Splatterhouse 2 review
Masked steroid abusing caveman beating up mutants
Unrelenting atmosphere (at the very least by Sega Genesis/Megadrive standards) backed up by a spooky sort of story, colors, sprites, backgrounds and one hell of a soundtrack; plays very well, and is quite fun to play on top of that.The bad:
Controls are a bit sluggish; not enough weapons.Summary:
After watching the Happy Video Game Nerd's review of this game, I thought about giving this a try. Unfortunately, as it is an obscure Sega Genesis/Megadrive (region dependant) game and having credit card bills up the ass at the time, emulation was the only way (either emulation on the computer or Virtual Console on Wii - the latter being more recently). Unlike Metal Storm's developer Irem, Splatterhouse's developers are far from obscure. Namco are actually very well known... well, maybe they were obscure back in the early 90's, but nowadays, they're a household item. What, with Soul Calibur and the Tales series under their belt, how could they not be? But at this time, they were probably just another company trying to make it big, yet could never compete with the likes of Capcom and Konami, even going as far as fading into obscurity. But as long as there are hunters, somebody will always unearth these games and trace the developer's history. The Splatterhouse trilogy (first on Arcade and Turbo-Grafx, this and the third on Genesis/Megadrive) is but one chapter of Namco's history.
Taking place 3 months after the first game, main man Rick gets tormented by nightmares of his girlfriend Jennifer, and inner temptations from the cursed mask. In the first game, she mutated into some monster and Rick kills her, and he feels guilty for supposedly killing her. Her spirit communicates with Rick, telling him to go back to the house as her spirit is still within those walls. Meanwhile, the mask wants Rick to don it again, knowing that he reckons the only reason he was able to survive going through the house the first time was because of the mask. He goes on without it, but upon getting there, he's unconscious, left for dead, so he dons the mask again to get back up and traverse the house in hopes of getting to Jennifer, killing a bunch of undead monsters along the way.
Looks kind of intimidating, don't you think?
The exposition sounds great, though in terms of cutscene presentation, there isn't really a whole lot. It's just a still shot of Rick with the mask on and a design of the level he's about to enter, as well as a few lines. These lines try to explain what's happening, and I'll give Namco credit for this, but without the instruction manual (hands up if you actually have one), we can only assume everything else, like why there are monsters in the first place. My guess is that there were some freaky experiments which mutated everyone and everything, but again, just assuming. In other words, there isn't a whole lot of story to this game, outside of the lines of words between each level. Although... that said, as this was made in 1992, it's at moot point, and besides, since it's ultimately "rescue the girl and get out of the house before you die", it's not all bad. I mean, do we play Genesis games for the story? Not exactly, so I can't be too cruel with this.
Just before he eats fist
The level designs are all on one dimension, so none of what you see in Streets Of Rage or Golden Axe is present. With that said, some levels really stick out, like the octopus level where you have to escape from the octopus, both through a mist, and on boat. All the levels have this scary and foreboding feel to it, which is good for this sort of game, and even though it's just on one plane, the levels are still good, especially ones that contain some platforming, if only to give the level some variety.
The only real complaint I have with how it plays (however minor), is that there aren't too many weapons, nor do they appear often enough. I mean yeah, you can use a 2X4, a pole, some hedge clippers and a chainsaw, but it's not often enough. Normally, you'll only use it for the second half or even the fourth quarter of a level (sometimes, just restricted to the boss part). The main thing about the first Splatterhouse was weapon usage. It was much more often that they appeared and it felt more satisfying killing the undead with a 2X4. Unfortunately, that's not the case here. There just isn't enough of it in the sequel, and that disappointed me.
With all that said, though, this game is definitely challenging. Despite its primitive design (even by Genesis/Megadrive standards), it can still give you a hard time if you don't know what you're doing. It all relies on memorization, really. It takes a few tries to get the hang of levels, so don't be too annoyed if you die often the first time playing - the game is just like that. The best strategy is usually to be at the right position at the right time to kill enemies or dodge obstacles. One additional thing I'll add is that as you progress, it'll get much harder, so just be prepared to spare a few lives. Although there are four difficulty settings, it's easy to condense it to two - manageable, and PULL OUT YOUR GODDAMN PUBES IN FRUSTRATION. Try guessing why the hardest mode is such... Only because it is excruciatingly challenging, and even the most hardcore have trouble with this game at the game master difficulty level - and trust me when I say, you better not take game master as a joke; it's far from that, actually. Oh well, at least it has a password save system in case you feel like coming back hours later.
Last but not least in this section, I'll talk about the boss battles. Much like the rest of the game, don't be discourage if they destroy you a few times. Defeating them requires timing and memorization of their attacks and such. Some projectile vomit your way, some spew navy *bleep* your way, some summon demons, some possess weapons, but all of them are susceptible to your fists (except one, which needs to be killed with a chainsaw). Suffice to say, if the levels aren't your downfall, then the bosses will be your doom! But despite all that, fighting the bosses is still fun in itself.
I'm telling you - it can look pretty bloody.
This takes advantage of the system's lack of color vibrancy (when compared to the SNES at least), by having some dreary colors to pull off some sort of horror vibe - which makes sense, considering that Splatterhouse 2 is pretty much that; what, with monsters and blood and guts every which way, it kind of gives it away, don't you reckon? It helps give an unrelenting atmosphere, looking a bit intimidating. Not foreboding, but a bit scary nonetheless... at least by 16-bit standards.
Character models are varied and quite detailed. Not lifelike, but detailed nonetheless, plus there is a decent variety of enemies and bosses waiting to kill you. Yeah, there are recolors every which way every now and again, but that'd just be nitpicking when there's a variety of other monsters. It'd also be nitpicking if I was to say that the blood coming out of monsters should be red instead of green, or... yeah, you could nitpick these graphics a lot, especially since Namco must've gotten a cheap animation budget or something. Each model seems to have 1 or 2 frames per action, especially Rick. Very choppy looking, but again, I'd be nitpicking the crud out of the graphics. No need for it.
Actually, maybe they spent the budget on the background animations. Each background design not only look like typical horror scenes and quite trippy, but the animation flows like a river. Complimented by the colors, each of the background designs contribute very well to the atmosphere this game provides.
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