Splatterhouse

With a next-gen Splatterhouse on the horizon, now is as good of a time as any to pick up this game and prepare yourself for the carnage to come. Splatterhouse is definitely a classic and an important step in the evolution of console horror games.

It seems like for every system, there was that one game that looked so good that I decided I must buy the system. For the TurboGrafx 16, that game was Splatterhouse. I remember seeing a commercial for the TG 16 that featured Splatterhouse, and witnessing the huge, decaying end boss swiping at the masked protagonist—well, that’s when I decided that this was a system that was worthy of adding to my collection.

Of course, at the time I was still fairly young and without a source of income other than begging and pleading with my parents, so it was a while before I finally scored my TurboGrafx and my very own copy of Splatterhouse. Once I did, though, I was not disappointed.

One thing that stood out about Splatterhouse was that this was not a game intended for everyone. Though toned down from the arcade original, Splatterhouse still showcased a lot of gore and creature designs that were gruesome for the time. These were fleshy monsters that you could beat to a pulp—something very satisfying to my young teenage sensibilities.

So, the same question arises that always does when it comes to retro games—does this title stand the test of time? Is Splatterhouse still worthy of a playthrough?

Hell yeah.

Certainly, it doesn’t quite match up to the sequels or the more advanced horror games that have followed, but Splatterhouse is the first title I can ever remember that actually fit into the horror genre. Titles which had horror aspects like Castlevania preceded it, but those just seemed like action games with a horror theme tacked on. With its slimy, slithering, oozing, decaying enemies, Splatterhouse was horror. No, you never really got scared playing the game, but I blame that more on the limitations of the consoles of the era. The horror design was spot on for its time.

There isn’t a whole lot to the story of Splatterhouse, and there really doesn’t need to be. Sure, there’s something about a Dr. West and evil experiments, but none of that really matters. What matters is that some big baddy has kidnapped your girl, you’re all hulked out thanks to a red mask that mysteriously has attached itself to you, and there is an army of creeps between you and the end. The game is an arcade port, and in arcade style, the levels aren’t really tied together too closely. Everything takes place in the mansion and the grounds surrounding it, but one minute you’ll be in a hall full of mirrors only to walk through a doorway to find yourself in what appears to be a church setting. Apparently, the idea of consistency was lost on Dr. West’s interior designer.

In terms of gameplay, Splatterhouse is pretty simple. You have an attack button and a jump button. You are capable of punches, low kicks, jump kicks, and a very effective sliding move that is unfortunately not all that easy to pull off. The draw exists in the weapons you can pick up along the way. You’ll find boards with which you’ll splat your enemies against walls, wrenches which you’ll hurl into their beastly chests, spears with which you’ll impale them, and shotguns that will blast them to pieces so that they can be fed to undead canines. The controls in the game aren’t too bad, though your jump is not as responsive as it could be, which will become very annoying in certain parts of the game (such as the final level). A side note for the cheaters our there—selecting the middle turbo setting on your controller makes your hero a crazy punching and kicking machine, which will make certain parts of the game, such as the level six boss, much easier to handle.

With a next-gen Splatterhouse on the horizon, now is as good of a time as any to pick up this game and prepare yourself for the carnage to come. Splatterhouse is definitely a classic and an important step in the evolution of console horror games.

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Alien Crush

. . . Though I would not necessarily call this a must-have game, it does make a nice addition to your TurboGrafx library . . .

front cover for Alien CrushGrowing up, I was lucky enough to have two pinball machines in our house. One was a rather basic little machine with a World War II fighter plane motif, while the other one was, I believe, a Williams Pinch Hitter machine, which was fun as hell . . . whenever it was working.

Now that I’m away from home and can’t afford a place large enough to store a pinball machine, let alone the machine itself, I must take my love of the game to the virtual arena. Luckily, games like Alien Crush exist.

One of the first things you will notice about this game is that it is obviously inspired by the HR Giger designs used in the Alien movies. I have seen the game criticized elsewhere because of this, but I think the influence of Giger’s designs is so widespread that singling out this game isn’t necessary. Anyway, we’re not here to talk about copyright infringement—the question should be, is the game fun to play?

To that, I have to say, “yes, yes it is.” In fact, it is my favorite video game version of a pinball machine that I have played (of course, I have yet to try Devil’s Crush).

The game is not without its flaws, though. For one, the main playing area is divided into two screens for the upper and lower halves. Instead of scrolling from the top to the bottom (and vice-versa), when the ball moves to the other half of the area, you switch between screens. This would not be so bad, but whenever a ball passes between your flippers on the upper screen, it is most likely going to hit a bumper that is placed at the top middle of the bottom screen, which will force the ball back into the upper screen and very likely into the bottom of your flipper. This can be very disorienting, as the screen switches quickly back and forth, and it takes a moment to locate exactly where the ball is afterward. I also found the controls to be unintuitive at first, as the left flipper is actually controlled by the left directional key while the right flipper is controlled by button I. I understand that this was likely done to make it easier to use both flippers at once, but I think I would have preferred if button II had been assigned to the left flipper and the directional key had been used to nudge the machine (which is the function assigned to button II). I think that would have allowed you to nudge the machine in different directions and would have permitted a little more control.

Those minor complaints aside, Alien Crush is a good game. It is perhaps limited when compared to games that came after it, as it only offers the main table and four small bonus areas, but as a whole, the game is solid and enjoyable. The alien theme is what really makes the experience. You will have cocoon bumpers open up to let scorpion-like aliens out, you will destroy segmented centepede aliens, and you will even knock about a floating skull or two. Though I would not necessarily call this a must-have game, it does make a nice addition to your TurboGrafx library.

Recommended.