Splatterhouse 2

It’s funny to look back at the original Splatterhouse.  It was gory for its time and caused a bit of a stir.  Yet kids like me at the time could play it and no one batted an eye.  We were still years away from a rating system and so all the kids could feel like they were playing something illicit.  The game was pretty tame but still shocking when viewed through nine year old eyes.  For the sequel Namco turned it up to 11, creating a gooey and gory splat fest.  While the game’s atmosphere received an upgrade the gameplay has not.  Splatterhouse 2 is still enjoyable but is disappointing in that they could have done more with it.

Three months after the events of the original Rick is haunted by nightmares from the Terror Mask.  The mask informs him that Jennifer is still alive and that he needs to return to the mansion.  Although reluctant Rick dons the mask again to save his lost love.  There are actually more story bits in the sequel although Western gamers weren’t privy to that information.  Splatterhouse 2’s localization removed much of the dialogue, leaving the simple story confusing.  While it may seem like the West mansion was rebuilt this game actually takes place in a new location.

It might seem odd that Splatterhouse 2 is a Genesis exclusive rather than hitting the arcade but suffers little for it.  The look is grittier and more detailed than before.  There is a greater variety of locations in and around the mansion this time out which keeps it fresh.  The sprites are also larger although the animation is limited.  While there have been some notable improvements it still somewhat retains the flat look of its predecessor.  Whether you like it or not is a matter of taste.  The music is great and the sound effects have a considerable amount of punch to them as well. 

In terms of mechanics this sequel is nearly identical to the first game.  Rick is a hulking he-man and looks like he escaped from an insane asylum.  Your attacks are limited to a punch, jump kick, and slide attack.  It’s functional and it works.  There’s a greater variety of weapons on hand, from the crowd pleasing shotgun, metal pipe, chain saw, and more.  The most bizarre has to be a zombie head.  Sadly you still lose your weapons before moving on to another screen.  Can’t let players have an advantage against the vicious bosses, oh no.

As a single plane brawler Splatterhouse 2 is slower paced than its contemporaries.  That slow pace also exposes how simple and boring it can be.  Your limited number of moves grows old fast.  Its satisfying to splatter these creatures all over the environment but that can only carry the game so far.  There are moments where it all comes together; some stages have multiple paths and involve more than just bashing everything in your path.  But these are saddled in between repetitive enemies and mediocre platforming. 

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As such Splatterhouse 2 is largely carried by its atmosphere and theme.  The move to more powerful hardware has done wonders for the setting.  Enemies explode in satisfying chunks of goo, blood drips in the background, and the artists have dreamed up some creepy new monsters.  It actually uses its horror in some creative ways.  One particular boss encounter takes place in a laboratory.  Here the boss will toss potions that explode in fire and run away or spawn monsters.  If you can get to him first he’ll drop his concoction which you can use against him.  Late in the game you must use an advancing octopus own projectiles to destroy it.  These moments are Splatterhouse at its best but the game is almost ruined by its ridiculous difficulty.

To say the game is difficult is an understatement.  Splatterhouse 2 is a brutal game, the type where you must methodically memorize every enemy position and their attack to survive.  The game leaves little margin for error and is frustrating because of it.  This kind of trial and error wouldn’t be so bad if your life bar weren’t so short.  But four hits is pathetic.  There is no way to regain health outside of clearing a level which is even worse.  It becomes even more insane toward the end where bosses have second and third phases.  It requires a level of perfection in play that is unreasonable.  The game suffers because of the high challenge.

In Closing

I’m torn with Splatterhouse 2.  There are many great moments sandwiched between long periods of frustration.  If the difficulty was lower and general gameplay improved I would recommend it in a second.  As is I am cautious in saying it is worth tracking down.

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