Analysis: Bleed 2 (PC) [with VIDEO!]
I've put about an hour-and-a-half into Bleed 2, which is probably about half of the game. I am somewhere near the end of Level 3, and the first Bleed has seven levels. I figured it was just as good a time as any to ink out my impressions of this title, given that I rarely actually finish a game. At this point, Bleed 2 is exactly what I thought it would be, given its design ethos. And that is both a blessing and a curse.
As I mentioned a few episodes ago on the Band of Gamers Podcast (episode #77), Bleed 2 is a platformer-Contra-Like-2d-Shooter-Shmup. Rock, Paper, Shotgun refers to it as a "Jump-o-stab-a-shoot-y-dodge" game, and I can offer no detraction to that description. Bleed 2 incorporates a lot of elements from different games from the 1980s age of gaming. And, for the most part, it intermixes those various elements in a near perfect combination of complex movement that is as graceful in 2d as Bayonetta was in 3d. Bleed 2 tells the "story", if you will, as it is not very complex, of a young girl who leaps to the challenge to defend her planet (presumably Earth), when it is threatened by an alien force. She embarks on a side-scrolling journey through various terrain where she encounters increasingly challenging enemies and patterns.
In motion, Bleed 2 is a wonderful game. When you pull off a triple jump, with a lateral move on the second jump, a katana slash in between the 2nd and third jump, then hit slow motion as you enter the third, reversing your gun arc, and destroying the enemies behind you before landing, the feeling is veritably euphoric. The game, a I mentioned, maximizes the values of 1980s and '90s game design, and weaves them into a wonderfully emergent model of movement that is just gorgeous. However, the other thing it apes from 1980s and 90s game design is the maximization of punishment for error partway through a level. For any 10% of error that you make near the end of a level, you will be penalized 100% and will be playing the same sequence from the beginning until you get it right. Admittedly, this is only exacerbated in some small number of sections throughout the game. At just under 50%, I have encountered it twice. Still, when you do hit it, it can result in 20 minutes of gameplay just trying to get one thing done. It feels like when you get a car stuck in the mud or in snow or ice. You spin your tires for a while, until you finally just decide to turn the car off and that you're not making it into work that day.
The sound design on this game is era-perfect. The chip-tunes and sound effects are exquisite representations of the 4, 8, and 16-bit generations of gaming (console generations two through four). Backgrounds, while simplified and deliberately pixelated, are colorful and engaging. Enemies are articulate and highly varied. There should be little chance of boredom, and I have not felt any real sense of any enemies just being a palette swap of another, with their attack patterns being the same. There is not anything here that I could call a shortcut or phoning it in. While this game only carries its overall depth but so far given its nostalgic premise, its art and sound-design convey the exact nature of its design intent. To take us back to a simpler time. And so while it is certainly more interesting to sink your teeth into a Skyrim, or Forza Horizon 3, or Resident Evil 7, I cannot really knock this game when I measure it by its throwback yardstick.
Bleed 2 lines up as an excellent side-excursion within my total gaming space. It is never going to qualify as a title that warrants making a priority in my playlist. But it will occupy a space of excellence in terms of something worthwhile to boot up when I only have a 30 minute window to get some gaming in. Even the punishment aspect of some of its level design is not that big a deal, as there is still an element of fun in playing those sections over again. It does get grating when that goes on for too long, but I am fine just turning the game off and coming back to it later at that point. If you are like me and like to have some games in your inventory that do not take themselves as seriously as the rest of what I play, then this is definitely a title that warrants some space in your digital backlog. While the ride may be short, I can see myself enjoying about 84% of that ride. The remaining 16% I can accept as just part of the cost that comes along with being a gamer.