Like many old-school gamers, I enjoy my side-scrolling beat-em-ups like Double Dragon, Streets of Rage and Capcom’s Final Fight. It is just so satisfying to unload a world of hurt on pixelated foes. Unfortunately, so many of these games center around the same types of enemies – generic street thugs. There are exceptions, of course. Games like Sega’s Golden Axe or Capcom’s Knights of the Round come to mind but even then you trade away generic hoodlums for equally generic fantasy enemies. There are not a whole lot of titles in this genre for horror fans but what we do have is pretty awesome. Back in the day, Namco was one of the few companies who answered the call of horror fans by giving us the brutal and gory Splatterhouse.
Originally developed for the arcades, Splatterhouse was clearly designed with western horror tropes in mind. The most obvious clue would be the hockey mask worn by your character. To be fair, the lore behind it shows that it is much more than a regular hockey mask; it is actually a sentient relic known as the Terror Mask that binds itself to your character after resurrecting him. Later games in the franchise would see the Terror Mask take on a more skeletal appearance but for this game, it clearly resembles a hockey mask.
Splatterhouse eschews knife-wielding thugs in favor of more monstrous foes like decomposing corpses, mutant fetuses and demons that must have been inspired by Lovecraft.
There is not much of a story here. Your character, Rick, and his girlfriend make their way to an old mansion to escape the inclement weather. As is common in horror flicks, the mansion is a site of great evil. Rick hears his girlfriend scream and he makes his way through the mansion to find her.
The gameplay is a bit limited. You can move left and right and you have the standard punches and kicks to dispatch foes. You do not have much in the way of special attacks but there are some weapons you can pick up and use to satisfying effect. Even though you do not have many options for gameplay, it is still satisfying as Hell to vanquish enemies – especially the squishy ones that splatter all over the place. One of my favorite weapons in the game is the 2×4 which you can use to knock enemies and watch them smash into the background wall. The arcade version had a meat cleaver that would send the heads of enemies flying but that was replaced by the 2×4 in home versions.
If you want to play the original Splatterhouse, the arcade is the best version but that is not an option for most people these days. The TurboGrafx-16 version is in my opinion the best home version of the game and it was available on the Wii Virtual Console but if you didn’t buy it back in the day that option is lost to you. The good news is that there will soon be a legal way to play the game as it will be included with the upcoming TurboGrafx-16 Mini which is scheduled to be released early next year.