home bio blog armyofdarkness media projects contact
Newest Entries
Archives

Splatterhouse 2010
A Winding, Weird Review

  This started off as a free-writing thing back in 2010. In between writing pages for my awesome novel about super heroes punching each other, I would occasionally type something out for no other reason than to do it. Now that I have a platform to do what I want, I thought I’d dust it off, revamp it a little, and actually provide a few references. Now, it does seem a little silly to get agitated over a video game no one remembers, but this is less about the game and more about the lack of consistency in reviewers. I suppose there’s also the bonus of a little mini-review somewhere in here... but that would involve reading and that will take like... five minutes.

  You see, I’ve played video games since I was a youngin’ – you may have noticed that it’s kind of a theme with me, by now. Since then, I have been exposed to all the depravities that the machines can come up with. Further, I’ve also been exposed to all the dipshittery that people want to throw up around it. Remember the stink about Mortal Kombat? About how horrifically violent it was? Quaint, isn’t it? A bunch of senators very somberly discussing how a man named Scorpion takes off his mask to reveal a grinning skull which he then breathes fire to melt another dude down to his skeleton. The super-duper, end-of-fight kill moves: Fatalities. Never mind the fact that the rest of the game was shitty and utterly stupid. The violence made it sell preposterously well: sequels, movie deals, and a crappy television series followed.

  At the same time, Street Fighter 2 was making its rounds on the home consoles. It was the same general IP, two people beating the ever loving crap out of each other, only without the gore. It was a much better game, smoother controls, better graphics, and in general, functioned like it should. Something which the Mortal Kombat series never quite ‘got’ when it came to playability.

  The point of the matter is that violence in a video game was so novel it overwhelmed everyone who came into contact with it. People were fundamentally unable to discuss any merit or detriment of the game without obsessing on that point. Either blood was a bold new step in the direction of gaming, or it was the beginning of the end of everything. You know. Like everything new has always been, ever. The point of the matter is that Mortal Kombat has always been a really awful knock-off of other, better games. The one selling point to its merit was gore, and it has pretty much always done the job.

  It should be mentioned that I didn’t really keep up with game reviews back then - maybe they were a bastion of rationality and my friends and television were simply biasing me against critical responses to video games. But I doubt it.

  In any case, time has officially gone by from those days of yore. We’re in a era when such petty arguments aren’t to be bothered with, right? I mean, blood is here to stay! That’s why we have ratings on our games!

  Sadly, no.

  Splatterhouse was released two years ago. It is a reboot to a series that probably didn’t need any rebooting. The originals were awful games, to be sure, with the exception of Splatterhouse 3 which took the bold new direction of adding an ‘up’ button to the mix. But back when Sega Genesis was king and I had a summer’s worth of free time, I played the ever-loving crap out of Splatterhouse 2 and 3. These were the original bad boys of gaming. The original game was the first game to receive a parental warning on the Turbografix-16. And if you have the haze of nostalgia tinting your world a lovely rose color, the reboot is more than happy to shatter your notions that they were quality gaming: they’re included as extras.

  Now, I try to remain as divorced from gaming media as much as possible, namely because I hate pretty much all forms of entertainment press. Their previews are sychophantic and, in the case of Gamespot, they have a history of firing reviewers if they fail to review a game positively and the producers of said game have invested a lot of money to advertise on their site.

  In any case, I try not to get excited about games that will be released because they have a tendency to disappoint. The only reviewer I listen to is Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw of Zero Punctuation fame because he’s funny. And I don’t always agree with him, but I don’t attach my ego to my choice of games so that’s really not a big deal.

  In a rare move to determine whether or not I should buy a game called Splatterhouse (where the title promises to include both a domicile and a mess to be made), I looked up a bunch of reviews. And none of them were all that positive. Well, there were a few exceptions, of course, but I didn’t expect the average score to be really all that high. After all, the source material consisted of, literally, ‘push right, hit a button, repeat’. A lot of them were highly critical of the game’s script and using blood as an in-game currency as well as spraying it everywhere. ‘Oh, how horrific!’ they all seemed to cry, covering their mouths in raw horror. ‘This much blood and gore is sophomoric and vile and antiquated! We only play God of War and Braid and Chess! Egads, man! Who would find this enjoyable?’

  But chinks in the armor of a unified front began to appear after a day or two. Certain publications were talking about how enjoyable of an experience it was. Although it never rated higher than an 80% or so, I’ve played and adored games in that category for years. Hell, I liked Silent Hill 0rigins, so maybe I shouldn’t talk at all. But an action game, at its core, has to rely on action. And the people giving it higher reviews stated quite plainly that it provided a good brawling system to supplement the grotesque parade of flesh. And the higher the review, the more likely they were to talk about the game mechanics than anything else.

  For an interesting perspective, here’s a list of Metacritic’s critic reviews. Their website consolidates a ton of online publication’s reviews in order to provide a mid-point for a consumer. Now, there are a lot more out there, and looking at this, you may wonder what I’m getting at with my griping. But there’s this.

Welp, this seems well-reasoned.
Welp, this seems well-reasoned. (Metacritic)

The game is ‘despicable’ and they reserve a special place for mocking the ‘chain wallet wearing protagonist’. This is a log line, people, what you reserve for those who think ‘too long; didn’t read’ is a way of life instead of a polite way to end a wall of text. It seems petty to include it in there, as though how the character dresses is going to determine how quality the game is. I’d like to take the moment to remind people how terrible the character designs are for a lot of Final Fantasy characters, unless you think that Belt Buckle Emporium is a good place to go Christmas shopping. The most critical (you know, a critic’s job) comment in the summary of Game Over Online’s is that the game doesn’t take the modern concession of things like invincibility frames like other brawlers.

  I ended up buying the game despite powerhouses of reviewing industry like IGN (4 out of 10) , Gamespot (4.5 out of 10), and Gamernode (the 40% up there) had to say about it. And you know what? It’s a blast. It’s not the best game I’ve played (that would be Bayonetta or Lone Survivor, depending on the day), nor the most hilariously violent (that would be Dead Rising 2), but it’s thoroughly competent and has just enough quirks to make it stand out on its own. And no, I’m not referring to the gore. To put it bluntly, I just do not understand where the hate is coming from.

  I think that numerous reviewers looked at this game and found their Holy Grail, as it were. They looked at it and thought ‘I can take a stand! There can be too much violence is video games and I’m going to shout until people know that I am righteous!’ And that’s where it crosses the threshold from confusing to infuriating. Nothing makes me angrier than someone being thrown under the bus, if only to make an example out of them. So here is a quick rundown of what these critics were complaining about and a suitable counter-argument that should have rendered these points moot:

  Nudity: Yes, you can collect nude photos of the protagonist’s girlfriend. They are honestly about as erotic as watching a fox decompose. And this is coming from someone who appreciates real live naked people. According to some reviewers, however, the human body is so grotesque that high-minded critics deigned it appropriate to say that it was utter filth.

  However, in God of War III, there is a quick-time event which consists of a pseudo-lesbian sex sequence which occurs as your hero bones Aphrodite off camera. The score on Metacritic? 92% Gamespot? 9.0. IGN? 9.3. So clearly, nudity/sexual silliness isn’t the real issue. It’s more along the lines that Splatterhouse does it in a way that these reviewers can get on their high horse about, when they aren’t getting off to it. Yes, that was an ad hominem attack, and I don’t care.

  As a side note, the Aphrodite thing is about as necessary canonically to the God of War franchise as Greek theology (that is, not at all). Splatterhouse makes a tenuous effort to frame the nudity by showing the girlfriend takes a shitload of photos and isn’t too bright – a really bad combination, if Facebook leads me to any conclusions. And no, it’s not the best excuse, but it’s better than drunken faux-lesbian-spring-break-level pseudo-porn.

  Long load times: Yes, Splatterhouse has long load times, which sucks when you suck. And I’m terrible at games; I may have played them a lot, but I’m still relatively awful at them. But I didn’t die nearly as often as I have with Devil May Cry, Bayonetta, and other games of the same nature. That being said, the long load times I can definitely see as a hindrance. However, you know what else had long load times and was punishingly hard? Bayonetta for the PS3 on initial release. Read any review of it that didn’t get the patched version available a week later. They railed on the load times. Something as unimportant as picking up an item took forever to load. So did pausing the game. Metacritic rating? 87%. Gamespot? 8.0. IGN? 8.2. So clearly, long load times aren’t to blame.

  Vulgarity: House of the Dead: Overkill had more ‘motherfuckers’ in it than there are mosquitos on planet earth. Metacritic gave it a 78%, Gamespot an 8.0, and IGN a 8.3. So who gives a flying fuck if the Mask in Splatterhouse says... well... “Flying fuck?” No one should, that’s who.

  The gore: Well, here we go. Any gaming publication which has a merit badge for blood and guts can’t have a problem with there being a lot of it.

Splatter-ocrisy!
Oh, Gamespot. You're so silly. And mildly infuriating.

But Gamespot still bitches about it, while at the same time refusing to grant the badge to them. Seems a bit off, doesn’t it? What’s the term – oh, hypocritical, that’s it! Further, numerous other critics cite the ‘splatterkill,’ a kind of fatality, in a particular huff. Yet Mortal Kombat has been around for ages, and the Splatterkills were described as ‘low-rent
fatalities
,’ so what’s the problem? We’ve seen human beings split in half in video games, and hordes of monsters now getting the same treatment are getting the protection of Critics for the Ethical Treatment of Monsters?

  Now, it has been awhile since I wrote the initial draft of this article, so I don’t have too much in the way of sources for this next part. I acknowledge this falls into the realm of anecdotes, but there is a pretty disturbing streak to some of the harsher critic reviews. It was suggested that it was too hard to recognize the monsters as anything. One even said that violence against humans in gaming is the only way to feel any kind of cathartic release. Really? God of War had a few human killing segments, but beasts were the usual victims. Bayonetta had you slaughtering bird-like angels. Look at the scores above. If violence is only ‘good’ if it’s against people, what are you really complaining about? The lack of realistic violence against human beings? Is that what you want? And if so, where do you get off ranting against a game for its inherent violence? Because what you want isn’t less - it’s more, more brutality, and more realism when it comes to killing. Which says all kinds of lovely things about your psyche.

  The game is comic-booky in style, hyper-exaggerated and cartoony in a way. Which makes the violence less grotesque and more harmless. Like when a child draws an action sequence on a piece of paper and ends up doodling black masses of carbon all over the place. It’s not because he or she is violent or deranged, its because its how a child sees progression. As such, Splatterhouse’s violence isn’t meant as a ‘blood-boner’ but as a quirky, goofy way to beat things up.

  God of War II had you smash an innocent man’s face in a book to spill his blood. And this is after multiple killing of enemies by jabbing swords into their chest and flinging them around like tetherballs. God of War III is an especially dark and violent (and shitty) journey into brutality that, as mentioned above, was almost universally praised. Except by me, because I’m awesome. Bayonetta has a sequence where you must protect a child from getting murdered by bird-angel things. The price of failure? A close-up of the child getting whacked by a holy poleax. Where’s the anger? Where’s the rage here? Those three games feature much more realistically modeled human forms getting hurt.

  There’s plenty to not like about the game. There are just a few too many enemies and not nearly enough variety. Splatterkills, as useless as they are, do get redundant. The final boss is more than a bit of a let down. The sound glitches are awful and in desperate need of a patch. The level design is a bit too linear to my taste.

  However, the positives of the game really outweigh the bad. The sound design itself is absolutely perfect when it works, which is 70% of the time. The story is shlocky but a lot of fun, with perennial Internet whipping boy HP Lovecraft doing a decent job of plot-spackle. The brawling system is well-designed and functions beautifully. The voice acting is flawless, with the voice of Tigger playing the Terror Mask. The incorporation of elements from the first arcade Splatterhouse is awesome, and I had fun trying to place the original elements in the update (although the sequence of evil heads in the church was sadly gone). Every single boss fight up until the end was more than a blast - they were brutal and fun, with unique Splatterkills to cap off the fight. And the individual, more frequent minibosses had better-than-average Quick Time Events in that they have you work the analog sticks instead of just mashing a single button.

  Is this the game for everyone? Certainly not. But no game is. Gaming is highly subjective. I personally think that Chrono Cross is a good game (despite evidence to the contrary), but Final Fantasy VII was a waste of time (despite people still obsessing over it a decade later). And you know what? There are people who will threaten my life based on that assessment. Which is funny, in a way.

  But, I digress. The whole point of this rant wasn’t to deride anyone’s opinion of a game because mine is so much better. Well, my opinions are better, but that’s not the point. The point is that what you knock off of one game should be something you should hold consistently for all games.

  Are graphics important? Well, then, make sure the next low-budget, high-concept game has an awesome art department. Sound? Every game that passes through your door better be pitch perfect. Violence? Dock points if there’s none (I’m looking at you, Lambchop’s Play Along) and add three if it’s excessive. Nudity? A zero if there’s a single tit. Hell, if a male protagonist is half nude, there’s an issue, buddy.

  I love to read bad game reviews. They’re so much more fun than good ones, where people get all gushy and talk about how much they want to play dress up with their favorite characters. Like I said, I love Yahtzee’s reviews. Even Splatterhouse is on there, and he certainly isn’t happy with it. But he has fun reviewing it negatively, and I believe him when he says he doesn’t like it. Everyone else however, seems to be trying so hard to not derive pleasure from a game it’s kind of sad.

  If a game functions as a game and is tolerable on its own merits, then don’t go digging up bullshit to pad the review. Don’t find flaws with a game which you give others a pass to because you feel like it. When you do that, you don’t have integrity, you have talking just to talk. And the more you do that, the more likely you are to find someone smarter than you who can point out how much of an idiot you’re being.

  Like me.

  I’ll do that.

Purchase Project Northwoods at Amazon.com.   Purchase Washed Hands at Amazon.com   Purchase Improbables at Amazon.com.

< PREVIOUS ENTRYNEXT ENTRY >

AdviceFictionGamingGeneral MusingsReviews