Released: August 1992 / Genesis
Although Splatterhouse debuted in the arcade (with ports to the TurboGrafx-16 and the Japanese FM Towns PC), the series is perhaps best known for its Genesis sequels. Alongside Altered Beast and the original Mortal Kombat, the Splatterhouse series played an important role in giving the Genesis the image of the system for cool and gory games, which would prove to be incredibly beneficial for Sega during the 16-bit wars.
There are a number of factors that make the Splatterhouse games so appealing. For one, the protagonist Rick, with his demonic white mask, is a dead ringer for Jason Voorhees, the chief antagonist of what was probably the biggest horror movie franchise at the time, Friday the 13th. The games also fit snuggly into the most popular genre at the time, the side-scrolling brawler, which certainly helped with accessibility. But what really drew most youth of the early 90s (such as myself) to the series was the brutal violence, sickening gore, and disturbing atmosphere.
While the original Splatterhouse primarily took place in one location (West Mansion), Splatterhouse 2’s quest is more akin to a Castlevania game, taking Rick through forests, a swamp, alongside a lake, and of course into a demon-infested haunted home. Although the locations themselves may not impress, the gory details do. If the horror aesthetic in the original Castlevania series was inspired by the classic Universal monster movies, Splatterhouse is a product of the then-shocking blood-soaked slasher films of the 70s and 80s (although with more of a supernatural bent). In the eight stages of Splatterhouse 2 you will find puking mounted deer heads, misshapen twitching corpses, bloody skulls, bodies impaled on spikes, and more gruesome delights. These details help a great deal in giving Splatterhouse 2 a unique and grotesque (again, for the time) atmosphere.
Also contributing to the atmosphere is the game’s soundtrack. Far from the empowering rock of the Castlevania series, Splatterhouse 2’s music is closer to that of a horror film, adding to the unsettling tone. As far as gameplay, control, and design go, the game really isn’t much of a step up from Altered Beast. The side-scrolling action takes place on one plane, and Rick has a pretty limited moveset, consisting of a punch, low kick, jump kick, and slide. Enemies come from left or right, and a simple punch or two will take care of most. Although the combat is satisfying thanks to the gory impact of Rick’s attacks, there is little strategy involved outside of the bosses (some of which have fairly tricky patterns). Occasional weapons and light platforming help spice up the stages, but all of the mechanics feel merely functional. And that’s OK.
Judging a game like Splatterhouse 2 on the basis of its mechanics and depth is like judging a slasher film from the early 80s based on its acting and writing- kind of beside the point. We love horror for the way it unsettles, shocks, and surprises us- in these regards, Splatterhouse 2 is definitely a success.