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.