Developed by Namco specifically for the arcade in 1988, Splatterhouse is a lot like traditional beat-em-ups from the same era, except, it’s dripping with atmosphere, extreme graphic violence and, with it’s foot firmly placed in the horror genre, the game leaves you with a feeling of dread after experiencing your first playthrough.
The game begins with two college students, Rick Taylor and Jennifer Willis who decide to take refuge from a storm in West Mansion, the former home of parapsychologist Dr. West. The mansion has became a local landmark known as the “Splatterhouse” thanks to rumours, further fuelled by the disappearance of Dr. West, of hideous experiments purportedly conducted there by the doctor.
Once inside Rick and Jennifer are attacked leaving Rick fatally wounded, fighting for his life before eventually losing consciousness as Jennifer is dragged away screaming…
In the dungeon of West Mansion Rick awakens to discover that he is still alive, his face fused with an ancient Mayan artifact known as the “Terror Mask”, capable of sentient thought. This fusion had transformed him into something not quite human and with the mask’s encouragement Rick rampages violently throughout the “Splatterhouse”.
Unfortunately Namco’s Splatterhouse was rarely seen in arcades outside of Japan and thus western gamers did not get to experience the game’s intensity until Splatterhouse was eventually ported and released in 1990 for the NEC TurboGrafx-16 (aka the PC Engine in Japan).
Despite the consoles limitations, and a few small cuts to content, Splatterhouse remained faithful to the arcade original and retained much of the graphic violence, prompting the NEC Corporation to include a warning label on the game’s box art. There are also a few differences between the Japanese and North American release that are worth noting. One example in particular is the mask’s difference in appearance between the two versions. Originally the “Terror Mask” was fashioned after a hockey mask and had retained it’s look in the Japanese PC Engine port. However, possibly due to the similarity between the character of Jason Voorhees in the Friday the 13th series, the mask was altered into a red mask with black accents for the North American TurboGrafx-16 port.
In Splatterhouse you take control of Rick (under the influence and encouragement of the “Terror Mask”) and like many beat-em-ups released around the same time you move throughout each level on a two dimensional plane. There are a total of seven stages featuring various hideous enemies to tear apart and a multitude of weapons Rick can pick up and use at his disposal. What makes the game so unique however is the amount of gore that drenches the screen. Hit a mutated creature with some 2×4 and watch in disgust as it’s torso hits the wall beside you in an explosion of blood! Splatterhouse also had one of the most eerie soundtracks ever presented in an arcade beat-em-up, surpassed only by it’s sequel, that adds to the sense of isolation and despair that the game befalls upon the gamer.
Namco’s Splatterhouse is gaming’s first true horror classic. While it may lack in innovation by not changing the foundations laid down by past arcade beat-em-ups, it excels in the sheer grotesque keeping the game fresh! There is enough here to satisfy any horror enthusiast and could well be one of the most important titles in the TurboGrafx-16’s brief history.
Splatterhouse for the TurboGrafx-16 is available to buy from Amazon.co.uk; plus if you decide to make a purchase after following the link provided you will have supported Attack From Planet B, so thank you.