Friend of the site and erstwhile podcast guest Bryce Wilson penned this article about Splatterhouse 3. He’s a consummate horror fan, genre film scholar and all-around good dude. Check out his other work at Things That Don’t Suck and Son of Danse Macabre.
The Splatterhouse series exists for one reason and one reason only. Which is to allow you to beat a wide assortment of monsters and demons into various shades of putrescent goo.
All other concerns, game mechanics, graphics, are decidedly secondary to how well the game delivers the experience of allowing you to make an eight foot tall corpse with sickles for hands “taste the curb.” The formula for Splatterhouse is (and should be) simplicity itself, take one muscle bound freak wearing a demonic mask and jump suit that is in no way a copyright infringement on a certain Undead Rage Fueled Backwoods Mongoloid (Jorts are optional) put him in front of several waves of monsters; stand back, let the various shades of putrescent goo come forth.
Splatterhouse 3 finds the series trying to shake things up ever so slightly, putting on airs from hanging out with the city folk and such. It sheds the side scroller formula for that of a beat em up, a genre which frankly I prefer so good on you. It introduces the Power Meter, which occasionally allows you to hulk out and make some creatures of the night enter a world of pain; a feature the remake made good use out of. More noticeably it incorporates cut scenes (1993 Cut Scenes), and non linear exploration. The game lets you loose in the mansion. You have an endpoint but how you get there is your business.
The problem is that along with these innovations also comes a time limit and branching paths. It’s bizarrely strange that the game that introduced exploration elements into the franchise should so purposefully suppress them. Despite giving you free reign to run around the mansion causing as much chaos as you and a baseball bat can Splatterhouse 3 doesn’t merely discourage exploration it actively punishes you for it.
The other Achilles heel of the Splatterhouse franchise has always been a certain amount of repetition. Now granted this is something you’re going to get in just about any fighting game, particularly from the 16-bit era, but just as with exploration element Splatterhouse 3 seems to be actively fucking with you in this regard. The games enemies are usually strictly segregated by level, which is fine some of the time, but at other times, like in level three where you have to fight room after room of those cheap shot taking sliding motherfuckers who steal your weapons every damn time, it can get annoying.
Still this is just part and parcel of the Splatterhouse experience and like all of the other installments in the franchise Splatterhouse 3 is more than the sum of its parts. Despite its flaws it remains a fun experience thanks to its twisted sense of humor (What other franchise would have you beat the stuffing out of a demonically possessed Teddy Bear. I am dreadfully sorry for that pun), great use of horror iconography, and the sheer amount of mayhem that it allows you to enact. The Splatterhouse franchise does not offer the deepest gaming experience but you cannot say that it does not offer a satisfying one.
(Images in this writeup were borrowed from The West Mansion, the internet’s foremost Splatterhouse authority.)
- Released: 1993
- System: Sega Genesis
- Publisher: Namco