Splatter – Just Harder Times is Dreamworld’s new dark, gloomy and gore heavy game to hit the scene on Desura. This game is all about the action, the undead and the explosions you will throw their way to clear a path out the nightmare you’re in. Being an Indie game we can expect a lot more in the way of uniqueness within this game without the pressure of it having to be perfection in the eyes of triple A games.
Splatter is a top down shooter, similar to GTA, Diablo and Hotline Miami but in my view it shares a lot of similarities to the flash game series Blockhead. Splatter pits the main character Max against various hordes of Zombies and Demonic beings that he must shoot, burn and explode to get past them and to safety. Will this monochromatic adventure be worth the money, or will it be devoured by the hungry consumers? Only one way to find out…
The story mode starts off with a spoken monologue in German, setting up slightly who our character is whilst not delving very deep. All we know so far is that he has fallen on tough times and is wounded from the background picture of a man with a bullet wound. The game starts us off in a building with the police outside making a racket and our hero having to put down his favourite novel, damn fuzz.
The main character of the game is Max, a man shut off from the world, living in a dingy apartment and has a Noire look to him with a black trench coat and white shirt. Though the game doesn’t reveal much of him he is shown to be a strong person, being able to deal with any situation thrown his way. He throws swears around, either cursing at the situation is his in or shouting obscenities at characters, and doesn’t care much for how others view him, but he is not against helping those in need.
Starting off, we are put into a tutorial with Max talking to himself or monologuing in a fourth wall breaking manner of how he moves about, him saying “I used the WASD keys or mouse to get to the door” and “Using the mouse I looked around”. Along with the much laid back instructions, the text is followed by what seems to be German voice acting, which at times it sounds as if it had been sped up like the hero had just finished his 100th cup of coffee.
Upon obtaining our larger than life pistol we find out this is another Zombie game, with the character not questioning why the Zombies exist or even being phased at seeing them, we fire at them killing them with a couple of shots and accidently hitting a car causing several explosions ahead. Nothing is clearly explained in the beginning, only giving us directional arrows to point us on our way.
Cutscenes tell little of the story but more of how the character is feeling and his own thoughts, delving more into a character development rather than story driven game. Some of these cutscenes only contain one or two spoken words amid long lines of text, making it feel like a The Sims game or RPGs that replace full voice acting for a simple “Hey” for the whole conversation. One of the cutscenes allowed you to choose an option between killing a man or allowing him to take a gun for his own safety, choosing the second option made him a temporary party member or shoot at zombies for us, albeit at a very slow rate of fire.
At the beginning there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of missions or quests besides killing everything you see and stay alive, the only goal you have is to keep moving along the one route the levels allow you. At one point you are saved from a Zombie horde by the man you saved earlier who drives up in a truck and takes you away from the city and he tells you to travel to a nearby farm for some unexplained reason. Once you reach your destination you are taken to another town that is filled with survivors. You can walk around and ask the survivors questions which can tell us a bit more about what is happening but not much in the way of why.
Questing opens up upon reaching the town, either to clear out some Zombies or pick up an automated turret for the town. These don’t seem to give any reward however, besides the money and score you rack up on the missions themselves or the weapons and ammo you come across in the missions. More quests can be found upon reaching the second checkpoint zone although there are fewer as the game progresses.
The main story will last you around 2 hours or so depending on difficulty and the amount of quests you choose to complete, making this game feel very short indeed. Even though the main goal is clear by the end of the game, it can feel as if you are just meant to kill until the end and not really to do anything else.
The gameplay is very reminiscent of the old GTA games that used the top down view having similar movement, combat and art style as well as feeling very similar to that of the Boxhead Zombie flash games on the internet. Combat is very simple, run, aim and shoot, though most of the beginning you won’t have to move much. The majority of the objects in the game are destructible, if it isn’t nailed down blow it to smithereens and take the money inside. This can be rather satisfying when you enter a house and destroy everything except the indestructible refrigerator, and they thought zombies were trouble.
Money is obtained from picking it up in the world, either from tables, on the floor or by destroying a box to get it from the remains. Money seems to only be used to upgrade your weapons within upgrade stations but without stat data it is hard to understand what the upgrades really do, some upgrading spread or damage but without a clear understanding of how much.
By killing enemies you gain points that add to your total score, to get more points you must kill in quick succession and with style, using explosives and cars to kill groups all at once. The point system seems pointless as it doesn’t seem to reward you in any way for how many points you have, besides bragging rights.
When communicating with the NPCs you are sometimes given a choice, either to accept a mission or not or to allow the man at the beginning of the game to get a weapon or to kill him.
The enemies are rather varied, containing the normal slow walking Zombies to frog like Zombies that leap at you and big fat ones that take a lot of shots and send out shockwaves. The first Boss is rather similar to the big fat ones, being able to send shockwaves as well as being able to jump into the air and landing with an explosive area of effect attack and shooting fireballs at you.
When you get taken around in the truck you can really see how big and detailed the city is, with run down cars ready to be shot to hell, houses to loot, zombies to shoot and chaos littering the streets on every corner and to top it all off you have control over a minigun to blast everything you see to tiny pieces with the pleasing noise each explosion makes.
The last crutch of your arsenal are flares, dropping these will create light in the vicinity and scare off incoming zombies of all types, becoming a very useful defence where you feel you might be overwhelmed. The added feature of being able to throw these at Zombies and stick to them is hilarious, as they run about on fire scaring off any nearby Zombie buddies of theirs.
The music is well placed, having eerie ambient music for times when there is no fighting to be had and peaceful yet mysterious music within the town. Once battle commences we are treated to some Drum and base music that has a rustic feel to it matching both the combat at the environment you are within. Boss music in particular stands out, combing rock and Drum and bass genres together to create an energetic and badass soundtrack to fight to. The music isn’t too varied however, music being played more than a few times and repeated too quickly, but what you do hear gets you pumped for the battle ahead.
The arcade mode on offer at the moment is Survival, where you must fend off the zombie horde for as long as you can. Along with a robot minigun, there are several weapons, health and flare drops around the map to help you fight the endless supply of Zombies. This mode isn’t particularly difficult and there isn’t much strategy to be had, find a secure spot with one opening, put down a flare and rapidly click the left mouse button to win. After wave 10 this mode becomes a bore, as there is no challenge and not much for you to do except press left click over and over again with right clicking to put down another flare. Upwards of wave 15 your computer might start to lag with the amount of zombies on screen at once which can be annoying since you will want to finish the waves as quickly as possible. This mode is very similar to the Blockhead Zombie games as it plays almost exactly the same as them, just with higher quality graphics.
There is no online multiplayer in the game as of yet, only local networks and connected controllers are supported for multiplayer making this a seemingly unused aspect of the game. The multiplayer plays well on its own and with others but it seems to lack the randomness of fighting others over the internet.
Deathmatch is rather straight forward, you kill each other and the one with the most kills wins. The maps are spaced out and weapons drop randomly to help you in the fight, however the starting weapons are normally all you will need for this. The spawning is badly implemented in this, since there is a circle around where the players will spawn next and you can see them on your screen very easily, making spawn camping a huge problem.
Survival is a team effort in multiplayer and can take some of the dullness out of the single version. Even with multiple players this mode still drags on for way too long and doesn’t provide much excitement or challenge making it not worth the time, unless you want to beat someone else’s high score.
Overall thoughts and feelings
The game wonderfully combines dark and gritty Noire style storylines with awe inspiring graphics, creating a unique world to play in and fight against the undead. Despite Zombies being overplayed nowadays this game still seems to keep it fresh, adding in new mechanics and over the top action to a game that could of possibly been boring and trivial.
Travel isn’t too long or overdrawn, having only 1 minute at max between fights, making this game very action orientated. Exploration is well rewarded with extra money, ammo and flares and does not take you too far from the route in which you are supposed to take.
Overall this game is very entertaining with many good points, its solid combat, an amazing soundtrack and enough explosions to keep any pyromaniac satisfied… I did mention all the explosions didn’t I? There are times the story mode feels like survival mode in the fact that enemies can continually spawn for up to 5 minutes at a time but these only drums up the adrenaline when you are pit against wave after wave with diminishing ammo.
The bad points in this game are that it lacks the ability to go Online with its multiplayer modes, I’m sure playing online would be a blast and Co-op story would vastly improve the game. There are minor glitches in the game but nothing game breaking, just zombies nudging through walls looking for some tasty flesh. The game can also feel like a chore at points, as you are simple pressing the left mouse button over and over whilst running in a circle to create a train of zombies.
I give Splatter – Just Harder Times a 3/5, it’s an enjoyable game for small bursts at a time but the length does leave you wanting more especially for what you paid. The lack of Online hits it in its multiplayer modes and makes them feel pointless unless you can easily set up a LAN with friends. Through all its faults however the developers have stated they will release updates, so here’s to the future of Splatter and life in Explosionville.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.