Splatterhouse splodged through my letterbox this morning. I’d only seen the odd trailer beforehand, and it looked suitable tongue-in-cheek and bloody for a God of War-alike, so I figured it was worth a rental. Now, I figure other things.
I usually have one of two reactions to a game. Either it’s good and enjoyable, and I work my way through it to completion. Or it’s awful, and I hate it, and it’s frustrating as all hell, badly designed, all that jazz. And I get rid of it. Splatterhouse, on the otherhand, is sitting squarely somewhere in the middle of those two extremes. I’m not really sure where that is, because I really don’t care. That’s the crux of it, really.
The hyperviolent brawler genre isn’t exactly a big one. There’s God of War, stuff like Devil May Cry and Ninja Gaiden, and then more recent efforts like Darksiders. Darksiders, while obviously riffing off God of War, was actually pretty great. And that was because the world was interesting, despite being another post apocalypse, and it had the advantage of Mark Hamil playing a large character role. Also, it had a big flaming horse, which helps more than you’d think.
Splatterhouse, on the other hand, tries a similar thing, but doesn’t really know how to go about trying it. You’re a teenager with a stupid beard, and your girlfriend has been kidnapped by some lecherous old rapist, in what appears to be some sort of haunted house. Except, naturally, you’re guts are all over the floor and there’s a mask talking to you. Actually, so far so good. Despite being pretty generic in its setup, it’s delivered with at least a little character, and the sight of your intestines flopping about is… novel. And then you put on the mask and hulk out, and it switches from CGI cutscene into the actual game.
And fuck, if the game isn’t ugly. It uses the Gamebryo engine (shudder), but forces some sort of cel-shaded look, while at the same time making everything out of skin grafts. It means that you rarely see anything apart from the coloured outlines of your enemies as you fight them, and the whole thing is just a visual mess, with far too much going on at far too low a resolution. On top of that, the combat is just.. bleh. You start with hardly anything beyond a basic light combo and one heavy attack, and while you can unlock stuff, it takes far too long before it allows it, and by that point your interest is residing comfortably in the gutter, along with the humour and maturity of the game. You can collect pieces of photographs of your girlfriend. And yeah, she’s naked in them.
It’s just this relentless juvenile behaviour that meant that, by the time I reached the first bit of a platforming puzzle in the game, only to find the jump so fucking inaccurate and clumsy that, even if there hadn’t been giant swinging spikey balls that kill me the second they touch me, I’d still have probably died a load of times, I just sighed and turned the Xbox off. That was about noon this morning.
I got a bit bored about 6pm, after my work was done, and thought of things to do. On my mental checklist, Splatterhouse popped up, only to be summarily dismissed. It was so quickly ignored, in fact, that I thought about it again. Why was I so quick to not want to play this game? The level of pure apathy my mind displayed towards it was pretty insulting, and so there you go, 600 words of me exploring quite why this game didn’t deserve my attention. I’m sure the postman will appreciate the little extra weight in his bag tomorrow.