on Jul 25, 2013
This is a game I would never play under normal circumstances. It’s out of my area of interest, it demands skills I don’t have, and it makes references to games I’ve never played. If we were still in the world of $10 “discount” titles then I wouldn’t own it. But this is the age of the Steam sale, an age where you can see something crazy and say, “Sure, I’d try that for three dollars.”
Bleed is a 2D sidescrolling platformer / shmup thing from developer Bootdisk Revolution. Right now you can get it directly from the developer for $5, no DRM. But you’re just going to buy it through Steam because that’s easier and I know how you are.
This is a hard game. Maybe. I’ve said before that the learning curve for games is usually a lot steeper than we realize, and I might be on the other side of that phenomena here. I don’t usually play 2D platformers and I never play the stuff with bullet-hail projectile avoidance like we see here. I put the game on easy, and found the whole game was just barely possible. And this is allowing for the way the game gives you a checkpoint every couple of screens.
This is a game about iterative refinement. You’re graded at the end of each level on how how well you played, and given points based on this performance. You use the points to buy upgrades and more outlandish weapons so you can retry old levels with new weapons.
Bosses are usually a collection of attack patterns and tells, so fighting a boss means getting a feel for its signals and then figuring out how to respond. It’s got a Mega Man vibe to it, where the mooks and challenges of a level are just a lead-up for the boss at the end.
You got 2D platforming with a dash / dodge move. You’ve got a bullet time mechanic. You’ve got a selection of weapons on your toolbelt for solving the various pixelated problems the game throws your way. Maybe you’ll use the spammy pistols to shoot down incoming clouds of projectiles. Or use the splash-damage rocket launcher to blow up the enemies that tend to cluster. Or the flamethrower to wipe out the foes that rush you from multiple directions. Or the laser rifle to… I don’t actually know when you’d use that. I suppose you’d have to be good at the game to know when to use that one.
The story is… exactly what it needs to be? It’s there, I guess. There are these heroes, you want to become a hero, so you kill the other heroes? Whatever. It’s amusing enough and gives us some kind of context for a world where everything that isn’t your character is trying to kill you as fast as possible.
So why did I stick with this game? If it’s so hard for me, so far out of my area of interest, and so thin on story, then why did I play so much of it? What charmed me? From the developer’s blog:
The game was going to be heavily focused on story – but at the end of the day I had to realize that 99% of players just don’t care. Besides, I’m not exactly Shakespeare. I have no doubt that it would have ended up as a pretentious, self-important mess.
Much more importantly, doom-and-gloom, ultra-serious-for-no-good-reason just isn’t me. I’m a lighthearted, fun-loving guy and I think it would have come off inauthentic. I believe what I have now is much more entertaining, and a more pure expression of myself to boot!
Most of us can identify with the sensation that we’re playing a game designed by a committee. A game where there’s nothing technically wrong but it just feels sterile and lifeless. There is a purity to games where the developer puts themselves into the title and you can sense the person on the other side of it. You get it in Braid, Fez, Little Inferno, Portal, Papo & Yo and World of Goo. When someone makes the game they want to play instead of the game they think you want to play, they’re very likely to make something worth playing no matter what your tastes are. Bleed is that sort of game. Simple, unpretentious, and fun.