The one-hit, one-plane, side-scroller genre, was not a common one or even highly praised back in the day. While the Splatterhouse-games did show that a mechanic like this could work and still be entertaining, Splatterhouse 3 decided to go all out beat-em-up, with more planes to move around on similar to more common beat-em-ups. However, Splatterhouse 3 did not just stop there, it wanted to expand with plenty extra elements into this installment.
Poor Rick. He finally got married to his crush Jenny, got a son together, and even bought a mansion of their own, with hopes that the times when he had to use the Terror mask were over. Yet despite the fact that the Splatterhouse crumbled into dust in the last game, the monsters from that horrid house have invaded Rick’s new mansion and his family is in danger. Rick finds the Terror mask once again and sets out to save his family and their new home.
Yup, you beat things up!
Changing the genre meant for Rick to have slightly more movements. He can now move in 8 directions, have punches that can lead to combos, jump-kick, and can grab enemies, leading to more beatdowns or throwing them. All of these are important to use, as enemies can be dangerous creatures. While they all are simple, they all accommodate different approaches that must be taken into consideration. Huge blobs will charge quickly, deformed man-birds will slide towards you, and plenty more will be deadly obstacles to overcome. You are never unprepared with good a reach for your fist, though as soon as the second level, things can quickly heat up.
One of the other helpful arsenals you can get are the weapons to pick up. They range in board-weapons, such as baseball bats, blades such as cleavers, and throwable weapons like bricks. This is surely nothing new, either for this series or the beat ‘em up-genre itself, but they pack an immense reach and deal some heavy damage, making them useful to search out for. You see, with this installment, each stage comes with a map where you are free to explore for better weapons, extra lives, health-regenerating hearts, or orbs for your Power meter, which we will come back to later. This is a good idea for finding out how to get to the exit, but to also see if the smaller rooms or pathways can’t be worth your time. Actually, that is a very important part of the game: you have a time limit in every stage. You are free to explore to your heart’s content, but if the timer reaches zero, terrible things will happen to your family members. Your wife can be eaten by a gruesome creature, your child will be kidnapped by a cult, and more, making each step important to save your loved ones.
Taking the direct path can also be a risk vs reward approach, which I really like. In every room with monsters in it, you must kill all of them before venturing further. Because of this, will you search for better weapons to prepare yourself or do you think your skills are enough? Will you take on a room that is an obstacle course with possessed items slowing you down or take one of the doors that puts you in a randomized room? The choices are yours and with a handy map at your disposal when enemies aren’t around, you can easily make your path. Though, getting knocked down or killed, will take a portion of your time as well, as Rick is very slow at getting up. Not to mention, if you have a weapon, a ghost will attempt to take it away if you drop it due to a disarming attack, which surely is devastating whenever it happens.
Anything that can take time of your clock, is intense-inducing and can make easily your heart pound. Thankfully, Rick is a competent fighter as we have seen before, and there are also two more abilities he has that are also helpful. One is the Power meter, which can be filled up by collecting orbs. Whenever the meter contains some charge, you can press the A-button to turn Rick into a more muscular and enormous version of himself, making his attacks stronger. He is not invincible in this mode though, and should he die or kill every enemy in a stage, the bar will go back to zero, so it is only a slight, but competent support. The second ability that will help Rick out, is his spin-kick. By rocking the D-pad and then punch, he can execute an attack to take out every enemy around him. With this, he can deal heavy damage, is untouchable, and the attack does not take a portion of your health either, so it can be a bit overkill. Thankfully, it is a bit balanced as you are stationary, it is a tad tricky to pull off and while it lasts three seconds, an enemy can take you off guard just after you have performed it. Yet, it is a move you will constantly use as it helps out a lot, which is unfortunate since it can be game breaking for those who get good at using it.
Whenever you get a game over, a password will be provided for you and the ability to start the stage over thanks to unlimited continues. This is a good thing, as while the game is only six stages long with one extra stage dedicated to a boss fight, it will be hard to complete this game in one sitting due to its difficulty. The enemies will be aggressive and dangerous, and the boss fights will demand you to be aware of every attack. One will send leeches towards you, another will shoot projectiles and teleport, and all are equally different in approaches. A few can be easily beaten if you find the right tool, but that is if you have the time to search around.
This is a great element the game has, where the time limit will be a test of how far you can get and how you will do so. Though the game can be a bit unbalanced due to your strong roundhouse kick and the fact that if you don’t care about a good ending, the time limit won’t be a bother at all. Still, beating up different creatures is still fun and I am happy to see the Splatterhouse-series taking a different, but suitable route.
Gameplay Score: 7.5/10
The house of a thousand corpses
Splatterhouse 3 takes inspirations from the first entry in the series and focuses more on making a realistic house with furniture and rooms dedicated to different activities, such as a child’s bedroom and a wine cellar. Some smaller rooms can be guilty of copy-paste, but those are luckily rare and they fit the stage/floor you are on. Another lovely return is that all areas have some form of grotesque elements put in them, with flesh leaking from the ceiling, walls being covered in blood or the monsters themselves.
These enemies you will kill come in huge variety, with rotting humanoid experiments, huge bloody leeches, and some that are more disturbing and creative than my words can reach. One of the best things about these creatures are the small details that come with them. They will show decay or lose limbs when they are getting closer to death and will die differently depending on what weapon you used to attack them with, giving the beat down more satisfaction. The cutscenes between levels use a neat technique, with digitized photos to showcase the characters and a flip-note trick to convey animations, which is still impressive to this day for the system and they provide a good atmosphere to the upcoming events, both the good and the bad.
I love the sound effects of punching enemies as it really sounds like punching meat: loud and satisfying. The screams and laughs coming from creatures adds to the atmosphere, making you uncomfortable, but also satisfied when you see their corpses exploding or splatting to the ground. Even if they are a bit-crushed. Though the music has gotten a different tone from the last titles. Instead of focusing on making an uncomfortable soundtrack, Splatterhouse 3’s music takes on a more action-packed punch to itself in a form of horror-disco. It is lovely, with memorable tones and huge variety in each track, making them easy to enjoy on their own and they simply add to the action. Though there are also some that are more obscure and ominous, such as when all enemies are gone and you must choose another route to take, making the soundtrack diverse enough to hit all the right notes for an action-packed game, that wants you to feel intense.
Presentation Score: 8/10
Can you save them all?
As I might have made clear, it is hard to meet the time limit, though far from impossible. The different endings and mid-cutscenes showcasing what happens with your family, are an effective way of making the beat-down more intense and the choices you made more important. Though if you were able to save them all, it is also interesting to see what might have happened if you let one timelimit slip off. These are quite the treat as well and the password-system also helps you neglect replaying every stage again if you just want to change one scenario.
I am so happy to finally get to own this legit, as Splatterhouse 3 was not released in Europe before the 2010 installment. It has such a satisfying gameplay, gory presentation, a creative use of the time limit, satisfying punches and kicks, and while it can be a bit unbalanced due to the overpowered attack, I always had a smile on my face. A unique action game no one should miss out on.