First published on retrogarden.co.uk
Let’s face it – we are obsessed with horror. We’re fascinated by serial killers, blood, gore, death, vampires and all things that go bump in the night. We pull our duvets up over our heads to hide from the shadow next to the wardrobe, yet pay good money to watch the latest Saw film. We fear death, but love to watch it too.
Thanks to films like Human Centipede and Hostel, our tolerance of death and violence are now very different compared to the early 90s. Let’s look at Gremlins, certified as a 15 in 1992 due to its graphic depiction of smoking, drinking, and incorrect use of a blender. Now let’s compare this against Aliens vs Predator Requiem, another 15 certificate but made 18 years later and features large aliens eating children, skinned men hanging from trees, and massive beasts forcing their spawn down pregnant ladies’ throats so that their stomachs erupt with baby aliens. As a 31 year-old man, I winced at the pregnancy scene; a 31 year-old in the 90s would probably have been admitted after watching “alien triplets” being born. Similarly, some computer games have been censored and banned due to their adult content. Thrill Kill, Postal, Custer’s Revenge – all were banned on release, but when compared against the latest 18 games, you may be forgiven for wondering why (maybe not Custer’s Revenge). However, not all horror-based games were banned, but created a lot of media attention non-the-less.
Splatterhouse 2 is almost exactly like the first adventure; a side-scrolling beat-em-up where you must wade through a series of offensive horrors as you try to rescue your girlfriend. The enemies are quite good; evil-looking mutated ghouls that spray puss and goo when killed, huge maggots that try to latch onto you, and skeletal vapours that hover just out of reach, trying to punch you in the face. The levels are typical for a horror-influenced title, including a haunted forest, haunted house, haunted elevator, haunted dark room… you get the idea. You also have a selection of hazards within each level – moving spikes, snake-filled pits, even mutilated torsos that contain leeches that jump out at you. Apart from the odd weapon that deals additional damage to your enemies (as well as giving a different death animation), that’s about it in terms of game variation. Walk right, jump, punch, kick. End-of-level bosses raise the threat level a little, but every boss has a fairly-obvious strategy in order to defeat them.
The sounds are above-par for a Megadrive title. There are moans, cries for help, laughter and thumps. Unfortunately, clubbing something with the stick results in a bizarre electronic tweet, but otherwise the audio is satisfactory. The in-game musical score brings to mind the Addams Family who have just bought a cheap electronic organ and are trying it out for the first time; totally midi with a gothic twist, and sets your teeth on edge – especially in the introduction animations. However, the sound effects coupled with the presentation of the game makes for one surprisingly atmospheric experience when playing.
The main character, Rick, loses none of his presence from the first outing. The story behind the Splatterhouse is that a mortally-wounded Rick was revived by the Terror Mask (not a hockey mask) and gave him superhuman strength. Fine, but without the backstory, you’ll assume that Rick is a Friday 13th rip-off. He’s barefoot, dressed in a set of pyjamas, and ambles along with the hunched posture of a bear wrestler. Escaped lunatic, or pissed-off grumpy dude who woke up late? Regardless, Rick looks heavy, mean, and completely bad-ass.
I’m not sure if this is a plus or a minus; every game since time began has had some kind of “hurry-up” built into it. Mario, Sonic, every racing game – there’s a timer counting down the seconds before you are classed as a lazy bastard and are deducted a life. The first Splatterhouse has an electrical poisonous fog that creeps up behind you if you dawdle around. However, Splatterhouse 2 doesn’t. The game allows you to stand completely still, wetting yourself with fear, without any kind of recourse. It’s not a show-stopper, but is noticeably absent from an arcade-inspired game.
Splatterhouse 2 is an exercise in timing; when to press jump, when to press attack. It poses a little challenge but demands almost no intelligence to complete. If Splatterhouse were a dog, it would be classed as a Heinz 57; made-up from a variety of contributors. The game mechanics are from Kung Fu Master, the character is derived from Michael Myers, the background and theme are from every gore-filled horror film ever made. The game is a cliché, a stereotype, a parody and a tip-of-the-hat to the whole genre. If you’re into your horror films, Splatterhouse 2 will probably be very enjoyable. If you’re a retro gamer, it’s worth playing just to say that you have. If you’re a serious gamer, you’ll want to play the first Splatterhouse in order to get your bearings, and then move straight onto the third title which is a far superior game. Generally-speaking though, Splatterhouse 2 is a weak version of the original Splatterhouse, and despite its successful presentation of a spooky atmosphere, offers little for games players to return to. I’d recommend it to horror film buffs, but not to gamers.