As some of you might know, the original Splatterhouse was ported to the Turbografx 16 and despite dealing with much less powerful hardware than what was available on an arcade machine at the time, it still retained a lot of the magic from its source material. However, for the sequel Namco decided to make exclusively for the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive. Quite fitting as Splatterhouse 2 would retain its gore and violence on this 16-bit machine, a clear example of “Genesis does what Nintendon’t”.
It has been three months since Rick escaped the West mansion. Haunted and tormented by nightmares of his girlfriend being trapped in disturbing scenarios; the Terror-mask enters his dreams as well. He offers to help Rick and tells him that will be waiting at the resurrected West Mansion, also known as the Splatterhouse. With the hope of rescuing his girlfriend now that he knows there is a chance, he finds the mask nearby the mansion and transforms into a hulking beast in the hope to save his beloved.
On almost the same tracks as the last game
Not much has changed from the last game, which I am okay with. Splatterhouse 2 is still a sidescrolling, one-plane, one-hit beat ‘em up, focusing on precise attacks and jumps over obstacles. Rick has the same limited moveset like before, with only being able to jump, duck, and punch left and right. His slide-kick which he can perform while descending from the air is still present and tricky to pull off, but deals twice the damage so it can come in handy if you can master it.
The path will be towards the right, except when there is a survival arena or a boss fight. This simple gameplay still works, thanks to every area being designed around Rick’s restricted moveset. Enemies take few punches to kill, some will be better to jump over, and there are some decent platforming-parts where you must still be aware of enemies or traps coming from the floor or the background. They all test your reaction time and are never cheap.
While your punches and kicks still have decent length, the weapons are the highlights both for dealing more damage and for creating some loveable carnage. Sadly, there are very few of them and while all are still satisfying to use, there comes plenty of times where there will be long stretches without any fun weapons to use. Though fortunately, you will get some nice ones, such as a chainsaw and a shotgun, both dealing heavy damage, but each will appear only once in a stage and some areas can be devoid of any tools to use. This can make the game too repetitive at times, despite it always making you be aware of your surroundings.
While the enemies come in a good variety, two types are reused with two or three different color swaps, differentiated either by the amount of damage they will take or if they will resurrect. This adds to the repetitiveness the game can provide, especially since they are also the most common creatures you will face. Thankfully, the levels and their appearances keep you from being bored due to their variation with traps and concepts, such as an autoscrolling part where you run from a monster. Not to mention, the bosses are interesting since they provide different setups for fights, such as one having you throw back his own projectiles and another being an endurance-run. Since this entry is also built for a console, you will get extra lives from points and, should you bite the dust, you have unlimited continues and will be provided with a password so you return at a later time. Despite being 9 stages long, it is about the same length as the first installment, but the challenge can be higher so it is not bad to at least have the option.
It is odd that it did not go beyond or improve upon its predecessor, as the biggest criticism still stands. Every part of this game is clearly paragraphed so it can be easy to venture through once you know what to do, though the challenge is higher thanks to more enemies and traps, which is good. Sadly, due to the similar enemies and lack of weapons, the game becomes more repetitive. Still, it is enjoyable to venture through the West Mansion and cause some damage.
Gameplay Score: 7/10
Genesis was known for gory titles
Splatterhouse 2 benefits a lot from being made for the Genesis, with deeper and more diverse colors, giving each place a more distinct look. A library with experimental potions, a lake-side with a tentacle-monster chasing you, and some nice references to other horror-treats, such as the deer-heads taken inspiration from Evil Dead 2. The multilayered backgrounds are quite lovely as well, giving the outdoor areas an impressive and atmospheric look. All stages are different from each other too, giving them clear personalities.
The enemies are also disturbing and unsettling, fitting this cursed house. The leeches jumping out of the water, skinless fetuses hanging from the ceiling, and chopped-off hands crawling towards you, are all uncomfortable and well-designed. The highlights are the bosses, though. All are imaginative and diverse, from the gory, pulsating blob in the first stage, to the lake-monster that I have a hard-time describing even today. However, this leads me to two unfortunate complaints about the presentation. The reuse of two different enemies with simple color swaps and having them being the most common foes destroys some of the immersion this disturbing house can create. There are also a lot of different animations for when you kill the monsters with different weapons, such as making them explode from a shotgun, or fly into the distance when hit by a paddle. Again, however, these weapons are rare, making the kills by punches repetitive. Though the boss fights have some gruesome animations for when they fall, which makes the victories that more satisfying.
What has been carried over is the disturbing soundtrack, but it’s more action-driven this time. They carry the “Genesis-twang” well, mimicking both guitar and some organ, giving it a more intense atmosphere. Some tracks are mysterious and ominous, others put you on edge, making the music effective at working well with the stages, despite some reuses. The bit-crushed sounds of voice-acting are actually impressive. The plea for help and Jennifer’s cries, are devastating and scary, adding to the atmosphere. Though this is great and impressive for a title on the Genesis, it makes me wonder why the sound of your weapons clashing with the enemies, or even your punches which can knock off torsos, are so lackluster. They are low, unsatisfying, and hard to even make out. An incredible shame for a game with some gruesome kills.
The lack of gore in the environment is not without reasons though. Instead of being more like an experimental place filled with corpses, this splatterhouse has become more of a place of decay. It really shows through the more varied areas, but I still wish the enemies had better diversity. More details, in general, could have made the presentation go a long way, especially the sound-quality from you destruction and carnage.
Presentation Score: 8/10
It can easily be an enormous debate on which game is better as both Splatterhouse 1 and 2 have strong elements in their presentation and mechanics. I think I prefer the first game a bit more due to delivering more on its title, but despite the lesser qualities, Splatterhouse 2 is still a good sequel and stays true to the original game. Just expect one step forward and one step back.