Both frustrating and fun in equal proportions, Splatterhouse is a bloody old-school romp through HP Lovecraft territory that makes up with gory excess what it lacks in originality. You play as Rick Taylor. Visiting a creepy old mansion with your girlfriend, Jenny, you are violently murdered and she kidnapped. Thank the Old Ones for spooky voodoo type masks.
You're resurrected and turned into a ridiculously overpowered (although not so overpowered that you don't die all the fucking time) Hulk type monster, determined to rescue Jenny from the clutches of Dr. Henry West (of Re-Animator fame, although they've changed the first name). You'd be better served forgetting about the plot though. Splatterhouse is the sort of game where you rip off enemies' arms and then batter things with them. Kind of like God Of War on stupid pills.
At first, Splatterhouse doesn't seem to be anything special. You'll be charging through level after level, battering things and tearing them apart with your bare hands. The third-person arcade style beat em' up gameplay is very reminiscent of Wolverine: Origins (right down to a speedy healing factor and a requisite 'rage' mode). But unlike Wolverine, there's a surprising variety to Splatterhouse. No two levels are really the same. I mean, most of them are set in West's mansion, but you'll visit post-apocalyptic futures and spooky fairgrounds too. In a reference to its low-fi origins, the game occasionally cuts to a side-scrolling mode, which is enjoyable and thankfully quite sparing in its use. At its best, Splatterhouse is a tremendous amount of fun.
But what sets Splatterhouse apart from the rest is its very Lovecraftian aspirations. I'm an enormous HP Lovecraft fan, and Splatterhouse is like playing through (a dumbed down) version of one of the author's stories. Albeit without the racism.
The creatures you'll battle are a nasty lot. There are fire-breathing clowns, giant dolls, giants, zombies and assorted slimy bastards. There are enough creatures with tentacles and annoying Fish Monsters to drive home the Lovecraft influence.
Unfortunately, there are a few too many technical problems to make this a truly great game. Splatterhouse has quite a high level of difficulty, which is fine in itself (I enjoy a challenge) but when one factors in the lengthy loading times - which occur every time you die - it becomes a little irritating. Likewise, the checkpoint system is unevenly spaced and inspires much swearing. Despite unlockables and trophies, there's not much in the way of replayability (I never understand games with an unlockable hard mode), unless you're a bit of a trophy whore (guilty as charged) or really want to get everything you can from Splatterhouse.
I came for the gore but stayed for the Lovecraft. It's a fine game. Sometimes, after a stressful day at work, all you want to do is rip off a zombie clown's arms and bludgeon another zombie clown to death with them. And Splatterhouse is fine for that.