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System: Arcade/Xbox 360/PlayStation 3/Nintendo Virtual Console
Rick Taylor and his girlfriend Jennifer Wills are seeking shelter from a storm, and they find a mansion nearby. What they don't know is that this is the infamous West Mansion, otherwise known as the "Splatterhouse". They go inside, then the door slams, and the next thing we hear are Jennifer's screams as lightning flashes overhead. The next time we see Rick, he is lying on the ground in a dungeon. Jennifer is gone. Rick is then possessed by the Terror Mask, aka the Hell Mask, and he sets off to find Jennifer.
I had played the Turbografx version about a year before
I finally stumbled across the arcade game at Universal Studios Florida.
There it was sitting in the back corner of one of the arcades. Needless
to say, I was thrilled that I'd finally found it, considering that I'd
read that the game had been banned from arcades across the country
due to excessive gore and Satantic imagery (a claim which has yet to be verified by any official documentation). After playing it for as long
as I could, I realized that I prefer it over the Turbo game. Granted,
the Turbo game is fantastic, but the arcade game is just that... much...
Splatterhouse is played from a sidescrolling perspective.
There are seven levels to traverse, taking you through West Mansion, outside,
back in, and finally back outside. Your life meter is represented by four
hearts - and I DON'T mean Valentine's Day hearts, that's for sure. When
you do complete a stage, you get two hearts added back to your life bar.
Unfortunately, there's no other way to increase your life.
In addition to your basic methods of attack (punching,
kicking and the slide kick), there's a decent variety of weapons to be
found. There's the cleaver, which you can use to decapitate zombies (and
then watch the slime spout like a geyser out of their necks as they collapse),
a two by four which you can use to smack zombies into the wall, wrenches,
stones, harpoons, shotguns (eight shells per gun), and the axe. This
can only be used when fighting the fourth level boss, which is an upside
down cross named Evil Cross that attacks you with flying heads (there's your Satantic imagery
right there). The wrenches, stones and harpoons can only be used once. All the other weapons you keep until you are A) hit (you only drop the
weapon then, so you can pick it back up), B) complete the level, or C)
run out of ammo, which of course only applies to the shotgun.
There's a decent difficulty curve as well. Splatterhouse
doesn't start to really get difficult until the fifth stage. The most
difficult stage by far is stage six. During that stage, you fight giant
floating monster fetuses called Obas. They start as Egg Obas, and when they hatch, they jump around until
they latch onto you and start draining your energy. This is particularly
bad when you are fighting the boss, Mother, and it seems like a million of these
little bastards are jumping around. Also, there is a strange purple cloud
that follows you throughout the stages. One touch from it and you get
hurt pretty bad.
The graphics are very nice, typical for Namco's arcade
games of the time, and the gore level is (of course) high. The bosses
and other enemies are very good looking: there's some great ones, like
a room full of rotting meat that has giant leeches, called Body Eaters, that jump out
and attack you, and the stage two boss, which is a room possessed by a
poltergeist. Literally every object in the room attacks you! A great minor
enemy is "Mirror Rick" - you enter a hall of mirrors, and as
you walk through the room some of the mirrors explode, and evil clones
of Rick pop out (one at a time, which is a good thing). Very cool. My
favorite boss in the whole game is stage three's boss, Biggy Man (although you may also see him referred to as Boggy Man, Piggy Man or Boggy Giant, depending on what source you go by. None of them are correct, though. His official name is Biggy Man). He's
a large, humanoid creature with no skin, a bag tied over his head and
chainsaws for hands. If you've saved the shotgun until now, you'll stand
a chance of beating him.
Rick does eventually find Jennifer, and what happens when
they meet again is not quite what you'd expect. Jennifer turns into
a giant monster with these wicked extendable claws and tries to make a
Rick shishkabob. The last boss that Rick fights is also very impressive. It's a giant, decaying head called Hell Chaos that pops out of the ground. It tries to
grab you, as well as throwing rocks up in the air that rain down on you, but he's not too difficult to defeat.
A lot of little touches help make Splatterhouse the great
game that it is: hanging corpses that puke on you, strange muck creatures
inhabiting the sewers, severed hands that chase you, diverging pathways
in certain parts of the game, anime-style skull-toting female ghosts that
shriek when you punch them, and a general B-horror movie feel to the whole
thing. Trying to find the original arcade game seems to be next to impossible
these days (unless you want to pay serious cash on eBay), but the ROM
is available for download here in the Emulation section.
For the differences between the arcade game and the Turbo
port, jump over to the Turbografx-16 section.
Read the Lost in Translation article to find out more about the original Japanese storyline.