Twin-stick shooters have become fairly popular recently, and for good reason; Typically, they pit you against hordes of enemies, and give you an endless supply of bullets with which to mow them down. It’s a formula that makes a lot of sense: gamers like to feel like they’re badasses, since we need a form of escapism from our dull lives, sitting at our respective computer desks with cheeto dust on our fingers. Bleed accomplishes these things with style, but tends to fall short in other categories.
Bleed is a sidescrolling twin-stick shooter, with a bullet time mechanic very similar to the Max Payne series of games. You can use it to slow down time in a sticky situation, effectively allowing you to dodge projectiles, or pop off some well-aimed shots. You play as Wryn, or any of three unlockable characters, and jump and shoot your way through seven levels. There is also a co-op function, which simply allows a friend to join you in the action.
The gameplay in Bleed is certainly entertaining. You’re able to equip two different guns, which you can swap by going into the pause menu. You purchase new weaponry and upgrades at the store, in which you spend points you earn slaughtering hordes of enemies. If you’re playing on the PC, you move with the WASD keys and fire with the left mouse button — and jump is mapped to the spacebar. However, if you’re on the 360 controller, you move with the left, fire with the right stick, and jump is mapped to the right trigger, which can get a little confusing. Typically, jump is the A button in most games, so using the trigger to jump was definitely like learning how to ride a bike all over again. That being said, once you do get used to the strange control scheme, it becomes second nature pretty quickly. You’ll be triple air-dashing, slowing time, and blasting fools with the best of them.
The story is actually pretty interesting and silly. Wryn wants to be the ultimate video game hero, so she decides that she’s going to take down all the famous heroes and claim her rightful place at the top. If it sounds basic, that’s because it is, but there’s a lot of charm in the cutscenes and the death screens, which range from Wryn reassuring you that her death wasn’t your fault — to her blaming you for pressing the wrong button. All in all it’s a silly experience that I found to be thoroughly enjoyable.
Graphically, Bleed looks a bit like a Super Nintendo game, which is clearly on purpose. The art is very stylized, which might pique some people’s interest, but I wasn’t personally a fan. I don’t think I saw a single character or monster in Bleed and thought, “Wow, that’s original and well-designed.” Each level has a specific theme of creatures/robots, but none of them are really all that cool. The sound design was the exact opposite, boasting 10+ tracks of insanely catchy chiptunes. The weapon sounds felt pretty satisfying overall, too.
Every negative I’ve mentioned thus far is pretty forgivable, but let’s delve into some of Bleed’s bigger flaws. The absolute worst part about this title is the length. Bleed is literally an hour long. An hour. There are seven levels, and none of them take longer than 10 minutes to complete. I understand there is some replayability in beating the game on higher difficulties, and unlocking all the characters, but when you beat the game in an hour on your first playthrough, it kind of saps all the incentive to do so.
It may be only $5, but when your core game is only an hour long, even that seems a bit steep. Furthermore, the unlockable characters aren’t even very good, save for one. It doesn’t feel too great when you unlock a new character, and are excited to see what skills they have, only to find out they’re a cruddier version of the main character. On top of that, the co-op multiplayer is awful. The camera remains locked around the first player, meaning that the second player can accidentally get lost somewhere off-screen and not know what’s going on. I don’t know if this was just a last-minute added feature to the game, but it’s pretty bad.
In conclusion, Bleed is an amusing romp throughout, but after beating the game in a single hour, you’ll just end up feeling hollow. If you’re a huge fan of twin-stick shooters, you might be able to squeeze your money’s worth out of this title with multiple replays and the arcade mode, but don’t expect a game you’ll be playing for months — or even weeks. If you’re looking for a good co-op fragfest, it would probably be best to look elsewhere.