The surprise with Splatterhouse, quality aside, is that it was even released in Australia, what with our notorious problem with a lack of an R18 certificate for games (meaning games that need them have been refused classification and essentially banned.) The gore could be written off as "fantasy horror," but then there's the tits, and if there's one thing that terrifies the puritans at the ratings board more than violence, it's a sexual thought entering their chaste, self-flagellating heads.
You see, there have been developments. With professional bugbear Michael Atkinson out of office (we threw a little party at the Mana Bar,) the R18 certificate issue has been under discussion again. The Australian government sent out a public poll that came back 80% in favor. Their own research revealed zero correlation between violent games and violent reality. The government officially recommended that the certificate be introduced. All that remained was for the Attorney Generals to give the okay and all would be lovely. Whereupon the Attorney Generals boldly and decisively declared that they were still undecided and needed to go off and think about it some more.
You might think this infuriates me, but in all honesty, I haven't been personally affected by the censorship lately (and even when I was it just meant importing the games they ban, and that usually worked out cheaper.) Not a single game of interest has been refused classification since Rebellion's Aliens Vs Predator. You may remember that that was the game that beat the system by threatening to simply not release the game at all, whereupon the decision was basically reversed. Perhaps this event completely undermined the power of the censorship board and they've been hiding in shame ever since. Perhaps enough of a collective stink has been raised about it all that they're giving everything a pass for the sake of a quiet life.
If that's the case, then I and gamers like me aren't currently the ones who need to worry about the lack of an R18. It's the parents. Games like Splatterhouse and AvP do deserve R18 certificates, because they're adult as all fuck. If the ratings board is just going to give them all MA15+ in lieu of an adult certificate then they'll be fair game for the nation's 17-year-olds, who will no doubt immediately start experimenting with sex, knives and whiskey. Because, you know, currently they're all sitting in treehouses drinking ginger ale and reading Tintin books.
I wanted to talk about gore. Time and again I've mentioned that violent games these days are a little too enamoured with "realism" and cover-based shooting and grittiness, and it's been a while since a game has just been content to let you have fun with violence. Splatterhouse was obviously trying to do that, but somehow lacked the necessary punch. It occurred to me that Fruit Ninja on the Iphone is a more satisfyingly visceral game, just because of the greater care taken with the animation, physics and sound. The other problem with Splatterhouse was the terrible repetition, which implies that an important part of fun-violence is a little room for creativity.