15 seconds. 15 seconds. That's the amount of time spent between putting the Splatterhouse disk into your console and hearing your first squealing, crashing power chord.
And that, in turn, is evidence that Splatterhouse is probably in good hands. Namco Bandai understands what this franchise is all about. It's not concerned with action bubbles, non-linear storytelling or breaking the fourth wall (except, perhaps, with a shoulder charge). It's not even that bothered about 30 seconds of fun, endlessly repeated - it's happy to boil it down to five or six seconds.
The original Splatterhouse was an eminently level-headed gorefest, the first game ever to receive a parental warning, and the first game ever to play a pivotal role in a Jeff Bridges movie (it crops up in Fearless, somewhere between a terrifying plane crash and an even more terrifying attempt to woo Rosie Perez). It's a blood-soaked, giblet-filled, brain-dead exploitation romp, and very little has changed for this reboot. It's 15 seconds until your first power chord, then, and no seconds until the next one.
Um, story. In Splatterhouse you play as Rick Taylor, an average college student until an unpleasant run-in with a necrobiologist and a tricksy deal-making demon leaves him looking a bit like Bane out of Batman. For reasons I missed because I was surreptitiously eating the world's smallest donut - press events, eh? - Rick's girlfriend's been pinched, and he finds himself knee-deep in hellish monsters.
These monsters are everywhere: hanging from the ceilings or oozing out of the wall like scarlet Polyfilla. They even fit over Rick's face in the shape of the possessed mask he's apparently made some kind of Faustian pact with.
Narrative, though - and this is just a guess - probably isn't that important with this one. Splatterhouse is firmly aimed at the guilty pleasure market, and you can see that in its grimly comic visuals, its brutal, nerve-splintering finishers, and its joyfully calcified rhythm.
This is the kind of game in which you lumber from one ghastly room to the next, killing everything that gets in your way, before being given the opportunity to move on and repeat the whole process. There are some extremely simple puzzles to solve along the way - that's if impaling four demons on four spikes to open a door even counts as a puzzle - and regular interruptions from boss monsters, but not much else.
It's big stupid fun, in other words, and there's hardly anything wrong with that - not least because Splatterhouse looks like it actually might deliver on its very simple remit. Character models are huge and filled with nasty, slippery detailing, the environments are pleasantly unpleasant, and the camera knows when to move in nice and close so you can see every bursting vein.
Combos offer the normal blend of light and heavy attacks alongside grabs and throws, but you can also pull off special Splatter Kills when you're on a hot streak. They're not finished yet, so they currently look like a weird mishmash of placeholder animation and a Grateful Dead T-shirt my uncle Mike once owned, but I'd expect plenty of dismemberment and other comic mishap in the finished pieces.
The closest Splatterhouse gets to making a concession to modern videogame preoccupations is with very light RPG elements as you collect blood from all your kills to unlock new moves and level up a little. Blood flows more freely if you're pulling off the flashier stuff, by the looks of it, so the game's real narrative is more honestly about transitioning from coping with a room of gruesome monsters to the point where you see each massive brawl as an opportunity for some nasty showboating.
Weapons will mix things up, but they seem to be dropped in and then taken out very quickly. With a mix of bludgeoners, like lead pipes and 2x4s, through the likes of blades and projectile weapons, right up to the iconic skull crushers like chainsaws and a shotgun, they should give you a nice break from kneeing the undead in the groin over and over again.
Bosses, meanwhile, are tossed in every 20 minutes or so, if the demo we're shown is any indicator, and they're predictably horrible. Big penis-snake thing with a face that looks like Thom Yorke's brain-damaged cousin? No problem. Toothed vagina with an eye in it? Can do. Everything you're faced with is about a week or two past the point where a band-aid would have been really helpful, and everything comes with attack patterns to spot and weak areas to exploit.
Occasionally, Splatterhouse makes a surprisingly convincing transition to two dimensions as you race through side-scrolling corridors, jumping over spike pits and ducking whirling blades. But, really, if it's variety you're after, you've bought the wrong game.
What's potentially refreshing about Splatterhouse, then, is just how unevolved it is. Namco is channelling another era's horror - the VHS era, to be precise, with its misleadingly brilliant cover art, badly-lit rubber suit set-pieces and endless parade of summer camps. It belongs to the fondly-remembered days before Freddy and Jason started subscribing to Sight and Sound and learning about things like mise en scene; it's stuck back where the films weren't bad because they were constantly winking at you, but because they were shoddily produced and conceived and crafted by a gaggle of wonderful idiots.
Splatterhouse genuinely captures a little of that gleeful shoddiness. It's there in the dripping stonework and Aztec-themed mines, in the long-fingered zombies and baby-faced demons. Namco's latest looks likely to be repetitive, short, and unashamedly stupid, sure, but it's just as possible that it will be endearing and faintly hypnotic too.
While it's hardly going to keep you plugging away for hours, this could be a very good game to use as a quick fix when something bad has happened to you in your real life, and you're not quite at the stage where you want to take your violent impulses out on other human beings yet. One-note and rather basic, Splatterhouse has a very simple agenda, then - but so does Santa Claus, and nobody seems to mind his work too much.