As one of the first games to receive a parental advisory warning, the original Splatterhouse on the TurboGrafx-16 (known as PC-Engine in Japan) pushed the boundaries of taste with walking corpses, decaying foetuses, and masses of gore. Publisher Namco Bandai is bringing the series up to date with a 3D third-person makeover but is keeping the same over-the-top blood-soaked visuals of the original. In our short time with a preview build of the game, shocked gasps and nervous laughter echoed around the room as skulls were crushed and spines were ripped from bodies. It's clear that Splatterhouse isn't for the fainthearted, so those of a nervous disposition may wish to look away now.
The story of Splatterhouse closely follows that of the original, but with a few twists. You play as Rick, a parapsychology student who is caught in a storm with his girlfriend Jennifer. They take refuge in a mansion owned by deranged occult figure Dr. West. West sends monsters known as the corrupted after the pair, kidnapping Jennifer and heavily wounding Rick. Left for dead, Rick finds a mystical mask that tells him it can restore his body and help him rescue his girlfriend. The Mask fuses with Rick and gives him superhuman strength, complete with outlandish bulging muscles and an appetite for blood. It's your job to guide Rick around the mansion and help save his beloved.
West's mansion serves as a hub world; portals appear that lead to new environments where Rick must solve puzzles, indulge in some platforming, or just kick the living hell out of everything in his path. Most levels involve combat of some sort. You have several attacks at your disposal, including charges, dashes, throws, and splatters. Splatter attacks are the most gruesome of the bunch and are used to finish enemies off after hitting them with regular attacks. They usually take the form of a quick-time event that requires you to mash a button or twiddle the thumbsticks in a motion resembling what is happening onscreen. Some of the attacks we were shown included crushing heads, pushing eyeballs through skulls, and, most gruesome of all, milking the blood out of enemies into a pool on the floor. You also have special magic powers at your disposal, one of which sees giant spikes rising out of the floor and impaling all the enemies around you.
Blood forms an integral part of the Splatterhouse experience. As well as adding gory eye-candy to the visuals, it powers the terror mask, which in turn powers you. The more blood you collect, the more power the mask has, and the more splatter moves you can pull off. A running counter totals up the litres of blood you extract, and there are rewards for collecting a large amount. Of course, enemies do not give up their blood without a fight. A unique regeneration system is employed, which gives a gory visual indication of how much damage you have sustained. Each time you are hit by an enemy, Rick's body gets injured. At first these are just small wounds, such as cuts and bruises. As you take more damage, pieces of Rick's flesh fall off, revealing the bones underneath. His limbs can also be ripped off, leaving you to defend yourself with just a single arm or leg. Once you are free from attacks, Rick's body gradually regenerates, with skin, flesh, and limbs growing back. The ability to rip off limbs also applies to enemies. You can tear off their arms and legs and proceed to beat them to death with them. As well as limbs, other weapons are available in the game, such as meat cleavers, lead pipes, shotguns, and chainsaws, though we didn't see any of them in action.
In addition to combat, there are puzzle and platforming sections to work through. Gore fans need not worry, though, as these sections are just as gruesome as the combat. In one section, we were shown Rick in a room with a giant eyeball for a door. Surrounding it were fanged mouths with giant spikes in the middle. In order to exit, Rick had to grab enemies and impale them on each of the spikes. This appeased the house and weakened the eyeball, allowing him to destroy it in an explosion of viscous eye fluid and exit the room. Platforming sections were similarly vile, with Rick swinging from hanging intestines and limbs to reach distant platforms. An interesting touch is the addition of pseudo 2D sections, where you can move only from left to right on a single plane. We were told these were included as an homage to the original, and they featured similar challenges, such as navigating around rotating spiked platforms and swinging axes. The elevator sections from the original also make a return. They pit you against waves of enemies as they try to destroy the gears of the elevator, which can cause you to plummet to your death.
The enemies take on many guises, ranging from simple walking skeletons to winged creatures with fanged mouths. Among the most grotesque enemies we saw were giant human foetuses which dangled from the ceiling, dripping with blood. They sprouted tentacles that lashed out at Rick and exploded into pools of pus when destroyed. There were also bosses to face, which ranged from a small serpentlike creature to an enormous snake with a giant tongue that filled the room. Most bosses required using quick-time events to take them down, with rapid button mashes executing devastating kill moves, such as tearing off heads and ripping out internal organs. The environments in the game share the same gory aesthetic. Walls drip with pus, bloody tentacles slither across the floor, and even opening a door requires squishing a small eyeball. The soundtrack is also worthy of note, with disgusting squelchy noises accompanying the visceral violence, which Namco Bandai told us were made by a room full of "sick puppies that threw meat onto walls." Splatterhouse fans will be pleased to hear that uncensored versions of the original trilogy are included in the package, though we were told these were hidden as unlockables
In the early preview build we were shown, we did notice some significant frame-rate issues, particularly when splatter moves were used, which caused the game to skip sections of the bloody animation. This was even more noticeable when a large number of enemies were present, though the game seemed to run smoothly during the platforming and pseudo 2D sections. Namco Bandai has some time left to iron out these issues, though, with the game due for release on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 this Halloween.