Bloodroots Review: Frenetic, Fatal, and Fun
A good game can be really fun when things are going well and you feel skilled and empowered. A great game remains fun when you feel like a useless idiot who can't do anything right.
Bloodroots is a great game.
As a mile-high view, Bloodroots puts you in control of Mr. Wolf, a man on a revenge mission to take out his old gang, led by Mr. Black Wolf, after they attempt to murder you. Along the way, you'll have to take out the gang's underlings, as well as thousands of others who get between where you are and who you want to kill.
Gameplay is a frantic, don't-think bash 'em up with the majority of enemies weak to a single blow, but all of them are capable of killing you just as easily.
You will die frequently.
Bloodroots Review: Frenetic, Fatal, and Fun
The star of Bloodroots is undoubtedly the arsenal at your disposal, though it doesn't appear in the form of a complex inventory system or as powerful upgrading mechanics. Instead, the appeal of Bloodroots is that virtually everything can be a weapon, frequently with entirely new and unique attack types that will have you picking up something fresh just to see what it can do.
From pirouetting around the battlefield spinning a deadly ladder over your head to slapping a giant fish's mouth over an enemy's head, if you can see it, there's a good chance you can kill somebody in a spectacular and possibly-stupid way with it.
The many different weapons on the battlefield aren't just for fun (but, oh geez, are they ever fun). The different mechanics frequently play a crucial role in progressing.
The game is broken into three acts, each with multiple stages to complete before a boss level. Within each stage, however, there are a series of arenas that must be cleared to move on to the next one. Often, the difference between a chain of deaths (theirs) and a chain of deaths (yours) comes down to finding the right sequence of weapons to use.
Every weapon has limited uses, often just one and rarely more than three, so finding the best way to make use of what's around is essential in order to wipe out everything in front of you.
One game I was surprised to discover Bloodroots reminded me of was the time-stopping triumph Superhot. While the two may not seem similar at first blush, with Bloodroots requiring madcap slaughter and Superhot demanding patience to get full use of your special powers, they come closer together as you reach more complex arenas.
Just as Superhot places you in control of a (less literal) glass cannon hero who has to learn from each death to avoid threats, Bloodroots is all about learning and adapting.
Most attacks have a period of cooldown where you are exposed, and that varies by weapon. As you move through an arena and die at the hands of an enemy you didn't realize was a threat, you'll soon begin to develop paths through the arena, adjusting as needed until you flawlessly cut through the opposition like a chicken-laden rotisserie skewer through a soldier protected by a giant inner tube that deflects projectiles.
Wait, What Game Am I Playing?
While I quickly adjusted to the idea that anything and everything I encountered just might be the useful weapon I need to clear the next group of enemies, what surprised me the most about Bloodroots was how often the game managed to subvert expectations with new takes on the levels, and not just for the boss fights.
On the one hand, you have simply the addition of new methods of accessing sections on maps that change the way you get around and operate.
What's more, however, there are also sections that seem to completely change the game you're playing. At one point, I found myself trying to navigate through a cave full of dangers with the help of a firework to provide short upward bursts. It was Flappy Bird with more carnage.
A few levels later finds Mr. Wolf forced to take out a series of enemies while running atop a series of large balls with controls akin to playing Marble Madness.
While it would be easy for all of this "more, more, more" approach to game design to go off the rails, it all just works.
Bloodroots Review — The Bottom Line
- Weapon variety provides many moments of hilarity during discovery, and fun in further use
- Clever design always compels you to give it just one more go
- Gameplay is fast and engaging
- Some specialized levels may put off some gamers
- Long runs of deaths can occur on challenging arenas
The biggest case I can make for Bloodroots revolves around something that, despite nearly 30 years of gaming under my belt, remains true about me: I'm not great at videogames. For a game like Bloodroots this means a lot of times where I fell into death loops I felt I would never escape.
But never once did I reach frustration that made me want to quit. Even when I accidentally offed myself down a pit for the twentieth time, or bounced faced first into a bullet, all I wanted to do was dive back in and give it another go.
When trying the same thing for the same twenty-second time feel just as engaging as the first, you've done something right.
Bloodroots is not an easy game. It is challenging but manages to be so while remaining fun the entire time.
[Note: A copy of Bloodroots was provided by Paper Cult for the purpose of this review.]