Imagine, if you would so kindly, a game that takes all the common tropes found in gaming and tweaks them with aplomb. A game filled with bizarre amalgamations of common monsters and gives them new life. Mecha-mummies! Fire-breathing radioactive sloths! A game that, similar to Troma movies, knows the technical limitations of the talent at hand and knows how to work that into the experience. Something that may be low budget but knows how to show you a good time, just like a trip to the seedier parts of Vegas. Is it in your head? Good.
Have another zombie shooter instead.
The reason I wasted your time with the previous (and clunky) paragraph is that there is potential to be found in Dreamworld’s Splatter. This potential is sadly wasted in an attempt at trying to horn in on the zombie trend that has (over)saturated the market of games, movies, television, books, breakfast cereals, and some areas of politics. While the store page certainly makes it sound like a great time, it’s been done often and much better before. I suppose it would be more productive to delve deeper into what this actually is as opposed to complaining about what it could have been.
Splatter is a top down shooter that takes place shortly after the much anticipated zombie apocalypse. You take control of a gruff voiced man in a black trenchcoat and fedora (whom I have dubbed “Douchehat.”) The gameplay itself is comprised of making your way through each level, though it does throw in various reasons beyond the idea that you would prefer not to be food. To assist you in this undertaking are variety of weapons, including pistol, machine gun, and due to the excellent booking talents of his agent, Shotty “The Shotgun” Shotgun. These can be upgraded at various workbenches found around the levels using coins picked up in the environment. How Douchehat is able to melt the coins, create an LED light from the results, and graft it onto Mr. Pistol is beyond me and something that would be worthy of its own story.
In case you couldn’t tell, I had a difficult time staying engaged with this one and allowed my imagination to wander into the poorly configured partitions of my brain. Seriously, I need some major defragmenting if nothing else. This is why I proceeded to invent my own stories while playing through, anthropomorphising the objects in the game. Sadly, this is despite the developers’ attempt at fun storytelling which utilizes real life photos and noire-by-way-of-the-first-two-Max-Paynes feel. The terrible, terrible voice acting adds to the troubles. Seriously, if you have voice actors that would not be chosen for community theater in a town of fifty, you might want to consider going text only. If you really want voices in the game, please don’t take yourself too seriously. The cutscenes here feel like a Powerpoint presentation done by your “talented” fourteen year brooding nephew.
There is something “off” about the controls, as well. Splatter features keyboard/mouse as well as controller support. I tend to prefer controller as I like to ease back while playing a game, but I recommend the keyboard/mouse for this one. No matter which option you use, your character behaves so sluggishly, I can’t help but wonder if his first stop after the zombie invasion was his connection to stock up on horse tranquilizers.
The graphics feel half finished as well. For example, while it does have dynamic lighting available, it isn’t used to its fullest. There are instances where some monsters can hide in the shadows and get the jump on you if you don’t check it first with your flashlight. However, when I walk into a darkened building, the whole place lights up like a surprise party. This game has the lighting tech down to make for some interesting situations, but it doesn’t follow through. It is almost as though the developers where hurriedly scribbling down the rest of the game on the morning’s school bus ride. If the lighting ability the developers set up was used to its fullest, I wouldn’t mention the janky animations and poor character models. Since it wasn’t, I did. Such is the almost omnipotent power of the games reviewer.
That really is the tone for pretty much the whole game. This is something with so many great ideas that simply were not executed well. If this were an Early Access game, I would be telling everybody to keep an eye on it. However, Splatter is on its full release.
For all this, I did have fun in a couple of places. There was one mission that tasks you with sneaking around a military base to deactivate and steal automated sentry guns that was enjoyable. There were also some other spots that really poured on the hordes that led to some intense dodging and retreats. These were enjoyable enough that I forgot about the poor random wooden crate that was only three days from retirement until I arrived and rendered it to splinters. At its too rare best, Splatter can feel like a top down Left 4 Dead. Except, this does not have the “A.I.” director, humorous characters, truly original monsters, nor the great feeling weapons.
What a minute. Why am I not playing Left 4 Dead?