Blood, blood, blood, blood, blood, and tits. That's Splatterhouse, Namco Bandai's modern take on a cult classic from the 16-bit era. With the 2D side-scrolling violence seeming like a perfect fit for a Ninja Gaiden-style hack 'n' slash, it makes perfect sense for Splatterhouse to have gone down that route. But the former's depth has been thrown out of the window in favour of extreme violence, lots of blood and the occasional pair of breasts.
Splatterhouse is about as simple as hack 'n' slash games get. The weedy main character wakes up to find himself in a pool of blood, his girlfriend kidnapped by a crazy professor and a scary looking mask lying next to him. By putting on the mask he turns into a bloodthirsty killing machine, able to regenerate flesh and become a monster capable of slicing through enemies like Freddy Krueger's razor-tipped fingers through dreaming teenagers.
You have a light and heavy attack, as well as a grab, plus finishing moves - activated when enemies are close to death. These super gruesome kills see our beefed-up man crushing skulls, ripping off arms and other equally gory things. Weapons can be picked up, ranging from clubs, shotguns and blades to severed limbs. These help you cause even more bloody carnage, which is handy as blood is the key to everything.
Blood is used to restore your health, buy new abilities and activate the aforementioned nasty monster mode. It's often the requirement to clear a room, with special doors only opening once a certain amount of blood has been spilt. Other doors require you to hang enemies on spikes before gouging out creepy eyes from the door knobs. It's all rather grim, but the slightly cel-shaded visuals and over-the-top nature of the action make it just about tolerable - just don't show it to your Mum.
And just when you think things can't get any more perfect for a teenager (who shouldn't even be playing the game in the first place), you start collecting pictures of your girlfriend, often semi-naked and exposing her melons. And then you get a chainsaw. And then you see enemies being microwaved to death. And then they all get sliced up in a giant fan. And then you fight weird octopus-like monsters and a giant rubbish robot with a doll's head. Splatterhouse is silly, but if you don't expect much it's surprisingly good fun.
For fans of the series there are side-scrolling sections too, although these are even more basic and often require minor platforming - which isn't the game's strong point at all. It's all too easy to jump straight to your death, down a hole or straight into some spikes. Other diversions from the mindless eviscerating see you running around and leaping from platform to platform in sequences slightly similar to something you'd expect to find in Prince of Persia. They're not good, though, relying too much on cheap kills.
A generally tongue-in-cheek tone is hammered home by the mask itself, which constantly talks to you as the waves of enemies are torn to pieces. It dishes out some pretty funny one-liners and isn't afraid to be very self-referential. Had Splatterhouse taken itself seriously the extreme gore simply wouldn't have been palatable for the majority of people - as it is it's walking a fine line.
For Splatterhouse to be a good game it needed to have more depth. For the majority of the game's 10 chapters I simply button mashed until I could activate my special attack, and repeated that over and over. There really isn't anything more to it than that. But somehow it is fun. It's not a particularly attractive game, the locations aren't especially memorable and the tone is a teenage boy's wet dream. If that sounds like a laugh, you'll probably have a decent time.