We’re getting close to Halloween, and for us horror junkies, that’s basically Christmas. For me, it’s better than Christmas because I don’t have to drive an hour and a half home from a relative’s house Christmas morning only to try to figure out what else I should do with my day. Should I try to find a 24 hour CVS, since that’s all that’s open, so that I can buy some fucking food, or should I sit alone in the dark watching feel good holiday specials while nursing a pint of Sailor Jerry? We’ll find out in a couple of months.
Anyway, I’ve been watching horror movies since I was learning multiplication. There are haunted attractions that I’ve been going to since they were opened. Every costume contest that I put effort into I won. When it comes to the genre, I’m all in.
Despite all that, I didn’t know about many horror games at the time. They do exist, though I only know about them via hindsight. Maybe I was just overwhelmed with the game selection, or maybe it was because I relied on my dad (possibly/probably) stealing all the games we owned, but outside of ‘Castlevania’ I didn’t know about any horror themed game.
That was until I found ‘Splatterhouse 3’.
HERE’S WHAT I REMEMBER:
Green blood. Some red, but mostly green blood. And I thought it was bullshit.
I was playing arcade games at the time that involved people getting punched into bloody blobs, or casually being decapitated while advancing to the next screen, so what the hell was with these green splatters? Killing an enemy should look like a highway after a deer collision, not like a toilet bowl after a spinach cleanse!
That being said, I thought the game was amazing.
I played my fair share of brawlers by that point, however I never owned one before. Well, I did own ‘Battletoads’, but I never got past the speeder bike stage (just like 99.999999999999% of the people who owned that game), so as far as I knew it was just two beat ‘em up stages and the devil. I always needed to go to someone else’s house or an arcade if I wanted to play something like ‘Streets of Rage’ or ‘Double Dragon’. Despite my limited exposure to brawlers, I knew that the fundamental formula was to go from screen to screen, punching as many people as humanly possible. For a while, that’s what I was doing, yet I ran into a twist that I didn’t quite understand right away.
I was happily punching deformed monsters when I was suddenly faced with a wall, yet the level didn’t end. I must have had to do something to the wall in order to get past it. I used everything in my arsenal to try to break the wall; I punched it, hit is with a stick…punched it again. Nothing worked! That’s when I resorted to the nuclear option.
I pressed the reset button and tried again.
Just like the NES game ‘Platoon’, you had to navigate a maze like area to complete each level. Doors would take you to new rooms and different floors. As you wandered through, you had to keep an eye on a timer (that I didn’t notice the first time), and figure out how to get to…some area, to do…something (I can’t remember what exactly). I should mention that I sucked at ‘Platoon’ and that I played it over and over again, yet constantly lost. Guess what eventually happened?
Time ran out and that was that. I was informed that I wasn’t fast enough, that my girlfriend died, I lost, I sucked, and that the game would never be my friend. As the screen faded out, I got ready to start all over again. Something funny happened though; the game didn’t restart.
Apparently losing doesn’t mean dying, at least until you fuck up twice, then it’s game over.
HOW DOES IT HOLD UP?
Here’s something that I’m sure will surprise exactly no one: a well acclaimed game is enjoyed years later. Yeah, that’s it. It’s a great game. If you haven’t played it yet, go play it, and if you’ve played it before but it’s been a while, go play it again. What I really want to focus on is this:
What the hell did I remember?
I was right that there was a timer and that the goal is to navigate the house, but finding your girlfriend is only the first stage. She can either die or survive, but the game doesn’t end once the timer hits zero. Instead, the game just keeps going until you beat the boss with a cut scene letting you know what the outcome was.
Along the same line, I’m not sure what I thought navigating the mansion was difficult. The first thing that pops up after you hit ‘start’ is a cut scene that basically says “Hey asshole, beat the shit out of everything, then press ‘start’ to bring up a map”. Little me must have been offended that they dared to put words at the beginning and hammered buttons until it went away. I missed all the instructions, got confused, restarted, and blamed the game.
Since I actually read the opening cinematic this time, I progressed through the first couple of levels with a bit more ease, though I didn’t make it within the time limit. It’ll be interesting to see what happens if I beat the game inside and outside the time limit to see if there’s a difference, but as of this writing, I haven’t completed the game nor have I seen a complete run through. That will change after a pint of rum and a long day of work (not in that order, though some days…).
Since it’s the Halloween season, ‘Splatterhouse 3’ is the perfect game to play for the holiday. Sure, it doesn’t deliver the chills and deep rooted fears of later games, but it embodies everything that’s fun about the season. You walk through a dilapidated, gore soaked mansion, punching deformed monsters and corpses with missing limbs until you reach your goal. Tormented by an evil being, your only hope comes from the mask you wear, who’s downside is that it turns you into a monster more fearsome than any in the house. It’s horror without the bite, but there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, I think it’s a great way for someone who doesn’t like being frightened to get into the Halloween spirit.
So, yeah…just play the damn game.