We all have idols, be they young, fictional, old, or real. Sometimes they motivate change within ourselves, like exercising, helping others, etc. Sometimes, however, icons become obstacles. In Bleed, Earth’s champions retired their wings and rocket boots centuries ago, though they remain immortalized in the Hall of Heroes. Now, it's the year 21XX, and protagonist Wryn yearns to be the first Hall inductee in decades. Naturally, she must prove herself. What better method than assassinating the six (shamelessly named) Greatest Heroes of All Time?
It’s weird helping happily optimistic Wryn, honestly, because she seeks fame through criminal acts. An anti-heroine, she takes serial killer-like pleasure dishing out hot-blooded punishment, terminating opponents nonchalantly with uzis and rocket launchers. Obviously, it's very tongue-in-cheek. Maybe no one cares about society’s fallen idols when they don’t look human, with nemeses ranging from flying eyeballs and giant caterpillars to *shivers* pop music stars.
Alternatively, Bleed's control scheme earns the most flak. I don’t love how Wryn handles. On gamepads, players quadruple-jump – yes, quadruple-jump – using the right trigger while their face buttons collect dust. That's because Bleed falls under the twin-stick shooter category. Not tapping ‘A’ presents initial hurdles, but I was soon soaring around levels without tripping over my fingers.
There's never been an army more well trained than one-eyed flies and overweight "kittehs."
I’m less keen on the aiming. Bleed sacrifices accuracy during small-fry ambushes – in other words, where combat demands players adjust their targeting slightly, they cannot. Also, my hands began cramping after thirty minutes. Wryn’s remaining movements, thankfully, hold together marvelously. Swapping weapons with the left and right bumpers feels intuitive, and mapping Wryn’s time-slowing energy meter to the left trigger lets you finesse those split-hair evades when mere pixels could mean death.
Aspiring heroes need that precision, because each level offers different platforming challenges specific to the end-mission boss. The pop star's bullet train barrels through tunnels while Power Ranger-esque enemies defend their queen, the caterpillar brothers burrow around below ground among molten magma, and the sentient missile-happy robot adorns its penthouse with defense drones and laser grids.
The campaign stands noticeably short in the longevity department, however. Including lenient checkpoints, average playthroughs rarely exceed sixty minutes. I reiterate: I beat the game within one hour. As players finally master Wryn’s bullet-hell acrobatics, she’s thanking everyone who helped realize her dream. Other critics might complain; I won't. Any editor under time constraints will tell you what blessings bite-size indie wonders truly are.
Could you call this level Japanese-themed without the mecha Kaiju, snowy mountains, and bullet train?
Developer Ian Campbell (Bootdisk Revolution) prices his first project right, too. For five bucks, players receive shoot-’em-up chaos built around replay value, as completing Bleed’s Normal, Hard, and Very Hard difficulties unlocks extra costumes and modes. One such outfit, Robo-Wryn, refills her energy meter dodging attacks. Can she slay three select bosses back-to-back? Should Wryn brave all seven missions with one life?
For those masochists, I wish them luck. The in-game shop sells life, energy, and weapon upgrades, but no currency could buy more skill. Likewise, katanas deflecting bullets sounds (and is) properly badass, yet your starting firearms silence enemies just fine.
Regrettably, Bleed does exude other faults. Simply touching bosses causes players harm, and given each beast’s massive size, they can stunlock Wryn in a corner. The humor also lands without lasting impressions. Whether Wryn jokes about bottomless pits, imitates robotic beep-boop noises, or what have you, the punchlines lack punch. Although I enjoy occasional self-conscious gags, Bleed tries too hard.
I still commend Ian’s efforts. He accomplished something here that I could never do: making his own game. Bleed may not become highly profitable, but I hope we see more title’s beyond Bootdisk Revolution’s breakout attempt. That’s more than I’ll say for most indie hits.
Publisher: Ian Campbell
Developer: Ian Campbell
Release Date: July 3, 2013 (Steam)
Number of Players: 1-2 (Campaign)
Platforms: PC (Reviewed), Xbox Live Indie Games