Of all the genres that indie games rally around, it seems that twin stick shooters are being left behind. Instead, we receive dozens upon dozens of platformers and puzzlers. There’s nothing wrong with that of course but wouldn’t it be nice to just dive into a gory top-down shooter? Splatter – Blood Red Edition attempts to give players some visceral, simple gameplay. Although it falters, the overall experience is still enjoyable.
The story begins as film noir-style protagonist Max discovers the world has basically gone to hell. Cities both near and far have been destroyed by what appears to be zombies and other monsters. After discovering a pistol, he decides there’s nothing for him at home anymore and sets off to discover what caused this all to happen. There are more story flourishes in Splatter than are common for the genre, and they’re not exactly what players may expect. This isn’t a world where everyone fends for themselves. Instead, the remaining survivors are more than happy to share what little they have.
Story tidbits serve as bookends to each chapter. The vast majority of time is spent exploring and shooting up absolutely everything that crosses your path. The default control scheme of mouse and WASD works great to emulate a twin stick shooter feel. Of course, you can also hook up a controller if that’s preferred. Unfortunately, Max doesn’t run too fast which becomes annoying if you go a wrong way. It does manage to make being surrounded by hordes all the more stressful though when you can’t quickly dodge to safety.
Starting out with a lowly pistol to decimate crowds is tough. Thankfully, it doesn’t take long before you start to accumulate more weaponry (shotgun, grenade launcher, etc). The original gun has infinite ammo but all the rest require ammunition scavenged from locations. Running out of ammo is a serious threat and will happen often if you’re not careful. There’s no other way to obtain it but it is possible to upgrade guns to make each shot more powerful. Upgrades can only occur at specific workbenches and require money. Money still being important in a zombie apocalypse is a bit silly, but we’ll let it slide.
There are a few iffy design choices in regards to actual shooting mechanics.First and foremost is a lack of autofire for most weapons. On one hand this is realistic but, come on, it’s an arcade shooter! Max already never reloads so why not let pistols and shotguns fire continuously? After a while, rapid clicking does wear on players. It’s also kind of tough to switch weapons while in the midst of a zombie showdown. Often it seemed that pressing the hotkey to swap weapons didn’t even work unless I was still. This isn’ta huge deal if you’re the kind of player who tends to stick to one type of gun for all situations.
Splatter’s top-down perspective is pulled far enough back to give players a good view of what evil lurks around corners. Once engaged in fights it becomes important to have such a concrete sense of your surroundings lest you get pushed into a corner and mauled. After mowing down enough baddies you’ll start to find the ground is practically painted red. All dead bodies remain on the field, piling up into quite a mess. At some point, this causes slowdown. Since it’s caused by too much zombie clutter the slowdown goes away once they’re all off screen. Slowdown is unfortunate as most of the game’s fun is based around its otherwise fast, exciting shooting sequences.
As long as the game isn’t experiencing slowdown, Splatter looks really nice. This is thanks to attractive lighting and shadows as well as the zombies themselves. Although this may not have been intentional, they remind one of clay figures that explode into surprisingly chunky bits. Gore is rendered with great care when zombies explode like pinatas.
Playing through the game once takes around two to six hours depending on your difficulty setting and skill. There are a few extra modes available, such as arcade-style survival. Local multiplayer modes include survival and deathmatch. Unfortunately, there is no online co-op or PVP included though players can compare chapter scores on a worldwide leaderboard.
Twin stick shooters are generally a lot of fun and Splatter is no exception to the rule. It throws ridiculous amounts of enemies at you and never relents. As locations are painted red with blood and unidentifiable goop, you can’t help but feel like a total badass. The main problems come in when said viscera causes serious slowdown, breaking the otherwise fun pace. Splatter’s main gameplay is solid; it just needs to fix a handful of issues to be considered a contender.