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Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Genre: Platformer
Publisher: Digerati Distribution
Release Date: Aug. 22, 2017 (US), Aug. 23, 2017 (EU)


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PS4 Review - 'Bleed'

by Thomas Wilde on Oct. 16, 2017 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

Bleed is a 2D action-platformer where you play as Wryn, a girl with a big arsenal and big dreams, who wants to be the ultimate video game hero!

This just isn't doing anything for me.

On paper, Bleed is something I'd enjoy. It's a tricky, stylish sprite-based shooter that tries to invoke the spirit of 8- and 16-bit games while pushing its gameplay in a direction that those games wouldn't have been able to take, with a wafer-thin excuse for a plot and a distinct sense of style. You can describe it all day in terms of "X meets Y" arrangements — it's some unholy beerslam of Devil May Cry, I Wanna Be The Guy, Mega Man X, Smash TV and Super Meat Boy — but that does the game a bit of a disservice, as it usually does.

The general idea is sound. You play as Wryn, who wants to become the greatest hero in the world by killing off the previous generation of heroes, and who invades each of their lairs one by one. Each lair is full of traps, enemies, challenges, and obstacles, and you're generally encouraged to move through them as fast as possible. In exchange for a high score, you can use your points to buy new weapons and power-ups, which in turn make the process of navigating each stage easier, which lets you take on the higher difficulties. It's a fast-paced, smoothly animated score attack, which rewards memorization and planning ahead slightly more than twitch reflexes.

The problem I'm running into is that Bleed requires you to juggle a lot at once, using a bizarre control scheme that isn't like much of anything else on the market. On the PlayStation 4 version, you move with the d-pad or left stick, shoot in any direction with the right stick, jump and air-dash with R2, and activate "bullet time" with L2. There's a substantial learning curve involved with this under the best of circumstances, and I've got decades of game experience devoted to insisting that the lowest face button is what you push to jump.

I recruited some people who'd played Bleed before, and when the game clicks, it's actually a thing of beauty. You have a slow-motion button and a lot of aerial mobility, so once you know what you're doing, you can glide around the screen to avoid enemy attacks and retaliate, homing in on pixel-wide weak spots and sliding through nearly invisible gaps. You really have to sit down and buy in before Bleed connects, however, and for me, it never quite did.

If you're one of those particular masochists who enjoys "bullet hell" shooters and punishingly difficult platformers, Bleed threads the needle between those two genres. (There's a similar recent game, Matterfall, that works in much the same way, although it isn't quite as difficult.) If you can get used to Bleed's idiosyncrasies, it can be addictive and challenging.

One thing that I'd argue is a genuine flaw with the game, however, as opposed to a feature that I can't quite get the hang of, is that most of Wryn's arsenal is locked behind the in-game store. You have to grind a level or two before you can afford the katana, which does double duty as a method of deflecting bullets. Given how crucial that is, even on low difficulties, I feel like the katana should be part of her standard kit.

Beyond that, however, I see Bleed's appeal, but it's a game that just isn't for me, at least not right now. It's a distinct experience in that it's a modern game dressed in a retro game's skin, with a substantial learning curve built into it before you're even competent. I don't think it's bad at all, but playing it feels like I've found myself in the cockpit of some vehicle that I don't know how to drive, five seconds before a crash. I figure there's a decent audience for this sort of game out there, but I'm not in it.

Score: 7.0/10

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