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Splatterhouse 2: A true house of horror

Read the fine print. You may have just mortgaged your life!

Around seventeen years ago, for my friend’s birthday, we were taken out by his mum for food and a film. Growing up in Blackpool meant nothing but the very best five-star cuisine, the sort utter maniacs get paid to make whilst importing gold dusted roses from Tunisia to place on the tables. From McDonalds to Wimpy, we had it all. With such a top selection of restaurants to visit, we eventually settled for one of the best eateries in town – Burger King. After tasting one of Blackpool’s finest flame grilled delights, and back then BK did milkshakes too, we headed over to the local Odeon cinema. Henry Selick’s A Nightmare before Christmas was playing so we went to see it. So far, so very much a young boy’s birthday trip out. On our travels back through town we visited What Everybody Wants, a store now long lost to the ghost town of high-street casualties. So what’s this got to do with Splatterhouse 2?

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Well hold onto your chainsaws, because I’m getting there. In a corner of that very store was a rack of Megadrive games on offer. I can’t remember the deal, thanks to all the yeast excrement I’ve consumed over the years, but it was a good deal all the same. One of the titles we picked up to play that night was Splatterhouse 2. We popped it into the console and as soon as the opening music began we fell in love with it. We’d never before seen a video game so closely resemble the horror films we were allowed to watch – mutated creatures, chainsaws, zombies, tentacled beasts and moving body parts. This was a feast for unclean eyes.

Hitting that white start button entered us into Namco’s grotesque world. Walking across a muddy path, we punched our enemies with such force that they popped like birthday balloons. ‘There’s a piece of wood there, try and pick it up’ – and indeed we could. The mutated beings were sent flying at 100MPH against the crumbling brick walls with every swing of this almighty, and what turned out to be, metal pipe. Now a pit of deadly spawns to leap over but a monster approaching from the other side. It’s close to the pit, it’s not stopping and, yes, it’s just fallen in, being devoured by the carnivorous creatures. With a horrific scene of enemies murdering one another we continued, our minds blown and our hands grasped firmly to the controller.

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My first time playing the game will always remain with me. Crowded next to my friend’s small TV on a set of drawers, we feverishly battled the otherworldly forces all night. Then we heard a voice beckoning from outside the room. By Satan’s testie, what could this monstrosity be? It sounded like song, an archaic bard that was once sung deep under the seas on a moonless night: a calling of a special once a year anniversary. The voice approached ever closer. Had Cthulhu escaped Arkham, tearing open a void in the boundaries that separated our dimensions? Or could it be Fulci’s Dr. Freudstein himself, his rotting body eager for the regeneration that the flesh of our young bodies would provide. The door slowly opened, our breath standing still as a warm glow illuminated the room: Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you…

From there it just got better. Splatterhouse 2 was a side-scrolling beat’em-up by Japanese developers Namco, created several years after the original title for the arcade and PC Engine. It’s not certain why Namco chose to move over to the Megadrive exclusively for the sequel but, in retrospect, I’m sure glad they did. For a title released in 1992, it was a very violent affair. There really was nothing else like it. Your girlfriend Jennifer is still kidnapped, hidden away in a secret mansion that appears from behind the rubble of the first game’s location. So it’s time to strap on the mask once again and do your best Jason Voorhees impression.

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Jennifer doesn’t have to die

I know she doesn’t, and these rotting bags of pus are going to pay for ruining our vacation. What Namco’s sequel offered was true a gorefest, with no pretentions or tacked on Metal soundtrack, or nudity used to cover poor design; this was indeed a nasty little number. What’s also interesting is the way they’ve taken a character from the Friday the 13th series and made him the good guy. You’re using evil forces for your own good. A nice little twist, even if the game makes no mention of it. And like any good horror film, it never explains or makes excuses for the insanity before you. Is the doctor halfway through the game the very character you’ve been chasing all along? It seems so, but his defeat is quickly disregarded and the locations shift as the rift between the dimensions crumbles and logic no longer applies.

Then the PlayStation came out, and my Megadrive was no more. Ten years later and I was searching eBay for a Megadrive and copy of Splatterhouse 2. I found them – nice and cheap – and my dream to one day defeat the final boss continued. And this time that dream was finally realised. Many games from the 16-bit era congratulated your success with a Game Over screen or, if you were lucky, scrolling credits of the development team. It brought a tear to my sour heart, then, to be welcomed by a final piece of music that would have felt perfectly at home in any Lucio Fulci or Italian horror film from that classic era.

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Slow, awkward and nonsensical, Namco gladly took on what many see as the negatives of late ‘70s and early ‘80s horror. As a complete package, however, Splatterhouse 2 remains one of the few video games to truly deserve the horror title. The slow pacing and gore is more than just a dedication to the film genre’s greatest era – it rightly takes its place amongst them. As every step forward is complimented by the timeless sound of synthesiser notes, and every monstrosity dripping with grotesque mutations, Splatterhouse 2 remains a cult classic. Shame about the recent ‘reboot’ then.

The author of this fine article

is the Deputy Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in December 2010. Get in touch on Twitter @shaneryantb.

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