Sunday 10 March 2013

Bleed (PC/XBLIG)

As I write this my hands are shaking and my wrists are aching. Tonight I fired up my review copy of platform shooter Bleed and didn't stop playing until I had completed it. At one point (not my greatest achievement but close) I used my foot to drag a shopping bag full of energy drinks over to me while I continued to play. That's how absurdly gripping this game is.

Late in the game there's a level where the field of play tilts. Right now I've lost my sense of balance and I feel like I've just got off a ship because it took me ages to get past that part. But I didn't give in, spurred on in part by our heroine's all-too-nice insistence in the game over screen that her horrible and repeated deaths were totally not my fault (although the times when she asked if I had an older brother who could take the reins were a bit of a slap in the face) and eventually ploughed through the entire thing, coming out feeling like a satisfied, caffeine-crashing hummingbird with arthritis.

Bleed is brilliant. From the engaging heroine (like Lara Croft but with pink hair and not an aristocratic hoarder of historical items that belong in a museum and not some bint's fancy mansion) to the artistically-accomplished level design and game art and through to the wonderful array of bad guys (running the gamut from weird security droids to the antibodies of a giant creature with Mephedrone-nightmare pokemon in between) Bleed is a straight up work of art.

Boss design is especially smart, going further than just making us fight something really huge at the end of each level. Characterful bosses with differing tactics and funky quirks is the order of the day as our heroine blows the hell out of the greatest heroes of all time, who have become distasteful to her (actually she's arguably a bad guy, when you put it like that).

The ability to slow down time for a limited period adds an extra dimension to the gameplay, and in fact borders on invaluable at certain stages. It's certainly not a tacked on gimmick which my (albeit quiet) inner cynic suspected at first sight. It makes for some great moments of play, like slowing down time just at the right moment to avoid an energy blast, engaging in bullet-time gunfights with a hyper-fast bunny girl or acrobatically flying over rows of weird spikes in a beast's stomach. It's brilliant.

An arena mode where you can pit yourself against up to three level bosses of your choice makes for some frenetic and hard as nails gameplay which is as fun as about seven bags of various monkeys.

I've made this comment about games before, and I maintain that it's a good benchmark to think of when reviewing games like Bleed: if this was a stand-up cabinet in an arcade it would need its cash box emptied on an hourly basis. If I ran into this game in public and had disposable income I'd end up haemmoraging 50p coins into its slot, and a ridiculous queue would probably form behind me. I'd end up getting banned from the arcade for being a bit of a dick and taking liberties.

Priced at £3.99, Bleed is just a little marvel. Metal Slug on pop rocks and full-fat Coke. It's not perfect but it's got a view of perfect from across the street and that's just fine.

Download the demo/buy the game here (from the Bootdisk Revolution website).
4 out of 5

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