A Trip Down Horror Lane: Splatterhouse’s warm fuzzy feeling

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My appreciation for the horror genre has changed over the years. When I was younger, I was a huge baby, afraid of the dark, needles, bugs, and so on. When I was four years old, I couldn’t play the Adventures of Lolo because one of the characters scared me.

But I haven’t felt fear in a long time. Two leg surgeries and chronic pain are an excellent one-two punch to being scared of things like videogames. I’ve been trying to find a game that can scare me for the last few years. Nothing has managed to do the job.

After the jump, I’m going to dropkick some skeletons out of my closet

Let’s talk about the lovely lady in that picture up there. Younger gamers may think she’s from some old-school survival horror game. However, it’s actually from a beat-em-up. Splatterhouse 3 for the Sega Genesis was one of the first games I played that had a sense of atmosphere. Granted that atmosphere took place in a setting where a Jason Voorhees imitator bodyslammed a giant teddy bear monster.

That image was also one of the first legitimately unnerving things I saw in a video game. This image has been so engrained in my head that I’ve had nightmares where people who look like that are chasing me. I can’t tell what is scary for other people, so you may be creeped out by that image or you may think that I’m crazy. However, visuals aren’t the only part of the equation. Here is the scene being played out. Notice how the music adds to the experience.

Atmosphere is hard to get right, and it requires things like the music in that Splatterhouse sequence. Just throwing monsters and gruesome sights at the player one after another doesn’t make a game atmospheric. Look at Resident Evil 5, where there is a greater focus on action. Or the areas in the Dead Space series where the player is stuck in a room until everything else is dead.

Up next: the breaking glass heard round the world

Josh Bycer has had nightmares that make less sense then the Silent Hill series. As he continues to search for his place in the industry, you can find him over at Gamasutra, on his blog, or posting in the forums as Jab.