Jeff Jefferson has just crash-landed on a mysterious island. And he’s going to kick some serious ass.
If you’re a fan of 2D metroidvania adventure games, then Blast Brigade vs. the Evil Legion of Dr. Cread really ought to be on your radar. Its full title might be a bit of a mouthful but don’t let that put you off; this gorgeously-presented side-scrolling shooter is a heck of a lot of fun. Even when it’s testing your skill – and your patience.
Proceedings start with you in control of Jeff Jefferson, an all-American hero-type and member of the eponymous Blast Brigade. His abilities are rather limited to begin with: he can jump, and he can shoot. That’s about it. But as you play through Blast Brigade you’ll unlock new abilities, allowing Jeff to use secondary weapons, throw bombs, dodge and more. An upgrade system also allows you to customise various new skills, while finding pieces of heart will eventually increase his health.
Jeff isn’t alone, though. You’ll eventually meet a cast of other characters, all with their own unique abilities and loadouts. The first new character you’ll come across is Shura, the Russian ninja, who has a powerful sniper and a grappling hook, useful for reaching new areas in the environment. And later on you’ll meet Vortex, who can make use of a teleporter. Their different skills help to keep Blast Brigade‘s gameplay feeling fresh, and their different personalities keep things entertaining.
There is a narrative thread running through Blast Brigade vs. the Evil Legion of Dr. Cread, but chances are you won’t care for it much. If the title doesn’t give it away, it revolves around the Blast Brigade taking down the evil Dr. Cread. It’s perfectly serviceable with a few bits of humour that’ll raise a smile or two – but ultimately, it’s the gameplay that keeps you playing Blast Brigade, not the story.
This really is a satisfying metroidvania to get stuck into. Taking down even the most basic of enemies requires skill, as you need to dodge their attacks and line up your own. Basic guns have limited firepower and reach, but their unlimited ammo makes them your go-to weapon. Each character’s secondary weapon, such as Jeff’s shotgun, does much more damage, but quickly runs out of ammo if you overuse it. It’s about finding the right balance.
It isn’t until you reach a boss fight that Blast Brigade really ups the ante, however. Spread evenly throughout your adventure, you’ll come across various formidable beasts and enemies, all standing in the way of your progression. With extra-long health bars, powerful attacks and traditional patterns of movement that you’ll have to learn and anticipate, chances are you’re going to fail – several times – before defeating most of them. That’s fine: practice makes perfect, as they say. The problem is that there’s rarely ever a checkpoint right outside the boss, and it means traversing back through the environment each time you die. When enemies constantly respawn in each area, it can become tedious, and quickly.
That’s perhaps the biggest complaint we have to level at Blast Brigade vs. the Evil Legion of Dr. Cread. It can often be a bit of a slog. Bosses feel much more difficult than anything else in the game. And dying, then needing to backtrack just to return to your last position, feels like wasted time. It’s a shame there’s no difficulty settings here – there’s a lot to enjoy in simply traversing the world and unlocking new characters and skills. But some players are likely going to be put off by the tough-as-nail bosses, meaning they’ll miss out on some of the game’s better qualities.
Still, if you’re up for the challenge, we’d recommend you do give Blast Brigade a go. Thanks to its sumptuous art style, reminiscent of an action-packed cartoon, it feels wholly modern. But its classic side-scrolling sensibilities means it also packs in plenty of old-school charm. Blast Brigade vs. the Evil Legion of Dr. Cread has a wonderful world waiting for you to explore, and tonnes of upgrades and abilities to unlock. But you’re going to have to overcome some truly gruelling boss fights along the way.
Blast Brigade vs. the Evil Legion of Dr. Cread Review – GameSpew’s Score