Look back to the so-called 'video nasties' that caused a stink in the 1980s and you find a bunch of comically camp, schlocky B-movies that would get laughed out of most movie theatres today.
Even more than that, many of these films were just plain bad, replacing decent narrative and crafted tension with cheap scares and tacky gore.
Namco Networks’s iPhone and iPod touch conversion of the original Splatterhouse arcade game is the gaming equivalent – a video-game nasty that looks cheap, tame, and above all substandard in the cold light of 2010.
The problems start early - this isn’t just a poor game, it’s a poor conversion of a poor game.
As you guide your ‘80s slasher-pic reject (complete with hockey mask) from left to right through a hilariously unscary cast of brown blobs, you may wonder why the game is confined to a tiny square in the middle of your iPhone. It's a blessing in disguise because when you zoom in during a couple of stages, this only serves to make the graphics even uglier and blurrier.
The next thing that hits you are the ill-conceived virtual controls, which manage to get in the way of the action despite the fact that there are huge areas of dead space on both sides of the screen.
The controls take the fun out of functional, failing to connect you with the brutally basic beat-‘em-up action taking place before you in shrink-wrapped form.
Losing its grip
Such control issues are surprising given the woefully simplistic gameplay. You walk right hammering the 'attack' button, occasionally ducking to take out a scampering enemy, occasionally jumping to avoid some trap or jumping ghoul.
It’s a frustrating affair. Protagonist Rick has the grace and agility of, well, a 300-pound hockey-mask-wearing goon. He’s all brute force and no guile, leading to multiple annoying deaths at the hands of his numerically superior and more agile adversaries.
Namco Networks does attempt to update this severely limited game with a new Splatter Rush Mode, which mercifully stretches out to fill the entire width of the screen (although bizarrely not the height). This only serves to drive home the game’s tedious, one-dimensional gameplay as you hammer your way through waves of attacks in a timed challenge.
Like the video nasties of its era, Splatterhouse relies on a shock value that has seriously depreciated over the past 20 years. Even die-hard fans of the series will find this conversion to be a shoddy one.