Monday, 31 March 2014

Splatterhouse 3

Splatterhouse 3: Fairlight, no idea why it's called Fairlight

The third in the trilogy and quite a step in a different direction, Splatterhouse 3 takes the original 2 games and adds a pseudo third dimension to the gameplay. Gone are the 2D platform sections of the previous 2 games and instead what we have is a room-based brawler taking the Terror-Mask laden, Rick and most of the enemies that he's fought in the previous games and making something quite unique. 

Reads better than "Rick, filled with piss, goes to find the toilet"

Even going so far as to add a developing story and plot, where in Rick, the Mask and other supporting characters are subtitled in conversing and discussing the dangers and solutions required (Punch it... repeatedly, you learned this for 2 whole games so just get down to the PUNCHING!) including multiple story paths depending on successes and failures.

Clock's ticking, work it out and save the day.
It's fresh, it's new, it's breathing something different into the mix, but that's not always what the fans want and sometimes isn't what's required for a series. I could point at various games going into full 3D platforming then dropping back into 2D games with 3D graphics. While Splatterhouse 3 isn't quite akin to that level of change, it is still change and it becomes the task to determine whether or not that change is for the better.

Overall it is. So much for setting up that pseudo essay.

The giant bore worm, looking like a walking dick with teeth... this probably came from someone's nightmares.

But what exactly are we dealing with here. What we have is a fairly well-paced game that mixes up the dynamics of games like Streets of Rage, Golden Axe and others of their kin and uses the setting and graphics style of the original Splatterhouse games. Which really is a better thing to do with the Megadrive (Genesis) as was shown with Splatterhouse 2 in that the change down in graphics didn't help the game despite keeping with the original style of play.

That's the problem with fighting the supernatural, rules don't need to be followed.

This is significantly different and not just in being able to move into the background. You have a standard attack which can combo into various others and finishing with an uppercut, you have your jumping kick which lets you cross the ground fairly quickly but does little impact and knocks enemies down, which gives them a while to get back up again. You have an all-round attack that throws lots of enemies away but is more a case of backing enemies off rather than being powerful (depending upon your location of the game, an odd one here in that in some regions of the world, it's a POWERHOUSE of a move but needs a bigger keypress combo to use).

Lift off!

All this is augmented by the soul orbs which when used, can allow Rick to transform into Super Sayjin... I mean a more powerful mask wearing, hulking abomination of muscle and fused mask that hits harder and can powerbomb enemies. But it wears off after a room or runs out of soul power. So it's generally kept for bosses that need to be taken down quickly. These soul orbs are fairly plentiful and usually on the final stretch towards the boss room.

"Hinding" ? Did nobody spellcheck this game? At least it's not "Makes a shandwich"

Yes I said room. The game is set within another mansion though this time the evil has "invaded" (The fuck? How's that work exactly? Nevermind, it's what 'evil' does) the house and converted it into the old West Mansion from within. After each battle within a room/corridor, you can pull up a map when you pause the game and see the layout of the area. This mainly helps because there are some doors that open one way (You can't tell which from the map other than it's one way but not WHICH way) and some teleport you around the floor. But your main reason for using the map is that the game is timed.

"I'm trying to eat your wife, can't you come back later?"

From the off, you have a time limit in which to get to the boss and kill it otherwise you incur a bad ending. Depending on how many times you fail, depends upon how bad the ending is. From escaping the house and banishing all evil and killing the mask, to your wife dead, turned into a monster and your son sacrificed and the Evil One (great name guys, so creative) ruling the earth until you kill him (Which you will do anyway). If you take the right route and manage it quickly enough, you'll be given bonus levels to attempt which are filled with tough enemies but lots of health, soul and lives.

There are few weapons in the game, they negate blocking but if you drop them, these heads steal them and only one room per floor as them and where they take your items. They're not that great anyway.

The enemies, are largely taken from other games in the series with a few of them being rather original, or slightly modified to fit in with the new game. Some of the attacks are obvious as to when they'll be used and you can often sidestep or jump out of the way. Other attacks are instant and the further into the game you get, the harder hitting they'll be. Brand new enemies will be a nightmare at first as they'll have high health and you'll be entirely unaware of their attacks. Thankfully (and rather disappointingly) the AI of the enemies and most bosses is fairly similar and one attack method will often work for almost anything the game designates to you as a target.

2 bosses, at once, and this is a standard room later in the game.
Graphically, the enemies and characters are smaller than the previous two games but at the same time the detail is a lot higher and lot more focused on backgrounds as well as the enemies, particularly the bosses. Every enemy and boss has multiple stages of damage where they'll attack while in one phase and look "healthy" (for a dead monster with no hands and no head) and after taking enough damage, will look damaged or will change their appearance. In bosses and most later enemies in later levels, this will bring about new attacks.

"BLOOD DICK ASSAULT!" No I made that up. But this is your all-round attack.

Oddly for a brawler, while bosses tend to come back later in the game as a "big" standard enemy. Splatterhouse 3 uses the first boss in the 3rd room of the second level. Barely enough time to worry about the new map before you're fighting 2 of the same boss at the SAME TIME and without much of the soul orbs. I've not seen this with any other boss however.

This boss was in the 2nd game and was about 50ft tall. We have a slight difference here.

The soundtrack for the game is very impressive and was clearly composed with the levels in mind and the urgency of the plot. Later levels have faster beats, harder music that instils more adrenaline and fits better with the increasing difficulty while also still sounding like music that fits within a horror film set within a haunted house.

The deer-heads make a welcome return as one of those homages. They don't puke though.

There's little in the game that comes across as negative but what little there is, is quite damning. The controls of the character, particularly when moving, if not carefully managed can leave Rick wandering uselessly around by himself through the house and the timing of combos has to be spot on if you want to prevent the enemies from attacking through your attacks. The distance needed to his many enemies is slightly more than they need to hit you and it takes far too long to recover from the floor whenever floored by an attack. This could be intentional on the game's part to slow your progress and make the timer more of a worry, but a shorter timer and shorter recovery time would negate this impact.

Some corridors/halls have smaller enemies that gradually drain health, faster to walk down but impossible to be unscathed by the assault.

It's the game that should have been Splatterhouse 2. It's not perfect but serves as a good step between the arcade original and the remake game of 2010.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Splatterhouse 2

Splatterhouse 2: Electric Boogaloo, with more blood.

In keeping with the blood gore and violence of the previous review, I thought it might be nice to take a little trip back to West Mansion with the further exploits of Rick, the Terror Mask and the ongoing mission to save Jennifer from the infernal reaches of the darkest pits of flesh-covered hell, that is Splatterhouse 2 on the Megadrive (....genesis).

What's different from the last outing you ask? Why should I pay it any heed I hear you cry out from your definitely not blood-stained gaming these days? Because... well it's more of the same to be perfectly honest. Though if you tone down the graphics of the arcade version and slap in a few more levels and a few more dynamic situations within the levels themselves, you've the essence of what is a fairly typical sequel going from Arcade to Megadrive/Home machines.

Not as graphically appealing, in more ways than one.

You control (P)Rick (Heh, classic) once again as he dons the infamous Terror Mask and pretends even less to be Jason Voorhees while he walks menacing through the game punching out anything that's even remotely misshapen of the fleshy variety as he meanders from point A to point B and leaves a spritely trail of blood, guts, gore, pus, ichor and bodies in his wake. This game really does push the limit (at the time) of what is meant by a violent video game nasty and in doing so has gone all out to have (at one point, certainly) the blood running down the screen. In fact, I even took a screenie of it.

See, told you I took a screenie.

This is after you walk along a stream floating with dead Screaming-Mimi's, punch your way through infected fish waters, drown a few hapless enemies and then wander into a shed (why?) in the middle of nowhere for what I presume is simply because Rick never worked out how to move in the foreground and background before the third game! Once inside you get accosted by various gardening implements before using one of those weapons (Get the chainsaw, ALWAYS) to attack abortions hanging from ropes and hooks, then a giant flesh jaw head thing (I... can't think of much else to say on it) before it naturally, explodes into a shower of pulped flesh.

This is just ONE level, most of the others are far worse.

No... really? Never would have guessed that.

Bosses that explode intestinally, churn up into little blood piles, eye-screaming explosions, wither and die away, head melt, ignite, have their eyes skewered with large impalements and a whole host more violent things you can do with Prick's amazing abilities to walk through the undead and unholy armies and solving everything with a few left-handers.

Good job that almost everything is either made of exploding flesh or has a glass jaw as Rick himself is one slow bastard these days. His lumber gait is made all the more obvious with the drop in animation and graphics but having said that, he's still huge and more than an imposing figure on the battlefield. What is lost in detail is made up for in size. Though that also adds to the challenge as you'll find yourself unable to avoid various attacks and enemies because you're such a big target (lay off the food, fatty)

One of two left levels, this one is the harder and it's on level 2.

Story wise, you learn a little more on the start of each level and the game basically has you trying to save the girl by punching the fuck out of everything. Hands, monsters, more monsters, bosses, more monsters, but not that giant blue behemoth... don't touch him. Then having a slight twist of having to kill a monster that escaped from "hell" for want of a better word which hurls disembodied heads at you before becoming a batwing creature and trying to speed slam you while you're... you guessed it... punching it.

Rick has the low kick and the slide attack as well, but to be honest, it's all about punching. Some monsters will approach too low for the usual and if you manage to hit anything with the slide then you can credit yourself with doing double damage but if the enemy survives it, you'll be standing up straight into them for an instant damage. Not so bad perhaps but you've usually got just 4 hits and most bosses can tank damage or have multiple forms. 

The action rarely ever lets up in this game. Even quiet spots require something to be punched.

Despite the drop in graphics from the arcade to the console, the music for the system is a lot more varied than the previous game and the tone and pace of it much more suited to the game than the arcade's attempt. Boss battles are usually more intense and frantic while levels are slightly slower (depending upon the level), lift music is a lot more interesting when you're being assaulted by monsters and escape music really adds to the urgency of having to flee from a large squid monster or a collapsing house. It helps, it adds and it fits (mostly) to the game.

The big question for the players is, can you cope with the change from the original game to this in quality of graphics and a slightly more wooden game play set of mechanics? If you can then it's likely you'll enjoy this too otherwise the downgrade might be too drastic, in which this sequel begins to smell like it was rushed out the door or the ambition might have been to release this in the arcades, couldn't' find an appropriate backer so ported it to the Megadrive only to be forced to reel most of the content back JUST to fit onto the cart.

BOO! Yeah I got nothing really to add here.

Overall, it's the weakest game of the initial trilogy and I totally didn't rush this review at all on the last minute of Wednesday to meet my own arbitrary deadlines. There's just so little different from the arcade to this game.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Brutal Doom v19 (mod for Doom and Doom 2)

This is going to bloody, fast.

It's an odd thing to do but I felt that rather than review a game, I'd review a modification for a game. Modifications are an interesting subset of gaming, taking the whole game and deciding "Yes, I like this game but I feel that it needs this..." and then going and changing the game in some manner from things like adding in new sound effects, replacing the enemies with large pictures of dicks or going above and beyond to the point of effectively re-designing the WHOLE game with just the core engine being the only thing that is recognisable in the first place. (Even then... it's hard to see it at times).

This is one of the latter modifications. Brutal Doom (v19, for those wondering what's the issue).

You just made a VERY big mistake...

As a comparison, I ran this mod over Doom 2. Let's get straight that right now the things that don't change are the levels themselves and the textures used in those levels and the music of the game. Everything is changed, modified, improved or different. (Yes I'm generalising and there's going to be a few things similar like the BFG sprite is still the same so let's not get pedantic, people).

Brutal doom, is often spoken about as being the game that turns doom into the game we would LIKE to remember. Ramp up the violence, the blood, the gore and the action and this is about as chaotic and gorefesty (yes it's now a word) as one could possibly imagine a game to be without having someone stood beside you and opening an artery over your face every few seconds.

Before chaos...

...after chaos

Let's start with the weapons. ALL the weapons barring the BFG are different. Your fists for a start can punch, rip, fatality and slaughter enemies if you have the right power up or sneak up on them for a stealth kill. Your pistol is now an assault rifle where you can aim down the iron-sights for headshots and pick off body parts, your shotgun can do the same. The double barrel shotgun is stronger and can fire off individual barrels. The minigun is now more like a minigun and can be set spinning for a faster rate of fire (with more judder from the recoil), rockets are kept in 6-pack drums and need reloading but they're faster and hit harder. The plasma gun can be reloaded and used to spray flames around while the BFG just paints the town red... still.

A wealth of fatailities just for you.

They also give you back health and you're untouchable while doing them.

The enemies, whoo! there's a list and a half. You can blow off limbs and they'll keep coming, you can watch them attack each other with multiple animations, some will assault you with others, some will animated differently, almost ALL of them will animated a fatality if they kill you in hand-to-hand combat (See the cacodemon for half-filling meal while it chomps your torso off and leaves the legs behind, or the Baron of Hell RIPPING YOU IN HALF down the middle of your chest). Some will crawl screaming along the ground or just stop there and try to attack.

The enemies aren't the only ones capable of being killed creatively.

Even here, large floating tomato monsters need feeding.

On top of this, you can take the rockets off the Revenants and the cannons off the Mancubus and use their weapons against themselves, kill the enemy with explosives or use a chainsaw on the corpse and you'll be able to steal and use it for yourself. The SpiderMastermind now has an explosive ammo chaingun and a LOT more health while the Cyberdemon now sports multi directional firing spread (no more easy sidesteps) and can stomp you if you get too close for comfort. He also doesn't appreciate being told to go "fuck yourself"... Seriously, don't do it.

10 seconds in and it's going to get far more bloody.

For many, the fun will be found in spraying body parts all over the place and the exploration in the melee fatalities if you have the berserker pack. Or just seeing how over the top one can go with this level of chaos and explosions. Coupled with the notion that everything can be ripped apart, players will end up experimenting to try and find various ways of acquiring all the deaths. Hit it with shotgun and you blow the upper half away, plasma rifle will leave a burnt electrified corpse, machineguns will make them dance a little while rockets just chunkify everything around themselves.

Before paintjob...

...after paintjob.

There are some downfalls though, with the high level of explosive giblets and everything having far more blood than is physically and logically possible, the game can suffer from having too much on screen and quickly identifying what is dead, dying and still a threat can be a hard task. The new approach to the game also will catch many players out with the faster AI and alternative attacks, enemies previously locked to sectors may start wandering to places the players will not expect and more quickly too. New scope is now feasible for ambushes in various places and players toes will be kept upon.

Yes you are seeing that right, and yes the revenant can STILL attack.

There's also the sad truth in that there's various situations and circumstances that make the game exponentially more difficult while in some places outright impossible due to the layout of the level, placement of the enemies and the modifications brought in by this near Total Conversion. Incidentally it doesn't stop it from being just outright, immature, gore fest fun.

You'll end up just staring when the action lets up and seeing the beautiful horrors.

So get this mod, grab a BFG and paint the town RED.