Created by: Krauser
4 playable characters
D-Pad / Analog Stick - Move Character
Check out the entire list of special moves for each game here
Review by Rodrigo Shin
ROCKETING INTO THE FUTURE
So basically "Deception of the Mask" takes place after Splatterhouse 3's worst ending occurs, which takes for granted that you played like a molass through Stage 4, where you have to explore the entire stage and then some (I know, I've done that!) to get David to die.
Rick's not unfamiliar with the loss of loved ones, so naturally nightmares start haunting him. The Mask doesn't miss out either and says that Jennifer and David are "about to go to hell" (Jesus Christ, not only they're murdered by demons they can't even go to Heaven?), and tells Rick to "go back to the House".
Which, the one that's been burned to the ground? Or the one that sunk deep into the lake? The picture displayed when you actually get "back to the House" is Splatterhouse 3's mansion, which is Rick's house, so where has he been living all this time? Spending more quality time with the interns from the Belmont Home for the Emotionally Troubled?
So Rick goes back to the House (whichever of the three), and starts splattering demonic ass all around. All too familiar demonic asses, at that. You've seen them all before. Deadmen, Burnt Deadmen, Body Eaters, Screaming Mimis, so and on and on.
There's a fair share of edited sprites to be had. Most good, some goofy (like Splatterhouse 1 Rick running), and some that doesn't work at all. Hit the Screaming Mimis for one: they'll throw their arms up to the sky. What for? They're masochistic? "Ohhhh Ricky YES! YES! GIVE ME A PIECE OF THAT PUNISHMENT!"
Either way, amongst those there are some that aren't adequate... at all. Background objects to punch the shit out for items? Check, just that here they're Death Crystals (complete with a picture of Jennifer before they disappear!) and the Servant of the Loathsome Gods (but just the bat head). Honestly, if Hell Chaos turned out to be one either, I wouldn't be surprised.
The style mixing sometimes will also get to your eyes. It's not exactly as offending as I happened to bump into some fangames already, but once you transverse from Stage II to III it'll really hit home hard. The first two stages are completely Arcade locations, and the third stage is the first stage for the Genesis sequel. The ammounts of dithering found there are guaranteed to stick out like a sore thumb compared to the rest of the backgrounds you had seen thus far, and even the character you're using (specially Arcade Rick).
Speaking of that, most of the background transitions didn't exactly flow nicely in my opinion at least some times. They're fine for the first level for instance, but in the second level you start at the Cathedral and then suddenly you're in a Library. This game fades out from one scene to another (there are generally two scenes per stage), whenever something as drastic was supposed to take place, they could've taken this direction.
In sprites as well, there's a nice blood spilling animation whenever you're hit by something sharp. But the blood's always red even when your enemies' blood is green. And while the sprite is nicely animated on itself, I can't help but think that blood was always thicker specially Splatterhouse-wise.
For any game, the playability is where it's at - even the if the plot makes zero sense a fun experience can more than make up for it. This is definitely "Deception of the Mask"'s strong point. The characters have a varied movelist, and it's really fun to tackle Splatterhouse 1 & 2 enemies in the Part 3 approach. I have to say, grabbing Biggy Man is a priceless experience. Seriously. You're grabbing Goddamn Chainsaw For Hands! What's not to love? As well, SH1 Rick's rotating meat cleaver flying attack already ranks high in my "Splatterhouse Moves" list.
I saw weapons to be picked up... the meat cleaver and the 2x4, namely. But I couldn't pick them. Dunno why. I pressed all the buttons the game offers you and nada. Some of them are apparently just background decoration, like the chainsaw and the scissors, but the cleaver and the 2x4 definitely look like they were meant to be picked. Dunno why they can't be.
Like any Final Fight clone, you can't help but expect to be cornered and juggled by enemies at some point in the game specially the latter levels. "Deception" is not the exception (hey, that rhymes) but the juggling here is bona-fide irritating. Demon Jennifer juggled me for the first three turns of our fight without me being able to do anything. Whenever I got up, she'd drop down and knock me down. Repeat two times. Then I got pissed and used the Special Attack (which obviously drains your health - a lot, here), and THEN I was able to have a little more of a fair fight.
It gets worse with the regular enemies when the Zombie Scientists appear. Yeah, they made West/Mueller a regular enemy. They come in groups, and trust me, juggling is their forte. The motherfuckers throw their "Potassium Bombs" all the time, and once you're hit by one, make no mistake; one of them will throw another in the ground which will hit you just as you were getting up, which leaves no room for jumping to avoid it. As well the Dead Rippers knock you out with one swing of their nails, and so do the Blonobs.
You'll want to use Mutant Rick's headbutt dash against these bastard sons of Satan, trust me. It's really the staple movement in his arsenal and almost a surefire technique against most of the enemies, specially the downright cheap ones like Blonob, Hellhounds and Dead Rippers. Alternatively, you can use his body slam that has a wider range. But some enemies will cancel it out much easier than they would with the Headbutt.
And speaking of "meat of the game"...
I don't really recall a severed hand pit in a pile of gore in SH3. If there is, that definitely shows I need to eat more fish. Either way, this is pretty wicked in the SH sense of things, so it figuratevily brought a smile to my face (more like "That's completely in tune with the SH mood").
But in that regard, remember the "background progression" I talked about?
This is one of the backgrounds in the latter levels. I was already expecting things to get much more gross with this background compromised of raw bleeding meat. After you cross this room, you face the Giant Boreworm (in almost the same room as SH3). So far so good.
Then the next stage is a sewer level.
What the hell.
It keeps building up to make you expect something nasty like Mother, Demon Jennifer (who is the level 2 Boss), Hell Chaos or even the Servant of the Loathsome Gods, but never delivers on that regard. It's like what Frank Drebin has to say about sex.
"It's a painstaking urge that seems to go on and on forever and just when you think things are going your way, nothing happens."
And speaking of that, this game is too long. I'd say around three stages too long. For that exact reason, everything seems like it's heading towards the gore-filled finale and when you thought it was over there's a new stage. There are 10, BTW.
Definitely, the weakest link in "Deception" is the plot, or what little semblance there is out of it. While the starting point was covered in the start of the analysis, here's a bit of it "indepth".
Demon Jennifer is level 2's boss. Only that wasn't Jennifer. Rick beats the shit out of her then we're presented the "Jennifer is a mindless beast" picture with Rick coming to that conclusion. Well, all the better - wife beating is serious shit. Just ask Peter Parker.
There aren't really a lot of cutscenes to be had. You'll see the "Our Jennifer is in another castle!" scene mentioned above, Rick asking himself if "was that David?" once you defeat Makkuza Bear (the Teddy dies and then David appears and fades. What the hell?), and then just the ending.
Before you get to the ending, you'll face the Evil One. Again. Once he's out of the way, then you go through the final level and face... the Mask. Again. Only that this time it doesn't have anything to possess. Rick's walking around, minding his own business, and the Mask shows up.
And yeah, that's the final boss.
Then after the Mask is defeated, Rick asks the question we've all been pondering: where's his family?
The Mask just says that he fell right into it's trap and that he can't escape from "the mouth of hell". Then Rick says that "demons are taken me" (sic) and well, that's the end. You punched and kicked hordes of undead and demons to get stuck in hell. While retaining the Mask no less.
It's a cliffhanger, so we have to see how the follow-up, "Journey Through Hell", does in that behalf. But as a stand alone, "Deception"'s plot is utterly weak. And you can't get much more spoilerous about the nature of the game than that. That's like naming the Sixth Sense "Bruce Willis' character is dead". The end cutscene is really poorly handled too, with some Photoshop effects in some of Rick's digitized pictures from Splatterhouse 3 - just that they don't look good at all.
You can expect the soundtrack from the trilogy to bring your journey to life. But there's a catch: for most stages, around the first five, the BGM always switches after it's played twice to a second one. I don't see the use for that and honestly find it aggravating. For these 18 years I have grown to accept gaming background music as exactly that. Changing it all the time isn't exactly compelling. And sometimes the changes aren't very fitting either. In Stage II you go from Evil Cross to Hell Chaos and back and forth, even after you're out of the Cathedral. It really doesn't work like that.
Thankfully, the latter levels pick a BGM and stick with that, which changes when you reach the boss. Speaking of that, they reused themes in these fights. You'll listen to the SH2 Final Boss theme twice and so will with the Giant Boreworm theme.
Aside from that, the music for the stages was exactly composed for the games, so they won't stick out like a sore thumb. Just that the switcheroo gets really aggravating IMO.
And I guess that seeing they were running out of Splatterhouse themes to use, the team picked up two songs from Castlevania: Bloodlines to use in the game. They'll do their job. They don't really have SH's edge, but they're two short tunes and that's that.
As for the game's difficulty level, I'd say it's definitely in SH3's league. For the first half you really think you're the baddest cat around, then the tougher enemies will show up and juggle you to hell. As a matter of fact, I first picked the SH1 Rick and lost many many lives in Stage I. To the point that in Stage II I had to pick a continue right at the beginning. Then I decided to pick Mutant Rick for the hell of it. I honestly thought "No way I'm finishing this game in my first go", even without knowing there remained more 8 stages, because you only have 2 Credits.
And then something happened. I don't know if Mutant Rick is supposed to be the ultimate powerhouse of the game or if I was just learning my way around it, but losing lives became pretty seldom up to the last levels. And even so I didn't pick another single continue.
Regardless of all these shortcomings, "DotM" will no doubt appeal to old school Splatterhouse fans. If what you're after is undead bashing while looking cool, DotM definitely delivers. Since the game is fairly long as well, you can expect to spend two hours kicking unholy spawn around.
The 2 Player mode looks like it can be very cool too, and I like the approach they took - you want co-op, have co-op, but no plot bearing. I'm honestly fine with that. Too much emphasis in the plot sorta sours the whole experience. This is the tale of a single man plowing through masses of hellish creatures, but if you want to do it with a friend, you can. No mystical mumbo-jumbo trying to explain how there are four versions of Rick and why you can pick any of them. I honestly think trying to explain that would sink the game's plot further.
So, that's about it - if you liked Splatterhouse 3, then this game is at the very least worth a look. I'll give the sequels a look sometime tomorrow, but I wonder what enemies are there to be had since they nearly emptied the bestiary just in the first instalment. Despite all of this, "DotM" is still more polished than most of the fangames around. I guess that's why we call "Deception of the Mask"...
So, what have we learned? Heck, I don't know. This game's crazy. I'm Dick Dickenbach. Bye now!