Insane scares and immense tension can make for a highly memorable Halloween experience. In fact, that's why we decided to check out Outlast on the last edition of GameZone's 31 Games of Halloween. That said, it's time to turn the “grim seriousness” dial back a few notches and take a look at a lighthearted retro romp. Today's game of Halloween is none other than the quirky follow-up to the original Splatterhouse. We're going to jump into the comedic parody world of Splatterhouse: Wanpaku Graffiti.
So let's not delay this any longer. Let's see exactly what makes this rather offbeat Famicom title such a splendid little game that's perfect for the month of October.
Why it stands out
The original Splatterhouse gained notoriety for its slasher flick influences. Unfortunately, while the arcade version of that game garnered quite a bit of acclaim, the eventual TurboGrafx-16 port failed to deliver on the gore that made the original such a standout. Personally, I still think Splatterhouse is kind of okay, but most people would probably beg to differ. Of course, even I can see that the first game in the series paled in comparison to the second entry, which went in a completely different direction altogether.
Splatterhouse: Wanpaku Graffiti once again stars the hockey mask-wearing Rick, who returns from the dead and sets out to save his girlfriend Jennifer from the clutches of the demonic Pumpkin King. Unlike its predecessor, or any of the later entries in the series, Wanpaku Graffiti sports a more colorful, cutesy graphical style. In addition, the characters all have a more cartoony look that consists of big heads on tiny bodies. This visual style was never explored again in the series, which is kind of shame, because Wanpaku Graffiti is easily the most visually interesting installment.
A couple of gameplay mechanics help the game stand out from its series brethren. For starters, platforming is a major component, and it's even more prominent than the actual brawling gameplay that the series is known for. There's also a light RPG element that gives you a sense of accomplishment. You're not just killing monsters and moving on — every enemy you defeat grants you experience. Though it only adds a slight wrinkle to the formula, this RPG mechanic is enough to make Wanpaku Graffiti stand out considerably from the rest of the Splatterhouse games.
Is it scary?
Comedy trumps horror in the case of this title. Wanpaku Graffiti is really more of a parody than an actual horror game, but it carries out its parodies in ways that make you chuckle rather than roll your eyes. The uninitiated will immediately make the connection between Rick and Jason Vorhees, as both characters wear a hockey mask. Fans who know their horror movie lore, however, will smile at the fact that there's a level called Diamond Lake, which is a reference to Crystal Lake from the Friday the 13th movies.
This isn't just a parody of that particular series of films, though. Horror aficionados will immediately notice how one of the boss battles is directly inspired by The Exorcist. The "Thriller" dance number will also ring a bell. Hell, there are even references to Jaws and The Fly. No, Wanpaku Graffiti isn't scary at all, but even the most jaded horror fans are bound to smile at the pleasant, charming mix of movie parodies.
Despite not being all that creepy, the game is still a tiny bit grotesque at times, at least in a humorous way. Enemies are chopped into bits, actual feces are flung at you, and crucifix gravestones fly at you. It's nothing incredibly offensive, though that last one may bug a few folks.
Why play it on Halloween?
Wanpaku Graffiti is more cute than creepy, but that doesn't discount it from being a truly awesome game. You could argue that it's the best game in the Splatterhouse series, and its oddball direction definitely makes it the most charming. The horror movie parodies, "Thriller" reference, monstrous enemies, and the fact that the final boss is a pumpkin are all elements that make Wanpaku Graffiti a fine choice for Halloween. Sadly, the game was only released in Japan when it launched on the Famicom back in 1989, but surprisingly, it's not that expensive of a purchase online.
By the way, did I mention that candy gives you health in this game?
Want to talk about indie games, Kirby, or cheap pizza? Follow me on Twitter @dr_davidsanchez.