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Splatterhouse 2 (Genesis) artwork

Splatterhouse 2 (Genesis) review

"In the first game, Rick's girlfriend Jennifer was spirited away from his underdeveloped arms right before his pimply face, creamy with bursting whiteheads. The Hell Mask appeared to provide delicious two-fold resolution. He donned the evil, false visage and it took hold of him, charging teenage bone, sinew and muscle, until a fearless full grown murderer of the undead was forged (plus, it hid his acne). "

Splatterhouse was a bloody good game when it first hit the arcades. It was Kung Fu with copious apportioning of gushing bile and rampant dismemberment. Take a few deliberate steps forward as the Hell Mask-wearing, incredibly muscle-bound hero, Rick, and some nasty thing - sometimes on two legs, sometimes not - would assail you first with its horrible aspect, then with something more palpable: airborne vomit and appendages alike.

Rejoice for the moment, sick wallowers in the Grand Guignol tradition: the man with the mask has returned. In the first game, Rick's girlfriend Jennifer was spirited away from his underdeveloped arms right before his pimply face, creamy with bursting whiteheads. The Hell Mask appeared to provide delicious two-fold resolution. He donned the evil, false visage and it took hold of him, charging teenage bone, sinew and muscle, until a fearless full grown murderer of the undead was forged (plus, it hid his acne).

Somehow Jennifer has been reclaimed by the dark forces of the abyss, and the terrible mask of white netherworld calls out once more. Its hideous beckon is relentless, terrifying and resolute. But more haunting to you is the thing's mirth; the devil's facade seems to mock you, to dare you to find another way… but you know that there is no other way.

And so it begins. Again.

And as Rick starts his monstrous undertaking, you'll become aware of a few unsavory things almost right away. Rick doesn't look so much like a surging genetic superfreak as a caricature of one. He strides forth as if he's been riding a horse with a fat ass that has forced his legs apart so that they are nearly bowed. Perhaps he has a special weapon tucked away that we are unaware of? And while the flat backdrops were never an exercise in parallax brilliance, they seem more stilted in this game than ever before, like those movie poster cutouts. Worse yet, the background colouring ranges from puke inducing garish to ''I-didn't-even-notice'' dull.

Your mind will wrestle with these findings for a short time, unsure of what to make of it all. Things are supposed to be nasty, to be ugly - this is a horror game, after all. But then it will start to sink in like Rick's cleaver into a mushy monster's sphincter: the game is not ugly by design, it was designed ugly.

The Turbografx-16 port of the original Splatterhouse was incredibly vibrant and visually interesting, so that the grotesque saraband on stage seemed worthy of our attention. Not here. Embarrassingly badly drawn enemies won't make you shake as much as they'll make you shake your head, as if to say ''Surely this is not what they've been reduced to….'' But it is! Splatterhouse 2 is the abysmal display of Rick's further misadventures into the depths of the abysmal.

But at least the music…? No. It was inspiring stuff the last time 'round; first time players were always shocked that this B-movie horror material wore such a superb soundtrack, and wore it so well. But everything sounds same-ish and generally forgettable in Splatterhouse 2. With the original, the fullness and richness of the presentation convinced us to take the hokey horror shtick more seriously than we should have, and being manipulated in this fashion was delightful. The only manipulation at work in this follow up is the one where the developers called it in, knowing that we'd purchase this second game based on the excellence of the first. Not quite so delightful.

Somewhat remarkably, the actual gameplay in Splatterhouse seemed to take a backseat to the gimmick at play, to the lustre of the blood-splashed package. The same moves and gameplay ideas have made a return (couldn't they have added something? Anything?), but the bigger, bloodier package is repulsive (that's the way developers! Recreate the same game, only have a blind mute director at the helm). Rick's repertoire may well be found on page one of the course outline for Action Side-scroller Moves 101. He can stand and punch, jump and punch, duck and low kick and when you're lucky, and when the stars are right, and when the finicky controls aren't showing their ass... he can perform a screen cleaning dropkick-slide. The slide is useful because it registers double damage on foes. But the slide is useless because the game doesn't always feel like letting it register when you input it. So mostly you'll be punching, then backing away from some leaping heap of discoloured anthropoid grease, then punching some more.

Aside from Rick's limited skills as a fighter, he can find weapons like shotguns and cleavers and two-by-fours lying about the dark, dull environs. The weapons make things a bit easier, and provide a bit of variety to our boy's rapscallion rending repertoire. With them, he'll find it just a bit more efficient and satisfying to crush leaping ghouls, skittish purple pokers, and caustic creatures formed of slime puddles. It's a good thing; the enemies are often the least of his worries when spikes line the ground beneath his feet, acidic streams issue forth from the seemingly still backgrounds, and flames burst and fall from the sky.

The grand scale repugnance of the bosses add to the scant list of positives: whether you're using your ham-sized fists to coax an explosion of gastric juices from a belching mess of stretched intestine; or you're putting out the eyes of a twisted sentience-spitting, purplish-white phantom face, the bosses will always entertain, and will always demand that you bring some decent pattern-busting to bear. Pity that actually getting to the bosses should be so banal and tedious. Pity that the often cool patterns needed to extirpate these demons should be so difficult to execute due to the sloppy, slippery control. Pity that the adventure looks and sounds a mess. Pity.

To newcomers, play the Turbografx-16 version of the original and know that the one-two combination you had hoped for doesn't really exist. And if the Hell Mask calls? I won't lie to you, it will call... just have someone say you're busy playing a good game instead.

And to my Splatterhouse faithful, know that Splatterhouse 2 is more of the same stomach-stirring nastiness; only longer, and quite a bit more repetitive. Unnecessary length and repetitiveness to the nth degree may be favourable things in the bedroom (or else public washrooms or elementary school playgrounds), but we don't want it in our games. Oh, and I might have said this - it's ugly. It's very ugly.

Strangely, as long as the horror and tedium seems to go on for, the game is far too short for passwords, yet we still get them. This is probably a good thing. It means there won't be much dying, returning to the title screen and replaying from scratch. Because nobody wants to replay Splatterhouse 2 if they don't have to. Based on nomenclature and nostalgia you might pay loyal homage, and scratch and claw your way through the evil place and destroy its denizens of the dark one hard-earned time.

But you'll never return.

Masters's avatar
Staff review by Marc Golding (December 20, 2003)

There was a bio here once. It's gone now.

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