Illbleed – Dreamcast
Platform: Sega Dreamcast
Developer: Crazy Games / Climax Graphics
Publisher: Amusement Interface Associate
Release Date (NA): April 25, 2001
Genre: Survival Horror
Nerd Rating: 7 out of 10
Reviewed by Nerdberry
Campy theme park haunted house in the form of a video game? Yes please. That’s what you get when you pick up your favorite white controller and start playing Illbleed on the Dreamcast. Four teenagers are presented with the chance to win $100 million if they can escape Illbleed, a horror-themed amusement park. Employed with zombies, murderers, monsters, and demons who are out to tear you limb from limb, this ain’t no ordinary “haunted house” folks. Would you take a stab at the park for wealth and fortune despite possible dismemberment? Or would you continue working your dead-end job that engulfs your lame life? Good news… This cult classic gives you the opportunity to do both except without dying (or getting actual money, that is).
Illbleed may not have been much of a financial success, but it has really gained quite a following among fans of the Dreamcast and/or survival/horror games alike. The plot is presented with a familiar campy feel that is destined to make you grin ear to ear. Our lead character Eriko Christy is your typical high school girl. Her dad used to have a traveling carnival horror show and he would test the new traps on his daughter. She knows that one day she will need to conquer her fears, but she also knows that there’s something soothing about taking a hot red water bath. Her three friends, Kevin, Michel, and Randy decide they want to go to a new Virtual Horror Land called Illbleed. They think it’s a place with cheap jump-scares and actors so it shouldn’t be difficult to get through the entire park and earn that $100 million dollars. Eriko refuses to go, until her friends go missing for days. Now Eriko must venture into Illbleed to find her friends and hopefully win some money in the process.
The story is cheesy as hell, especially the way it’s presented in the game. Each character is so stereotypical. There’s a sporty guy, a stoner dude, a ditsy chick, and then there’s the smart girl (Eriko). There’s a lengthy introductory sequence that details the entire story yet perfectly sets the tone for a game that is likely going to be filled with unexpected events. I’m having a hard time separating myself from the ridiculousness of the introduction. For example, when Eriko walks up to Illbleed’s ticket booth, the ticket-taker is obviously a zombie. He can’t even talk. Yet the game gives broken subtitles and Eriko has no clue that he’s a zombie (see picture below). Don’t let the comedic start steer you away from Illbleed as this game might have plenty of laughs but it’s loaded with moments that will raise the hair on your neck.
Illbleed is wildly unique due to its interesting use of a variety of gauges, meters, and the like. Eriko has four senses that go off whenever she is near danger, traps, an enemy, or an item: eyesight, hearing, smell, and sixth sense. There are also three meters that you need to monitor closely: your pulse, your adrenaline, and your bleeding. You will die if you lose your adrenaline, let your pulse get too low or too high, or bleed too much. Keeping these different meters in check is as easy as using certain items that you either found or purchased, but if your inventory is low, you’ll need to use more strategy. These meters are wildly difficult to figure out at first, but if you are lucky enough to find the out-of-the-way tutorial (why they made it so easy to miss is beyond me), you can learn a few tips, namely how to mark traps using the Horror Monitor, a device Eriko wears on her head to help detect and mark potential dangers. Properly using the Horror Monitor can keep all of your major gauges in a healthful state.
Your senses will begin to jump around whenever you are near an enemy, some form of danger, an item, or simply because your character THINKS there might be something around (she’s easily spooked). Using the Horror Monitor will help you detect these items, but not for free. Whenever the Horror Monitor detects a potential danger or item, it will zoom in. You can then mark that location, but it will cost you around a number of adrenaline points. If you accurately marked an enemy or a trap, it will reward you with around double the adrenaline points you gave up. If you marked the wrong area and nothing turns up, you will not gain back your adrenaline. The true challenge is knowing which areas are potentially hazardous and which ones are false. There is a heavy amount of guessing, but sometimes you have to weigh out your options. Is it worth losing adrenaline points here if I’m wrong? Or would it be better to risk this one, take some damage, and use some items in my inventory to aide in recovery? Tough questions with no easy answer, but the choice is yours. It’s an interesting experience, to say the least. It can be quite challenging trying to balance your adrenaline/stamina/bleeding.
The visuals in Illbleed aren’t outstanding nor do they disappoint. To me they seem a hair above average for a Dreamcast game, but I can definitely say that I’ve seen better. But for its time, these graphics were considered high quality. Textures are decent and the animations are good, but its odd how the characters mouths stay shut when they talk. But the music and sound effects are appropriately perfect in every aspect. Considering Illbleed‘s overarching campy theme paired with the amusement-park and haunted-house themes, things such as the sound of moaning ghosts, the cheesy “splat” sound of blood, and the carnival organ music are testaments to the developer’s attention to detail.
Overall, Illbleed is a very intuitive game with excellent music, intentionally laughable jump-scare moments, and unique gameplay. The concept is sound and the execution is pretty excellent, but it’s definitely not a perfect system. The camera work can be a bit challenging at times but pressing the L-trigger button will center the camera behind your character, so that helps some. Controls are a bit tough as well, but with some practice (and some knowledge of older games), it is more than manageable. The combat system is by far the weakest point in the game. Fighting creatures and zombies with bats and guns are a true challenge to one’s ability to withhold anger (real life anger). Despite the things that suck in Illbleed, the positives far outweigh the negatives. The music and sound effects were very enjoyable and led to some mildly uncomfortable feelings at times.
If only one word could be used to describe Illbleed, it would have to be “bizarre.” Each attraction is loaded with something different and totally weird. There’s a giant morgue maze, a baseball bat with a face that talks, a giant cockroach, a weird movie at the cinema, and the main attraction where a kid’s ride goes awry. The scenery and traps just get weirder and weirder. Overall, the entire atmosphere surrounding Illbleed is a bit off-kilter. But that’s the charm behind it. Despite some rough game mechanics, it’s worth playing just for its quirkiness.
It’s obvious that the game intentionally doesn’t take itself too seriously yet still manages to inject plenty of creepiness. I wouldn’t classify Illbleed as an overly scary game by any means. The trailer for the game says it best: it’s a “virtual house of horror.” So essentially it’s a Haunted House Simulator. No matter what genre it falls under and no matter how you try to classify it, Illbleed is a different kind of game to say the least. With a unique trap-detection system and an overly abundant cheese factor led by 80’s-esque campy teen slasher dialogue and themes, Illbleed is destined to stand out to those who take the time to dissect this forgotten wonder. The game is also on the more expensive side due to its lack of commercial success (meaning less copies were made) and its cult status. If you’re looking for a different experience this Halloween, or any time of the year really, then Illbleed might be just what you’re looking for.
Oh, and if Kevin’s voice sounds familiar to you, that’s because it’s voiced by Ryan Drummond of Sonic the Hedgehog fame!
Nerd Rating: 7 out of 10
Reviewed by Nerdberry
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