With its Wild West-inspired soundtrack and a story driven by revenge, Bloodroots reminds me a lot of Kill Bill. And that’s a good thing.
The opening minutes of Bloodroots sees you being crossed by your own dastardly posse. For some reason the Blood Beasts don’t like you anymore, and so they’re putting you, Mr. Wolf, down. Only, you don’t die. Somehow you survive, and so begins a tale of cold, bloody revenge.
Across three acts, your violent rampage plays out a hell of a lot like Hotline Miami. Each stage is comprised of multiple areas, and it’s your job to guide Mr. Wolf through them, killing everyone as he goes. The twist here, however, is that pretty much anything you pick up is a deadly weapon. Honestly, John Wick has nothing on Mr. Wolf. You ought to see what he can do with a carrot.
The items you pick up aren’t only useful as weapons, either. Pick up a paddle and you’ll find that it enables you to effectively pole-vault over large distances. Many weapons, like sabers, also grant you use of a dash attack that can be used to clear wide gaps. And there are ladders. You can use them like you’d normally use ladders if you wish, putting them against walls to give you access to higher areas, or you can spin around with them in your hands like a whirling dervish, killing anything in your path.
Bloodroots has another thing in common with Hotline Miami as well; it only takes one hit to kill you. That means you have to take on tens of enemies without getting hit once, otherwise you’re back to the start of the area. Thankfully, most enemies also only need to be struck once to be taken down, but as the game progresses some protect themselves with large cogs or rubber dinghies, allowing them to survive an additional hit.
Each area in Bloodroots, then, plays out almost like a puzzle. You need to figure out the best order in which to kill your enemies and with which weapons. The combination of a score and combo system also means that it pays to do it quickly and efficiently. A drip feed of new enemy types and weapons tries to keep the action fresh right until the very end.
But it’s not all murder and mayhem in Bloodroots. There’s some good old-fashioned platforming thrown in for good measure, numerous boss fights that mix the action up and even a Flappy Bird-inspired sequence. You’ll be glad for their inclusion because, honestly, Bloodroots‘ fast-paced brand of slaughter does begin to wear thin after a while.
It’s mainly down to the size of Bloodroots’ areas of murder. When they’re small-ish, you’ll find yourself having a bloody good time. You can easily assess what you’re up against, quickly scan the area for usable objects, and formulate a plan. Most of the time, though, they’re sprawling. That means many areas devolve into trial and error as you step into uncharted territory and quickly get taken down.
There’s also Bloodroots‘ often unwieldy and imprecise movement to consider. Fall into an abyss and it’s back to the start you go. Touching spikes results in the same. Considering your character often gains a sudden burst of speed after obliterating an enemy, avoiding both can be troublesome. Because of the zoomed out camera, it’s not always easy to gauge jumps very well, either, and if there’s a ladder nearby, watch out that you don’t climb it and shoot yourself into the air by accident.
When Bloodroots is at its best, it’s a hectic, action-filled romp like no other. It’s exhilarating, entertaining, and rewarding. But when it’s at its worst, it’ll wear you down. It’s not much fun starting the same area for the nth time because the controls make a particular platforming section unreasonably difficult. Nor is it fun having to restart an area after defeating all of its enemies because you fell off the map trying to work out where you need to go next.
I’ve been playing Bloodroots on Switch, and I get the feeling it’s not the best format to play it on. It looks nice, and the soundtrack is brilliant, but the load times are long, and there are performance issues. More worryingly, I’ve had the game crash on me twice while playing, and one time guns simply stopped working.
Most of my time spent playing Bloodroots was in docked mode, and I had a decent amount of fun with it. When I undocked my Switch to spend some time in handheld mode, however, it became apparent that it’s not the best way to play. With my character and my enemies becoming so small, it was much harder to see exactly what was occurring on-screen, and so it made a difficult game even more of a challenge to overcome.
I have to give the developers of Bloodroots, Paper Cult, credit though. If you do find yourself struggling, it doesn’t have to be the end of your journey. By simply going into Bloodroots‘ options menu, ‘invincible mode’ can be enabled, allowing you to have fun without the threat of dying by an enemy’s hands. And if that still isn’t enough, you can instantly kill all enemies in an area to allow you to progress to the next.
Understandably, your score won’t be submitted to the worldwide leaderboards if you use either of these assists, but at least it means getting stuck doesn’t have to be the end of your adventure. And score chasers will be happy to hear that you can easily return to previously completed levels to have another go at them. There are many hats to unlock, too, that provide special benefits. Trying to unlock them all is something worthwhile to aim for.
When the credits rolled, I was just as impressed with Bloodroots‘ story as I was the claret-soaked action. But that same action had also taken its toll on me. There’s a certain type of player that will love Bloodroots; one that’s full of determination and grit. Many, however, might just find its trial and error nature annoying. There’s also the fact that Switch just probably isn’t the best format to play it on. Handheld play puts up more barriers between you enjoying the chaotic action, while performance issues and long loading times break immersion.
If you love Hotline Miami and are after an experience that’s similar but faster-paced, by all means give Bloodroots a try. You’ll probably like it. If you have access to a PS4 or PC, however, you should probably pick it up on one of those formats instead.