Before you coin up, here's the attract mode intro.

In the arcade version, there's no expository dialogue or anything else to go on, so what you see is what you get- Rick and Jennifer nipping into the gigantic spooky mansion to escape from the rain, with the scene ending with a scream from Jennifer. The manual for the PC Engine/TurboGrafx port is more specific, but we'll get to that after we've taken the arcade game to task, eh? For now, this is all you'll get story-wise.

And when you do press start, here's what you see- the Terror Mask bestowing its power to Rick...

If you look really carefully, you'll see that before the Mask takes over, it looks like Rick's head has been caved in- note the blood!

Is he dead before you even start? In any case, the Terror Mask is on, so let's get heavy!

Stage I is the underground dungeon where Rick's brutal adventure begins.

Fortunately for those among you who get the vapours while playing something like Contra or Metal Slug, Splatterhouse's first stage is very gentle... Once you've gotten used to the way Rick moves around, that is. He's a bit of a lumbering oaf, truth be told, and until you learn the subtleties of his movement- like how his weird hunched-over jump works- you might find yourself slamming into a few undead monsters. Other than that, though, this is kid's stuff- for the most part, the only enemies are the Deadmen (the most basic enemy type, one hit and they're dead), the bats (both high and low flying) and the corpses chained to the walls in the background (who occasionally throw up acid- wait a second and it'll disappear). All you need to do is walk right, punch some Deadmen in the face, and watch out for the spikes that shoot out the floor (they appear once the bats start showing up). As a bit of courtesy to the beginner player, you get two weapons to choose from on this stage- you start with the meat cleaver early on (which lets you lop off Deadman heads with wanton abandon) and can later pick up the two-by-four (great for redecorating the walls of the dungeon with Deadman carcasses). They couldn't make this easier for you if they tried.

The only part of the stage that might give you some trouble is right at the end, when you get flanked from both sides by some Top Heavies- these alien-like dudes are the most annoying semi-regular enemy, as when you knock 'em down, their head flies out at you after it hits the ground. Best way to get past unscathed is to do a slide kick as soon as you see the Top Heavy on the right- Rick will slide right into him and hit the ladder, which ends the stage straight away, preventing any further harm to him. Well, at least until he reaches the top of the ladder, because it's time for the first boss fight.

They wanna eat my flesh!

As soon as you're out the dungeon, you're in here, knee-deep (well, kind of) in the dead. You'll soon come to learn that rooms like this are bad, because it means you've got to fight a whole pack of Body Eaters, also known as Boreworms- the only enemy to appear in every Splatterhouse game. Even the 2010 reboot, perhaps not Wanpaku Graffiti. Fresh from the set of Parasite 3D (or possibly Deadly Spawn), these little bastards get considerably less annoying as the series goes on (by the time the 2010 reboot comes along, they can't even hurt you) but this is the first game, which means they're gonna kick your ass. Body Eaters only ever appear in rooms full of rotting flesh, and are like a timed boss encounter- they'll pop out of pre-determined parts of the background and make a beeline for the tastier parts of Rick's anatomy. Once they've got their teeth in, you've got to kick them off or they'll rip through his health bar in seconds.

There's a tip for surviving this room, but it won't work in the other Body Eater sections. Get into the right-hand corner, and work Rick's punching arm like it's going out of style- any Body Eaters that spawn from the right will get a face full of Rick's mighty fist before they know what's coming. However, you'll have to pay attention to the left side of the screen, specifically for the Body Eaters that crawl across the floor- some jump high and will get on the business end of Rick's fist, but the ones on the floor will get munching on Rick's shin if you don't periodically duck and give 'em the boot. There's a certain rhythm to it that you'll only get with practice... While it's perfectly possible to survive while standing dead-centre, making sure to turn around in time, it's a little difficult with Rick's lumbering speed. Just get in your corner and mash the attack button until the music's finished, indicating the fight is over.

... Or is it? Perhaps not. Wondering what that corpse is doing hanging up?

GOTCHA! One last Body Eater for you!

It's tempting to go after him for the extra points, but if you die here, you have to start the encounter again.

Stage II is next, as Rick enters what I guess is the torture chamber...

... Although before we get there, something important to note about how health works. Unlike most games of this kind, where you get a health recharge between stages, Splatterhouse only gives you back one heart at the end of each stage, and unless you've set the game to Rank B (the easiest setting) it's capped at five hearts (the only way to get this many, of course, is to get through a level with four hearts, unscathed). This obviously makes getting through each scene with minimal damage even more important, as you'll really want to have five hearts available for the Stage V boss...

The first section is pretty short, but introduces a few new hazards, mostly the green Deadmen- they act the same as the red ones, but take two hits (or a slide kick, or a weapon attack) to dispatch- and the hanging corpses. Fortunately, these ones don't hide Body Eaters in their bellies, but instead shoot down from holes in the roof to try and hit you. One punch (or one hit from the hatchet you get to use here) is enough to make them disintegrate into nothing. You might also run into trouble in the form of a few Top-Heavies that try and rush you while the Deadmen are surrounding you, and there's a few shackled corpses that vomit up some slime to get in your way, but just keep tabs on those guys and this section won't take long- Rick will end up going down a ladder into everyone's favourite clichéd platformer level, the sewers.

Fortunately, since Splatterhouse isn't really a platform game (even if there is jumping involved) there's no horrible sewer tunnel maze to suffer through here. Instead, this is an auto-scrolling section (you can stop the scrolling if you hang back, but you won't want to do that, as the purple mist will get you) where, as you trudge slowly (yes, Rick moves even slower in water than on land, believe it or not) through the foul water, you'll be attacked by lumbering, moaning water demons that are far more likely to just run into you than actually hit you with their only attack (a fairly limp punch that can be ducked). To be honest though, if you're smart, you'll have clocked the two-by-four at the beginning of this section. It's leaning against the background wall, so pick it up by tapping Up (ooh, clever) and the water ghouls won't get close enough to attack before you've splattered them against the wall. The other hazard here is the occasional floating spike that needs to be jumped over- they float from both sides of the screen, so watch your back, as you don't want to get hit here and drop your weapon because you might lose it underwater.

Once you're out the fetid waters, it's time for the poltergeist fight.

As the room fades into view, you can tell something is wrong already. The lights are flickering, the painting is threatening to come off the wall, and most normal rooms don't shake violently enough to make you hop up and down constantly, but soon enough objects in the room spring to life to try and kill you! The first objects to attack you are the candles from the chandelier and bottles that materialise out of thin air. For the most part, you can stay in the right-hand corner and avoid both the candles and the bottles (and punch them in mid-air for extra points, if you like) but near the end of this section a cup will spawn right over your head. Just move to the centre and smack it in mid-air, since by this point there's no candles left.

Once the room itself calms down, the chair decides to get in on the action- it'll start bouncing towards you from the left side of the screen, with each bounce varying in height. Give it a good smack and you'll send it flying back into the wall, repeat a few times until it smashes apart. You can close in on it and trap it against the wall if you want, but if you'd rather not risk it, just stick to the right corner (you'll be hearing that a lot in this fight) and smack it when it gets close.

Next, knives! You'll first be attacked by a lone knife, and then two together, but both waves have the same attack strategy. They'll float in the air (complete with a slightly amusing 'WOBWOBWOBWOB' sound effect) then fling themselves at Rick in an attempt to slice him up. Stick to the corner, attack according to the height of the knives (I hope I don't have to tell you which attacks to use...) and they'll eventually give up. Incidentally, you can't pick up the knives once you've stopped them to use as weapons, so don't bother.

Finally, the painting itself- the source of the paranormal infestation, apparently- comes to life, and starts flying around the room erratically (although it'll only change direction once it bounces off the wall). Stick to the corner (told you, didn't I?) and, when it's about to reach you, jump up and start attacking. Since it keeps altering its height, you might not hit it if you're just standing, so hop to it (Arf! Arf!) and get that leg in action.

Once you've damaged it enough times, the poltergeist will leave the painting on the floor and escape through the window...

... And then the chandelier falls down. Try not to get hit by it.

This is the last end-of-boss 'shocker' moment for a while, you'll be glad to hear.

Stage III is outside the mansion, and while it's short, it has one of the more memorable boss fights.

Before we get to him, though, we've got a lot of Deadmen to punch our way through, but knock the stuffing out of one here (or blast the top half of their torso clean off with the new shotgun you get to play with) and you'll get an unexpected visitor- a zombie dog. The Deadmen you kill here leave their slime behind, causing this little pup to stroll on-screen (usually from the opposite side you're on) and start snacking on the remains. Eww. You've got a choice here- you can either jump over the mutt as he walks on-screen (not recommended as it could go wrong) or give him a short, sharp kick to the face- he'll bark, back off, then try and lunge at you at just the right height for him to get flattened by your punch (or, if you back off a little, your duck kick). You know what to do here! It's not animal cruelty, the dog's already dead, alright?

Oh, and then there's this slug/fetus thing, which we shall present without comment.

(Well, except that if you kill it with the shotgun, it gets very messy indeed.)

While we're here, watch your step on the bridge- see those moving puddles? Don't touch them. If you're an oaf and walk over them...

... A giant hand grabs you and takes you to a small section with water ghouls. No two-by-four to help you out here!

Whether you get taken under or not, after the bridge there's not many surprises here- a couple of birds will try and dive-bomb you (just duck under them), there's a few hanging corpses that try to vomit on you (use the rocks you'll inevitably pick up or just get close and duck-kick them) and, of course, the Deadmen (of the green variety mostly) are constantly on the attack. This would be a perfectly normal Splatterhouse stage but, as you might've guessed, you get to play with a shotgun here! It's got eight shells and kills any enemy in one shot, but you really don't want to waste your bullets on Deadmen, regardless of how spectacular the results of using a shotgun on them may be. So, while making your way through this stage, you're going to have to duck and kick pretty much everything. Fortunately, you'll end up grabbing some rocks along the way as you duck- they're one-use projectiles and will kill Deadmen and hanging corpses in one shot, so use them and remember to grab your gun again! Near the end you'll find a second shotgun, and you're going to need it, because the boss is about to arrive!

Here we go. The infamous Biggy Man.

Let's analyse this brute, shall we? First, he's so ugly he's got a bag tied around his head. Next, his skin seems to be made entirely of exposed innards. Finally- and most importantly- he has chainsaws for arms. His attack pattern is pretty single-minded= he'll lurch towards you and try to slice you into pieces with arms, and might also jump around a bit, but if you're clever, you'll have brought both shotguns with you. Like I told you to. Even with the mighty shotgun on your side this fight can still go awry- if you're too eager with your shooting, Biggy Man will bounce off the edge of the screen and leap in your direction, which can get him a little too close for comfort, so keep him just the right distance. It takes about ten shots to bring him down, which is a full round of shotgun shells and two extra, so if you only brought one, you'll have to get up close and personal... If you do elect to go Marquis of Queensbury Rules, only advice here is to try the jump kick and hope for the best. The slide kick won't work because he'll just jump out of the way, like the cunning rogue he is.

Whatever way you secure victory, Biggy Man will collapse to the ground as Rick makes good his escape.

Incidentally, if you're on the default settings, this stage will probably give you your first extra life (at 30000 points).

We are two stages away from saving Jennifer... Or are we?

On the next page, the lovers are reunited, but...