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Bleed 2

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Digerati Distribution
Developer: Bootdisk Revolution (EU), Nephilim Game Studios (US)
Release Date: Feb. 6, 2018 (US), Feb. 7, 2018 (EU)

About Joseph Doyle

Joe has been known to have two hands with which to both play games and write reviews. When his hands are not doing those, he will put books, musical instruments, and other fun things in them.


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PS4 Review - 'Bleed 2'

by Joseph Doyle on Aug. 6, 2018 @ 12:45 a.m. PDT

Bleed 2 is a relentless arcade action game featuring air-dodging, bullet-reflecting, and tons of bosses.

Buy Bleed 2

Bleed 2 is a side-scrolling action platformer that could best be described as a spiritual successor to the Mega Man franchise. The game is generally entertaining and puts a lot of work into mirroring not only the look of the game, but the feel as well. Among them are colorful, pixelated graphics; a tight, action-packed story mode; and very straightforward gameplay. As fans of this relatively young art form, we must grapple with the question of nostalgia in gaming. It seems that many of the popular games nowadays are constantly imitated and have more clones than we have fingers. Take the battle royale craze, for instance. With DayZ, PUBG, and Fortnite, the genre has exploded to the point where you can't throw a stone and miss a new battle royale game.

Bleed 2 undoubtedly falls into this category of emulation; the game is similar enough in look and idea to be considered a copy, but the original work it's derived from is one of our youth, and it attempts to create those welcoming, nostalgic feelings in the player. How far must one game deviate in order to be considered worthwhile? At the end of the day, one of the most important aspects of playing a video game is weighing if the experience is worth your time. We set out to analyze if Bleed 2 hits enough nostalgia notes or creates enough new aspects to be worthy of our time and attention.

Diving right into the gameplay elements, Bleed 2 offers a variety of game modes that run the gamut in terms of quality and necessity. In the story mode, you play as Wryn, a plucky, purple-haired girl. When the city is attacked by goons and robots, she goes from playing video games in her apartment to being a gun- and katana-toting heroine. Each level of the story mode is similar to the rest, creating the level format of thoughtlessly dashing through the stage, disposing of paper-thin jobbers, and finally defeating the boss by learning its patterns. This repeats for the entirety of the game, with some minute modifications in enemy types and different stages.

Changing the difficulty offers some differences but rests it laurels on increased damage to the player, with the occasional extra generic enemy in a certain location or changing the boss' attacks. It begins to feel mundane after a while and leads one to question why there is even any gameplay between the bosses. The platforming feels good; like in Mega Man, you have to do a lot of jumping around to reach the end of the level, and similarly to the Mega Man X games, you have a mid-air dash in order to go further and dodge more efficiently.  Also added to the tried-and-true formula are a time-slowing power-up and taunt abilities, the latter adding to an arbitrary style score. It feels unrewarding to play the parts that use the platforming most due to the lack of variation in enemies and level layout; the added functions don't add enough to counteract the lack of spontaneity. One could go as far as to say that the game feels repetitive early on because of the similarity to Mega Man levels.

What can be said about enemies between bosses is that their presence adds challenge for those playing through arcade mode, which is essentially the story mode with only one life and without any cut scenes. In story mode, you can plow into the next boss fight, knowing you'll get a checkpoint and can respawn there. In arcade mode, you learn the importance of each and every stray bullet. The task to get through the whole game with one health bar seems Sisyphean even on the easy difficulty level, but it motivates the player to improve.

Endless mode is the most direct response to the problem of the game's highly repetitive nature, but it's not a fantastic one. It offers the same life restriction as arcade but is randomly generated, so the setting is transformed to look like you're in a program with different corridors and enemies each time. (Think of the Space Paranoids level from Kingdom Hearts 2 or the VR missions from Metal Gear Solid.) These added elements break up the monotony of playing the story/arcade mode levels. There are only so many enemy types and generic level sections, so after eight runs, you'll see the space worms whizz by for the fifth time as you bob and weave through the toxic bubbles that you saw earlier in the level.

The final game mode is Challenge mode, where you can fight as many as three bosses at the same time. The game warns you that it's "completely unbalanced," and it lives up to the description. You're peppered with missiles from all directions, while you try to find the pixels that comprise your character and struggle to notice the petty damage you're doing to the bosses. Even attempting it on the easy difficulty level is a feat.

Overall, the game modes don't offer much on the surface, but pander to the player who's looking for replay value and perfectionism. The game isn't too long, and it's almost designed to be studied. The Arcade mode and differing levels of difficulty are there to be conquered. After they're mastered, the player can continue to do the same in the Endless and Challenge modes. From there, players can redo all of the game modes with the unlockable characters and weapons, gained through defeating the story mode on varying difficulties and attempting to gain S tier in style mode.

All of these possibilities of mutating the game add a fair amount of replayability, while also bolstering the idea of manufactured nostalgia; we've reached a point in gaming where we come to expect a certain amount of time to invest in a game, and a roughly one-hour storyline doesn't cut it anymore. The game developer, Bootdisk Revolution, opted for a plethora of different variations to tack on to the original mode. It's a clever way to keep the player engaged while also reminding them why the term "Nintendo Hard" exists. However, the level design and general gameplay feel tired in their delivery, no matter how much you change the parameters. It feels like the only things that change between levels are the bosses.

Speaking of aesthetics, Bleed 2 touts 16-bit retro graphics and guitar-laden instrumentals, which help create the nostalgic feel the game is looking for. The visuals look formidable — the game embraces a cartoony aesthetic to match its dedication to its simple idea of having fun — and the character sprites and platforms themselves are effective. "The Highway" is reminiscent of the "Military Train" level of Mega Man X4.

The backdrop art is lovely. During one level, your character is launched into space, and this background shifts from dulcet blues to harsh reds and oranges as the ship catches fire. This attention to detail is reminiscent of SNES stunners, like Final Fantasy VI and The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past, and the more recent Stardew Valley. Also worth mentioning is the attention to detail in the shading. Even from the main menu, where you see Wryn playing video games while neon pinks and purples flow in the background. The light from the screen reflecting off her face is well done and elicits fond memories of childhood, staying up late to beat the last level, shrouded in darkness except for the radiating light from the CRT. The music and graphics from the menu set a strong tone for the rest of the game from the get-go. 

The music is meticulously crafted to be archetypal to the genre, described as "inspired by the classics of Super Famicom era, presented with screeching guitars, blazing synths and gut-beating drums" by Jukio "Kuabee" Kallio, the game's composer. The sound effects are even reminiscent of Mega Man X,with the death explosion sound being remarkably similar.

While Bleed 2 offers all of these points of nostalgia, it still lacks the flourish to establish itself. It's a fun game, but it suffers from being pulled in two different directions — appealing to an older, nostalgic audience while adding new game modes and variants to keep it fresh and replayable. Trying to appease these two audiences culminates in a finished product that doesn't put up a strong enough attempt at either — a gray zone, if you will. While Bleed 2 is a romp that makes it feel good to shoot the bad guys, the experience fades quickly, and the player may not want to replay the game at all, losing the worth of the depth of abilities, characters, modes, and weapons. Can nostalgia be balanced with originality to create something fresh enough? Absolutely. However, Bleed 2 stretches itself too thin in both of these respects and ends up feeling less like a love letter and more like fan fiction.

Score: 6.0/10

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