Its easy to draw comparisons between Hotline Miami, and Paper Cult’s new gore-filled, top-down action game, Bloodroots.
Both focus on fast and frenetic combo-driven action where players will need to rely on whatever weapons they can find around them, and both feature a quirky cast of disturbed individuals that have an affection for animal-inspired headwear.
They are both also challenging games where you can expect to die quickly and often if you aren’t on your toes. While Bloodroots will make a fine addition to any adrenaline junkie’s library, it also unfortunately stumbles in a few places here and there.
Developer: Paper Cult
Platforms: Windows PC (Reviewed), Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4
Release Date: February 28th, 2020
Bloodroots is a revenge tale set in a heavily stylized Wild West world full of anachronisms and quirky, larger-than-life characters.
You play as Mr. Wolf, a bloodthirsty and crazed bandit that was betrayed by his outlaw gang. He was left for dead, following a massacre at a small woodland village.
Months later, Mr. Wolf mysteriously reawakens, and he is hungry for vengeance. His only goal in life now is to kill his way through his former gang’s underlings and lieutenants, until he can track down their new leader and the man who almost killed him- Mr. Black Wolf.
The game’s story is delivered in cutscenes between missions, as Mr. Wolf interacts with the key members of his former gang. Each of these unhinged characters use an inventive vocabulary that is just as offbeat and colorful as the game’s vivid aesthetics, resulting in some fairly humorous dialog.
Ultimately though, the story is mostly just a vehicle to drive you to each of the game’s elaborate levels full of deathtraps and hired goons, waiting to be shanked with a laundry list of improvised weaponry.
Each level is broken into small, arena-like areas where you have to kill everything between you and the exit. Bloodroots might look like a fairly straightforward action game at first glance, but it’s actually more like a mixture of a puzzle and rhythm game.
Each of the game’s gigantic list of improvised killing implements have their own timing, reach, and number of uses before they break. Bloodroots places an emphasis on fast, perfectly-timed strikes, map memorization, and split-second decisions.
Enemies are aggressive, fast, and won’t stop to give you time to breathe if you miss your swing. Almost everything dies in one hit, including yourself. A poorly-timed attack can, and frequently will, result in your demise.
This means that, like Hotline Miami, you’ll probably find yourself dying and restarting from the last checkpoint extremely frequently. However, the game and its controls are so tight, that the majority of your many deaths can be chalked up to your own fault.
This is a game where every restart teaches you something about how you should tackle a level. In fact, memorizing the placement of every enemy, item, and figuring out the most efficient route through a level, all play into the game’s replayability.
Your score on any given level will probably be atrocious the first time around, encouraging you to keep practicing and revisiting each level to find all the secrets, bolster your score, and unlock everything the game has to offer.
Bloodroots‘ mechanics are very simple, but the game has a lot of potential for speedrunners, or anyone else looking for a visually satisfying action game to master. Once you get good at the game, you’ll find yourself blitzing through environments, grabbing whatever weapons you can find to chain together huge kill counts, in one swift flurry of motion.
You can probably beat the game in around four to five hours, but you’ll want to replay every level over and over again until you master them. Replaying levels also gives you a chance to check out the game’s different animal hats, each of which bestow upon you a unique passive bonus.
The game’s arsenal is quite impressive, and ranges from the mundane to the hilarious. Swords, knives, muskets, and spears are all obviously useful, but Bloodroots will also have you turn carrots, fish, boots, pots, barrels, and wagon wheels into lethal murder tools.
There’s also a wide selection of anachronistic items, like jetpacks, ray guns, and gigantic windup boots not unlike the ones seen in a certain series about an Italian plumber stomping on innocent turtles.
This focus on chaining items into other items can result in some truly awesome moments once you get really good at the game. Many items can also be enhanced with elements from the environment, like throwing a flammable object through a fire pit to light enemies on fire. Flaming enemies have a tendency to run around screaming, spreading the flames to other nearby enemies.
You can also jump on a giant bowling ball and use it to flatten a few enemies, before sending it flying into another group. No matter how you approach a level, Bloodroots offers no shortage of inventive ways to deal with the enemies blocking your path.
Many weapons in the game also alter your jump, opening up even more ways for you to customize your approach through a level. Paddles, for example, can act as pole vaults, while giant matches can cause explosions that send you flying through the air.
This unfortunately results in a few platforming segments here and there that break up the flow of the game’s levels, in frustrating ways. The game has a tendency to pull the camera out in awkward ways during these platforming segments as well, making it a bit hard to judge distance.
The more wonky aspects of the game’s platforming mechanics become especially apparent in the areas that involve rolling barrels through spike pits. These segments generally involve rolling through spike fields on top of a barrel, then jumping to platforms or other barrels as your current barrel falls apart.
However, because of the camera angle when platforming, and the fact that your character tends to “snap” to barrels if you happen to be in mid-air while near one, these segments quickly became the most frustrating parts of the game. There’s some other areas where the camera is pulled out too far, making it a little hard to make out all the enemies and items littering the area.
Another thing that occasionally breaks the flow of an otherwise unrelenting chain of action, is that some areas drag on for too long. This is especially apparent in the game’s boss encounters, which often feel like the developers just couldn’t decide when to stop adding new phases.
Worse yet, some of the boss fights throw in the aforementioned annoying platforming elements. This results in encounters that just aren’t as fun as the rest of the game.
Of course, there is also the elephant in the room about Bloodroots and the platforms its available on. The game is an Epic Games Store exclusive on PC, which will no doubt turn off quite a few potential customers. If most EGS exclusives are anything to go by, we probably won’t be seeing Bloodroots on Steam, or GOG until February 2021.
What certainly helps the otherwise fantastic gameplay is that Bloodroots looks so damn slick, too. It has a stylish, cartoony visual style with exaggerated animations, and looks great in motion. Performance is pretty solid too, and I never noticed any dramatic frame drops or other technical problems.
The soundtrack consists of spaghetti western-inspired tunes, with some more modern electronic sounds that fit with the game’s mishmash setting. Its not a soundtrack I’d probably listen to independently of the game, but it gets the job done.
Bloodroots is a stylish action game, with some really slick combat mechanics that reward map memorization and perfect timing. It features a hilarious selection of weapons, and once you get the hang of the game, chaining together its arsenal of improvised death-dealing devices never gets old.
The core mechanics might be fairly simple, but Bloodroots offers lots of opportunities to master those mechanics, and execute them in really satisfying and skillful ways.
Unfortunately, the developer’s attempts to spice up the game’s levels with platforming and elaborate, multi-stage boss fights only really serve to break the flow of the game’s lightning fast and rhythmic combat.
Still, even with its flaws, Bloodroots is worth checking out if you are in the mood for a challenging action game that rewards skillful play, and lots of practice.
Bloodroots was reviewed on Windows PC using a review copy provided by Paper Cult. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.