In 1988, some years before Mortal Kombat hit the arcade scene, Namco provided a warm-up parental freak-out session with Splatterhouse. Splatterhouse was a side-scrolling beat-em-up, though “slash-em-up” was probably a better descriptor: Players took control of a hockey-masked hulk who chopped, shot, and bludgeoned unspeakable creatures in a haunted mansion.
Across the years, Splatterhouse has received several ports on home consoles, PC, and download services. Now it’s the iPhone’s turn to host the arcade classic. Unfortunately, this port’s sticky controls will make all but the most hardcore retro game enthusiasts gag and turn away.
Yeah, I’m doublefisting chainsaws. No big deal.
Splatterhouse stars Rick and his girlfriend Jennifer, who spot a haunted mansion and trespass where they’re not wanted. Jennifer is kidnapped for an undisclosed reason, and Rick is left for dead somewhere in the bowels of the mansion. However, he finds a powerful and unsettling ally in the form of a disembodied hockey mask. The mask, named the Terror Mask (“Hi, howaya?”) gives Rick the power he needs to overcome the horrors slinking around the seven levels that lead him to a showdown with the final boss.
Splatterhouse is shallow, clunky, and bloody. That’s why it still commands a cult following. Namco obviously wanted to serve that fanbase, which is why Splatterhouse for the iPhone remains its bad ‘ol self. Sadly, it’s difficult to sit back and enjoy Splatterhouse for its cheesy violence and side-scrolling gameplay because the controls are as slippery as the piles of green goop that Rick wades through.
Players get a virtual on-screen control pad, along with an attack button, a jump button, and another button that automatically performs Rick’s famous slide-kick after he jumps. Attacking enemies at eye level isn’t so bad– Rick’s weapons are as effective as usual, particularly his trusty two-by-four– but crouching attacks are unreliable, which means a lot of animals will be chewing on Rick’s ankles. Where’s the fun in bloodshed if you’re the one bleeding out your ears because of sloppy controls?
The ineffective d-pad also puts a damper on a cool new feature that was inserted specifically into the iPhone port of the game. “Splatter Rush” pits Rick against an increasingly intense wave of enemies. If he survives for two minutes, he wins. If he loses– and he probably will because of the controls– he’s a zombie’s breakfast.
Splatterhouse enthusiasts will probably want to own the iPhone port for the sake of a complete collection. They might even find a way to work with the game’s nutty controls. Anybody else who’s interested in Splatterhouse’s bloody donation to games history should look elsewhere for their fix. It’s not as if the game lacks exposure.