Welcome to Splatter School, a 2012 2D, side-scrolling, guro action game by Ankoku Marimokan that delivers a disgusting descent into horror and erotic death. The premise is simple: you’re a girl trying to escape a demonic school without dying in various grotesque ways. Jessica, the game’s heroine, took a nap during class only to awake to the sounds of a fire alarm and the sight of her classmates slaughtered by various horrific monsters. Armed with merely an old box cutter, Jessica must fight her way out or die where she stands.
Of course, you don’t need or get this much of an introduction going into the game. Splatter School pretty much drops you in with nothing unless you linger on the title screen long enough for the attract video to start. I find it’s much better to start immediately, leaving you fearful and alone in a gory world, as the plot isn’t really important here; you have an easily identifiable horror setting with a 2D plane to progress in, and that’s really all I need. The controls are pretty easy to pick up too, using the arrow keys to move, Z to jump, X to attack, S to pause and A to use any item you pick up. The setting and brutality is what keeps you playing, and it’s quite the enticing experience, with solid pixel animations and a myriad of ways to die.
Splatter School actually has a pretty fun game hidden behind the simplistic design. You can only move right as you make your way to the exit down the corridor, crafted of flesh, bone and sinew, but braving through the halls rewards quick reactions. Monsters and traps pop out of the environment pretty quickly, but with just enough delay to respond to them if you know what to do and have enough life to not be too deterred from pressing on. As Jessica takes more damage, her clothing is removed layers at a time, meaning the death animations are only ever with a bare Jessica.
Death isn’t much of an annoyance in the game, since stages are quite short, with only a couple corridors before a boss fight. Additionally, if you do die, you only have to restart from the corridor you died in. A disembodied hand may break through some glass to strangle you, but you’re never bitter about it, especially since it even gives you the opportunity to experiment with some deaths here and there just to see what the game has to offer. As you play the game and become familiar with the enemies, you get into a bit of a rhythm as you quickly respond to threats and dance your way through the school in its perverse deformation. After every couple of stages, you’ll run into a boss of some horrific theme, from a mere ghost to a mass of guts, all the way up to a flayed human head with all the tendons and sinew on display.
The fights themselves may be pretty simple once you get the attack pattern down, but they’re visually interesting most of the time; however, the gym ghost boss was a noticeable letdown, with a boring design and painful simplicity. It was so easy, I was worried that I was missing something and wasn’t actually doing any damage to him, which brings me to an issue Splatter School has: the bosses have no life bars. I can see how this can be argued as a good thing since it can be used to build tension and always keep you afraid, but that requires a refined difficulty curve to keep you on your toes, which is something Splatter School simply doesn’t have. The ghost boss I mentioned earlier highlights this the most, in which there’s the issue of him being too easy, dissipating any tension and simply making the situation more annoying than anything.
One aspect of Splatter School that isn’t annoying, however, is the music. Each stage has a catchy little electronic beat before you start and the music, while you’re trekking through the stages, is creepy, setting the tone nicely. The sound effects are good, but not amazing, coming off as a bit over-compressed at times, with the alien monster’s grunts being a good example of this. The voice acting isn’t bad either, and — surprisingly enough — is in English. Jessica is the only voiced character in the game, and it’s only in occasions where she picks something up where she vocalizes a simple “Yeah!”, or something to that effect. It’s a nice little touch that brings you closer to the character, adding a slight emotional pull to seeing her die. The game could’ve done with some screams of death or cries of pain from Jessica, as a lot of the gruesome ends to Jessica’s journey simply have her frozen in sensory overload from extreme pain.
Each stage has some off-putting depressing look to it, with school children hung from the roof or dead over a balcony and blood splattered up the walls. As you progress through the game, the scenery transforms into a world of body horror comparable to that of Saya no Uta, with organic walls and meaty stalactites decorating the environments. It’s a cool visual design that adds personality to the game, reinforcing the guro theme. The animations for Jessica shows off the effort put into the game, as she holds herself in fear or attacks smoothly. The item attacks are quite nice too, like the throwing of rocks or swinging of a metal bar; even just walking forward changes her facial expression to that a more violent, empowered visage. Jessica has a sexy gait, particularly when exiting corridors, as you get a rear view of her sexy ass and hip-swinging action. The death animations are also quite well-done, though some clearly had more effort put into them than others. Getting hit by a spinning blade, for example, comically slices Jessica clean in two at the waist, with her torso falling to the floor.
What this game offers in terms of gore is pretty great, all things considered. There’s choking, beating, impalement, being chopped in half, and being dissolving in a pool of acid, all in the first few corridors alone. There are bizarre alien rape and a lot of pissing, a cliche in guro I rather like. There’s just something so appealing about a girl losing control of her body while she dies. I found the disembodied foot death amusing, as it floats in the air and stomps on her face until it’s a bloody, disfigured mess before being crushed under the ghastly heel. Outside of the rape, there isn’t much in the way of actual sex; by and large, you’re mostly going to be enjoying Jessica’s naked body ripped to shreds. You can unlock some CGs, which are usually more detailed versions of some of the deaths, along with game over screens, which is a nice added bonus.
Splatter School is a fun little sidescroller with a spooky and explicit horror style. The animations and backgrounds are a treat and the gameplay, while being very simplistic, isn’t garbage. Ankoku Marimokan actually worked to the strengths of their limited scope, and it shows. You probably won’t play this for too long, but it’s something you can come back to and have a little fun with while soaking in the gory aesthetic.