Saturday, 12 January 2013

REVIEW - Bleed (PC indie / Xbox Indie)

"There can be only one" said the tag line in those Highlander movies. Well that's the basic premise of Bleed, a new indie run 'N gun game for PC and Xbox Live Indie.

The year is 21XX and our heroine, the punky haired Wryn, is tired of the old set taking up the top spots in the Hall of Heroes. So she sets out to become the ultimate heroine by destroying all those who currently reside in the esteemed leaderboard. To do so she must defeat the current heroes, who take the in-game form of huge boss monsters.

Armed with twin pistols and a rocket launcher right from the start, you charge your way through seven stages, blasting everything that moves as you head towards the end of level boss. Standard fare for sure, but Bleed has some great retro presentation and quirks that help it rise above other games of its genre (on Xbox Indie at least). The graphics have a neat 16-bit style, with colourful sprites and backgrounds that contain a certain level of charm. Unfortunately many of the enemy sprites let the side down as they can be quite basic, but the more detailed bosses make up for it. The soundtrack consists of catchy chiptune tracks that hark back to the 8-bit era, but also sound strikingly similar to the more recent Scott Pilgrim game on XBLA. Most of the tunes are good, but the title screen theme is by far the most memorable.

The game uses twin-stick shooter style controls, meaning the left stick is used for movement, and the right for shooting in the direction held. PC users can use the mouse for aiming and firing purposes, which is slightly easier, and is the only difference between the two versions. A controller works fine, but there are some odd button assignments (which can’t be configured to your choosing). Right trigger jumps, which feels unnatural and something I never really adjusted to fully. Likewise instead of the usual double-jump found in most 2D platformers these days, Wryn is capable of triple jumping, with each new jump propelling you like a rocket in the direction you are holding on the left stick. It takes some practice to get the hang of, but after some time playing you will be able to navigate tricky jumping sections in style. Wryn also has a cool Bullet Time mode which can be activated by pressing the left trigger. Everything around you slows down allowing you to deftly dodge projectiles or falling objects while maintaining accurate fire on enemies. It lasts for only a short time though, and you must wait for the bar to refill (automatically) before you can employ it again.

Stages comprise of a reasonably varied selection of locales such as a haunted mansion (complete with Castlevania style corridors), a collapsing cave system, an excellent moving train stage and, most inventive of all, the insides of a dragon. While the game isn't particularly difficult its quick action pace and varied stages keep you engaged until the final boss meets his maker. As you progress you earn points that can be used as currency to buy new weapons and upgrades to your health and bullet time bars. There is also an additional challenge mode that allows you to fight any bosses already defeated in story mode, on any stage you like. Performance is rated and so offers a small amount of replay value after you finish the main campaign. To be honest though, the game is a one-playthrough affair. While fun, Bleed feels quite generic, and once you've completed the seven stages on offer there is little incentive to play again.

It is an enjoyable  game that offers some decent platforming and blasting action for the hour and a half it takes to finish, but it doesn't really offer anything new, or indeed, anything particularly outstanding. It is certainly better than many of the indie offerings on Xbox Live but it fares less well against the vast catalogue of excellent, and highly polished, 2D platform shooters on PC. The steep 400 point price tag for the Xbox version may also deter some potential customers from taking the plunge. At 80, or even 240, points it would have been an instant recommendation, but 400 is pushing it a bit.

At the end of the day it is an pretty decent game with some nifty retro aesthetics and action packed gameplay, but one that is quite throwaway in today's overflowing indie market. You will have fun playing it but it isn't something you will give any further thought to once completed.

The Good

  • Cool retro graphics
  • Energetic chiptune soundtrack
  • Decent run 'N gun action

The Bad

  • Some sprites and backgrounds lack detail
  • Not something you will come back to once completed
  • Can be beaten in a short amount of time
  • Costs 400 points

Developer : IanThraxx
System Reviewed : Xbox Indie
Also available on : PC
Price : 400 points