For this year, instead of a game of the year list, I want to make a list of cool games that released this year that went under the radar. If you submitted something before and want me to use the text you wrote, please send a follow-up if you want me to and give a name to accredit it to!

What if you were trapped in a place run by the worst guys possible? Guys who are not only shitheads, but are also really fucking pathetic too? Well, they say that Hell is other people, so surely, this is Hell. Huh? People keep misinterpreting the context of that quote? Well, you’ll find that it’s pretty fitting here.

Today, we’re talking about Rat King Collective’s Splatter. I played the demo a bit ago with a few other demos and I loved it. As it happened, the developer reached out to me about looking at it. I’ve said a while ago that I normally don’t take requests, but as this was something I was personally interested in, I took the plunge. Besides, it’s not every day that I’m timely on things – because the game is out today! Wow!

Before going in, I’d like to add that I played Splatter entirely on the Steam Deck. You may ask, “why the hell did you play an FPS on that?” Well, I really need to rest my back more instead of sitting up at a computer all day. I mention this because, well, playing an FPS with sticks ain’t the ideal way and I’m already not a big FPS master to begin with, so it’s tough for me to gauge the game’s difficulty. That said, if you’re getting into Splatter purely for the vibes, you can adjust enemy stats and give yourself heath regeneration at the cost of a lower score, so there’s that if you ain’t too good at this kind of game.

Splatter is a horde-based shooter, where you are a person trapped in a simulation run by some complete losers. You got a stereotypical weaboo yearning for the old days and connections, you got a crypto rise and grind guy that represents himself with one of those damn hexagon monkey avatars and you got a new-age cult guy. All together, they’re a bunch of freaks throwing armies of digital guys at you, hoping to mold you into a freak like them. In the meantime, a personification of the simulation talks to you – but for what purpose?

The first thing that’s notable about Splatter is its bright aesthetic. You and the enemies are simple technicolor guys who shoot and bleed out with vibrant colors. For the sake of practicality, the enemies’ colors continually shift to have them stand out, which is pretty handy when they’re set against the more colorful environments.

Speaking of which, the aesthetics of the levels all depend on who’s leading the level. The weaboo’s levels feel like 3D Hotline Miami levels with club music playing and simple layouts. The crypto bro – god, actually, I’ll complain about him later, but his high energy music and sporty aesthetics really does make me want to rise and grind (his bones to dust). As for the spiritual leader, his levels are a sharp contrast in that they lean more toward the mundane aspects of vaporwave aesthetics and have ambient music playing – which honestly makes the violence he asks of you stand out more.

All of this is wrapped up in the package of “being online.” Besides the humor of the loading screens, all three administrators reflect online right-wing personalities through their in-game narrations and social media posts. This game? This game is fucking Twitter. If there was a fourth guy that was a #Resistance centrist in here, this game would have all the aspects of the online people I hate the most.

The administrators are grifters of sorts, trying to get the player character to align with their way of thinking. The whole being online angle works in the context of Splatter in that they see somebody engaging in video game violence through their simulations and thinking, “I can radicalize them” and indulge the player character in that violence while ranting about whatever their deal is, hoping to get the player to align with their mindsets.

But the player character does not budge into a belief besides the joy of killing. In a way, a message you can take away from this game is that violent video games don’t necessarily radicalize you. The player character’s relationship with the administrators clearly gets adversarial at the end, and the simulation itself regards them as fucked up losers that stack no paper. The player character may be violent, but they won’t stoop to their levels. They probably wouldn’t either, given the transgender reading you can get from attacks being generated through estrogen and testosterone and the campy designs you can lend to their arm.

So, how is that violence?

The player character fights through making hand signals, switching between powers powered by estrogen and testosterone like a genderfluid Makima. The first default power is Blue, a simple finger gun that shoots automatic bullets, but you get more through interacting with CDs.

There’s a decent variety of powers for a small game like this. Personally, my favorite is Chop, which has you slicing spectral sawblades into the air that pierces through enemies and bounces off walls – pretty helpful when you’re in small arenas. Though, I have a lot of appreciation for the power of Fuck, which has you flipping off all the enemies in front of you and stunning them; it doesn’t sound like much, but with how hectic the last levels can get, you will appreciate the power of the stuns.

Worst weapon? Easily Goop. Why would I shoot goo at an enemy and switch to the other weapon to prime it to explode when I can just shoot the enemy with that weapon? If it weren’t for one level objective requiring you to use it, I probably would have never used it.

Besides weapons, your character also moves pretty fluidly – well, when you’re not platforming, that is. You get unlimited dashes in any direction, which you will be using a lot. See that enemy making a grab at you? Their range is a lot more than you’d think it is.

Most levels start out pretty slow, with a few shambling guys just capable of simply smacking you. However, as the level goes on, things get more complicated. These regular joe enemies start to adapt to your behavior, showing off their own minor dash abilities by dodging your attacks to the side and making sudden lunges. They also start to gain armor in areas where you typically shoot the most. So, fuck consistency, go wild with your shooting. All bullets are good bullets.

Besides the guys that like to smack you, there’s a few other enemy variants who are easily set apart with model differences. There’s one that lines up a shot on you, which isn’t too bad unless you have a crowd of normal guys pinning your location for it. There’s the little freaks that crawl on the ground, way below your typical shooting range to swipe at your ankles. Frustratingly, there’s a guy that calls a telepathic mortar strike on your location and will keep doing it until you hunt them down; this is a particularly aggravating enemy because they’re introduced in a platforming level where there’s very little space to dodge their attacks. That level’s kinda bad.

Speaking of which, I hate the levels with a little bit of platforming, and my least favorite ones are the ones by that crypto bro idiot. Maybe it’s just because recent events with Twitter’s administration has hard-wired me to hate motherfuckers like him, but god I hated playing his levels. One of them is focused on collecting coins, and the time limits honestly get pretty harsh, especially since you still have guys shooting at you all the time in a level full of annoying orbs that bounce around. Another is sort of a platformer level, which is not very fun because the player character does not feel built for that sort of action – especially since checkpoints will place you into the rising lava, so messing up leads to you getting spawnkilled until you have to restart. Really, Splatter feels at its weakest when it’s not committing to the horde shooter vision.

Thankfully, variety does show in the horde shooter experience. There’s the few times where you have to keep a timer going past a certain point, killing enemies to extend it further, and one level demands that you make kills with specific weapons. One of my favorite objectives is from one of the simulation’s levels, where you must keep your eyes on a screen; you’re still getting attacked, but you can only look away from the screen for up to 3 seconds at a time. That challenge calls on a greater dependence on the enemy radar since you can’t readily look around so you can position yourself in ways to fight and snap your view back to the screen when you need to. I’d kinda prefer it if Splatter did these weirder objectives that maintained the horde shooter experience like that instead of the rise and grind stuff the crypto bro subjects you to. God I hate that guy.

There’s also a boss fight, which was kinda unexpected since it wasn’t the final level. It does serve as a sort of climax in that it shows the administrators that you’re capable of withstanding whatever the simulation has to throw at you, and the proceeding levels is them malding about it. Is it a satisfying fight? Well, it is a breath of fresh air, but it’s also the one place where Splatter really lagged for me, so it didn’t feel as satisfying as it could have been.

(Playing on the computer would not have fixed this either, my computer is a potato compared to the Steam Deck.)

Falling out of bounds with the most accidentally well-timed screenshot.

On the technical performance aspects, I don’t think Splatter is fully “there.” I’ve had a few instances of getting stuck in objects, and sometimes a melee attack from an enemy was suddenly strong enough to launch me several yards. A bizarre glitch I found was that when I paused and unpaused the game, instead of simply continuing the action, it resets the location of your character after an awkward pause, which is really disorienting. In one of the rooms of the final level, it actually broke me out of bounds, which wasn’t fun at all. It’s not really a dealbreaker because I’m the kind of person that laughs at glitches as long as it doesn’t erase my progress, but the game does need some more tweaking.

But for the most part? I had a lot of fun with Splatter. There’s some flaws, but I overall had a fun time. The fact that the game readily gives you access to lil’ cheats definitely takes the sting out of the more aggravating levels. Though, again, I did not play Splatter in the ideal way, so I might have had a better experience if I played it in ideal settings. That said, the fact that I liked it anyway tells me that it’s an enjoyable small shooter.

As for the story, does it come together? I… actually think it does! In fact, this was a part that I was excited to write about. However, since it ties into the ending, it’s a spoiler. So, I’ll drop a bunch of screenshots to separate the spoilers all Safe For Work Sasuke style.

So, here’s a conclusion paragraph for the people that don’t want to be spoiled. Splatter is a bit of a flawed game, but it’s a game I really enjoyed. Maybe you should wait a bit for some updates to fix some things up, but otherwise, it’s a thumbs up for me. It makes for a pretty good game to end the year off with.

Splatter’s story may feel meandering, but it fully came together with me with the final level: “Garcin, Estelle, Inez and Me.”

There’s no narration in this level, nor a set theme. You must beat a set number of enemies and you shift into another room based on one of the previous level themes. Make a full rotation through the rooms and the number of enemies needed increases. And rotate on and on until a room’s timer runs out or until you die.

Do too good and the game eventually does away with the timer, just letting you fight increasingly harder waves. And it becomes clear that you won’t get a proper resolution – this is a score attack level.

The actual resolution lies in the level’s title. Garcin, Estelle and Inez are the main characters of the play No Exit, written by Jean-Paul Sartre, one of the key philosophers of existentialism. All three characters find themselves in Hell, expecting to be tortured. However, no outside force bothers them – their real torture is their interactions with each other. When Garcin is given the opportunity to escape, he refuses, instead pulling himself further into the toxic dynamic by refusing to give Inez satisfaction in confirming himself to be a coward in her eyes.

As Garcin puts it, “Hell is other people.” But unlike what edgelords think, the context of this quote is that people can self-inflict Hell on themselves by being assholes and finding solidarity in other assholes, torturing themselves but unable to make the move of leaving these circumstances because it’s the only source of validation for their own behavior. It’s like my relationship with Twitter: the site kinda sucks and is getting worse by the day, but I’m simply too scared to interact with others in a more intimate way beyond a site that I hate, and said site is the only way I can ever exercise anger.

And with that, the final, score attack level redefines Splatter as a retelling of No Exit.

The simulation initially seems like the tool of the administrators – when in actuality, it’s Hell. You can infer that they’ve died through context clues, like the nerd’s loneliness and ominous final social media note, the crypto bro being on the run with open defiance against the law, and the religious man’s frustrations and perhaps sincere belief in Ascension. They put the player character through their own variations of Hell, but they cannot find satisfaction because the player continually rejects them. But as the simulation puts it in its final normal level, their failures drive them to come back because they’re stubborn pathetic assholes, determined to one day win, dooming themselves to a cycle of failure.

And of course, the player character is also part of this Hell – I mean, they do be looking pretty dead on the title screen. They subject themselves to the trials by the administrators and their annoying antics, but they never give them what they want. The character presumably hates the administrators and vice-versa, but they still have each other on social media – and the administrators are in fact the player’s only friends, much like the dynamic of the group in No Exit. They all only got each other, hand in unlovable hand.

All the player character can do is kill and kill and kill – for no tangible reward. The player character’s final punishment is thus the score attack level. The embodiment of the simulation teases that there’s an end in sight, but it’s secretly a score attack level. The player can kill over and over, but they will be denied any satisfying resolution. The simulation is the No Exit’s valet to Splatter’s Hell, a host to all while having no benevolence to offer.

However, unlike Garcin, you, the player, can leave Hell: simply stop playing the game when you’re truly finished and move on with your life. It’s just another game, and there’s lots of games out there. Don’t be like Dr. Disrespect or whatever, chaining himself to a game he’s finished with and comes to hate when there’s so many other games out there in a self-inflicted Hell.

As for me, I’m walking away from the game with a sense of satisfaction. Maybe I’ll pop in sometimes for some quick action, but I’d say that my time with the game is over – but it made for a (mostly) good time. Acta est fabula, plaudite.

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