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Bleed – PC

Bleed – PC

Bleed start screenPlatform: PC

Developer: Bootdisk Revolution

Publisher: Bootdisk Revolution

Release Date (WW): July 3, 2013

Genre: Action, Platformer, Shooter

Nerd Rating: 7.5 out of 10 – Good

Mixing genres can be a dangerous business in any media, but perhaps especially so in gaming. Gamers can be pretty picky with what they play, and even a legitimately good mixture can fall to the wayside if there aren’t enough players who enjoy both to give it a try. Today’s subject is Bleed, one of these surprising mixtures that turned out quite enjoyable; a platformer that uses elements of twin-stick shooters and shoot ‘em up gameplay to deliver a fairly unique style.

Bleed is set in the year 21XX, one hundred years after the golden age of heroism. In this golden age, regardless of your species, one could gain recognition for daring acts of charm and valor. The greatest heroes became famous and rich, and over the years they grew lazy. Then again, when you’re a flying slug-blob, a pair of giant worms, a robot, a dragon or an alien, I imagine there isn’t a whole lot to do across a century.

Regardless, the time for such relics is past. The world needs a new hero, and player character Wryn is hoping to take the top spot. She needs your help to fulfill her dream of murdering the six greatest heroes of all time so that she will be loved by all. This is a pretty grim idea for a story, but Bleed avoids going too edgy with things. With series like Grand Theft Auto, Saints Row, or Mortal Kombat, this is tame by comparison and manages to keep the mood at an enjoyably silly level.

She does start out a little cold, but she'll warm up to the player soon enough.

She does start out a little cold, but she’ll warm up to the player soon enough.

Wryn herself is a cheery woman, if a bit crazy. Her character is primarily shown and developed through quotes shown any time the player dies. Early on these lines are often patronizing or insulting, but as she bonds with the player through arduous trials she quickly grows more supportive and inclusive.

Wryn’s targets, the six greatest heroes of their world, end up lacking personality for the most part. There is no exchange of dialogue or relevant exposition, though you can find out a little about them on the level select screen. Still, it would’ve been nice to get to know who I’m killing a little better.

Bleed is, as previously stated, a mix of twin-stick shooters and platforming games. It has viable controls for keyboard-and-mouse and gamepad players, but there is a trade-off in either choice. With the mouse being used to aim shots when you play keyboard, it has far more precision than a joystick would; on the other hand, WASD directional controls are vastly inferior in precision to a stick. Between the two, I consider movement precision far more important to Bleed, but your mileage may vary.

Wryn gives first-time players an overview of her abilities in the first level, which is designed to help you learn the basics of her abilities fairly well. You have access to a wall-jump which can be turned off in the options screen of the main menu, three air dashes per jump with a vast amount of aerial control, a short but recharging bullet time meter, and two quick-swap weapons.

This choppa wants to get to you, it seems.

The default difficulty of Bleed is pretty interesting, as it mixes things up a bit in terms of a typical platformer’s formula. There are no health pick-ups in the game, but checkpoints are extremely and forgivingly frequent, meaning you can retry a segment quickly until you master it. This is a refreshing contrast to some games, where you can restore health easily but only have one or two checkpoints per level.

You start off with a very effective combination of twin pistols and rocket launcher, but you can buy more weapons at the shop or unlock a few. The purchased and unlocked weapons are, for the most part, not as impressive as they could be; while they are useful, it’s only in certain situations that they surpass the default weapons. The only notable exception is the katana, which is a poor weapon most of the time but an excellent defensive tool as it lets you reflect some projectiles. Every level can be beaten with any weapon combination you want, but different weapons are better for racking up score points in different situations or bosses.

While it's not the best weapon, it's probably the most fun.

While it’s not the best weapon, it’s probably the most fun.

Bullet time has a secret that isn’t explicitly told to the player. Bullet time slows everyone and everything, but Wryn eats less slowdown than everything else. The result is not only improved precision with the slowed movement, but the player is now able to do things they couldn’t before. It’s not obvious, but there are a couple of moments in the game that let you test this, and I was happy to discover this myself.

On the matter of score points, it does have a point beyond bragging rights. As you progress through a stage you can fill your rank meter by destroying enemies or objects and grazing attacks—grazing being a concept popularized by shoot ‘em up games like Touhou, barely avoiding an attack to get points. If you get hit, you’ll drop a couple ranks’ worth of meter. The meter and point-gain methods matter for two reasons: some unlockable characters and weapons use these methods to improve themselves, and your score is your currency at the shop.

Bleed has three unlockable characters in addition to Wryn, and all three have their own death quotes. They all have different gameplay as well, though each is more difficult or limited in their own way. It can make for a fun change of pace to challenge yourself, but it would be fun to have an option that lets you blast through levels more easily.

Very Hard will make Shoot 'Em Up fans feel right at home. Others beware.

Very Hard will make Shoot ‘Em Up fans feel right at home. Others beware.

Bleed’s gameplay is a little strange at first, but the game is a lot of fun. With unlockables opened after beating each of Normal, Hard and Very Hard difficulties, I found myself playing through the game several times just for the sake of it. I wouldn’t recommend Very Hard mode to anyone who isn’t a fan of extreme difficulty platformers, but it’s a good time regardless.

Speaking of extreme platforming difficulty, there are two bonus modes of play that masochistic players may be interested in pursuing. Challenge Mode allows you to set up a fight between yourself and up to three of any bosses in the game. This can easily get pretty hectic, especially with certain boss choices. The other mode is Arcade Mode, wherein you select your difficulty level to play the game with one life. In Arcade Mode you don’t regain health between levels, turning the game into a massive endurance test even on Easy with full upgrades.

Bleed’s graphics seem a bit mismatched, ranging from NES to SNES in terms of graphical quality. It can be a little jarring and distracting in slower parts of levels or if you’ve been playing it enough that you can take the time to notice. More obvious and unsettling is the art style’s depiction of humans, which veers straight into creepiness even if it’s not really touching the uncanny valley. This isn’t limited to Wryn, as there are a couple of other human characters in the game that we see on-screen. The art style itself could use work, from the seemingly mismatched sprites to the somewhat amateurish-looking cutscene art. I can’t dock it too heavily here, as it’s not outright bad, just not really good.

Musically, Bleed is hindered by a poorly coordinated soundtrack. Every level theme is either drained of all energy, wrong for the type of level or mood it should be setting, or both. The first stage of a humorous adventure, even one such as this, should not sound like I’m the one being hunted, for example. The quality of each track’s sound ranges from NES to Genesis, which can be charming at times, and the songs that are matched up well are enjoyable for it, but only the menu and level select theme has a chance of sticking with you.

Am I the only one getting Quick Man flashbacks here?

Am I the only one getting Quick Man flashbacks here?

Bleed does have a few amusing callbacks or nods to games across various genres, which can raise from amusing to brow-raising in their choices and uses. While I always get a kick out of seeing the quote “I need scissors! 61!”, I could go the rest of my life without seeing another mole drill sequence. Luckily, these references are used sparingly instead of being abusively thrown in the player’s face.

Despite the awkward direction with music and graphics, Bleed delivers on addictive and enjoyable gameplay that’ll keep players coming back for more. It’s definitely worth looking into at its current price of $4.99, and I have high hopes for the sequel to overcome the present flaws and deliver on the promise of an even greater adventure. From what little I’ve seen, it’s already looking great.

Written by Nerd Bacon

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One Comment

  1. This caught my eye a while ago, but I completely forgot about it. Sounds interesting enough for me to pick up soon.


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