensive combat mechanic Splatterhouse is actually quite an ugly game. Not 'giant ugly foetus hanging from a ceiling' ugly, but generally its subtly cel-shaded style seems an ineffective sheen on a bland backdrop of repetitive locations. The lack of enemy variety will soon begin to grate, too, as their AI becomes predictable and you realise that, for the first two-thirds of the game, it's possible for you to ignore the extensive combos that are available and simply hammer the punch button like a lunatic. (At least in that regard it's faithful to the arcade original - which you can unlock, along with its two sequels, by playing Splatterhouse to completion.)

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