Preview: Splatterhouse

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Preview: Splatterhouse
Most of the games games shown at E3 are not final retail versions; they're preview builds specifically developed to show at the industry's largest expo. Since this is the case, many developers will remind those playing its game or watching demos that what they're seeing is subject to change. "We still have to polish this," or "the animation over here isn't finished" are a few of the things you'll hear. It's expected.

However, sometimes demos are nothing but a string of apologies and promises. Splatterhouse was one of those titles. During my demo, the game's executive producer assured me that the game was still in production at every pass and that nearly everything I saw and played would be "fixed," "changed" or "polished." You can't blame Namco Bandai for being hesitant to show the game, considering the development hell it has been through -- but it was a little extreme, especially when considering that I thought the game looked good (even great in some spots!) apart from the expected poor framerate for an early build.

No, looks weren't an issue, but I did have a few others with the game during my short demo.
%Gallery-23980%When Dante's Inferno was released, a lot of critics lambasted it as a title developed from the meeting rooms of marketing men who were trying to appeal to childish adults. "Copy and paste God of War! Throw boobs here and there ... but more boobs than God of War. Now, hit print," is what I imagine those meetings sounded like.

Splatterhouse suffers from a similar fate. There aren't flashes of female parts everywhere -- although the demon doors have a suspect design -- but the entire thing is a little childish. Mind you, this is a Mature-rated game set to appeal to those players who enjoyed the original game in the series in the late 1980s.

The new Splatterhouse is a retelling of the original game's story. The protagonist Rick is wounded when the evil Dr. West kidnaps Rick's girlfriend Jennifer. Rick, beaten and bloody, turns to a conveniently nearby mask, which posses special abilities (and talks!). The mask promises to help Rick in his quest to save Jennifer; naturally Rick accepts and their adventure begins. Wearing the mask, Rick turns into a powerful creature, but the mask soon starts to take over and has an insatiable blood-lust. Then you punch and kick people, chop off limbs and beat enemies with them. Rinse in blood, repeat.

There are some interesting "Mask Abilities" available to Rick, including moves that allow him to drain the blood from his foes (which acts as the substance that replenishes his health) and a move that sends a quake of spikes toward enemies. The game's combat is frantic and fun and looks great in a semi-cel shaded art style. Rick has some devastating special moves where the screen shifts to a Madworld-style black and white design, focusing on the red blood in the world. "Because the mask only sees in black and white and only cares about blood," I was told during the demo.

Then the game takes a weird turn. Rick, from what I gather, is a young chap and his girlfriend is about his age range as well. Throughout the world players will find images of Rick and his girlfriend as an unlockable gallery and a reminder of Rick's dwindling humanity. While the images start innocent enough, they soon evolve (or degrade) into increasingly "sexier" images of the very young looking female character. It seems completely unnecessary.

Also unnecessary are gags thrown in, like one area that forces players to bypass a microwave room by grabbing small enemies and forcefully shoving them down onto butt-plug nodes. There's a butt-plug puzzle in this game. Say it out loud: Butt-plug puzzle. (How many people just walked away from you?) Once three enemies are violated, the machine fries them and allows players to pass through a series of microwave rooms.

Butt-plug. Puzzle.

Some of Splatterhouse is very interesting. Rick's body degrades as he becomes more damaged and the character model gets soaked in blood. Both are very cool effects. Sadly, to hit every mark on the "mindless fun" checklist, the game features what are supposed to be sultry hand-drawn images of a very young woman and childish humor. I'm looking forward to seeing how the game evolves but I hope Namco Bandai is focused on developing a great game experience and not something worthy of mention by a morning radio zoo crew.
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