By Shamus Posted Thursday Jul 25, 2013

Filed under: Game Reviews 38 comments

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.

Link (YouTube)

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 â€" 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!

(Emphasis mine.)


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.


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38 thoughts on “Bleed

  1. Brandon says:

    Last Sunday and Monday evenings I watched Indie Game The Movie, and The Story of Mojang, and I really got a sense of what you’re talking about here. Indie game designers have the freedom to make the games that they really love, the ones they want to play, the ones that are very personal, and it really makes for a more artistic expression of the medium than most AAA titles can claim.

    Watching those documentaries has really made me want to start working on my own project though. Now if only I could figure out what game I want to play, then I’ll know what to make.

    1. Trix2000 says:

      Keep in mind how much time it might take. Depending on the scope of a game project, it can take quite a large number of hours.

      Not to be discouraging though – I find they tend to fly by when you’re having fun making something. And even if the result isn’t complete or something one can claim to be popular, if it’s YOUR game, I’d say it’s worth all the effort.

    2. karln says:

      Wow. You really wanted to make games after watching IG:TM? My experience (and my friend’s) was that it put me right off the idea. I mean, it makes game-making look really awesome, but look how crazy those guys went.

      If you can watch that and still think ‘yeah that’s for me’, then you probably have a leg-up on the rest of us already ;)

      1. Brandon says:

        Well yes, in a way it’s a huge deterrent. However, I’m working full time on a career, so I don’t need to worry if I fail at making games. Yes, that means I have less time to work on projects, but I still think it would be fun to do.

        1. Chris Robertson says:

          And you might just find that it works out.

  2. Syal says:

    So Wryn is fighting to become the ultimate Hero? I get the feeling this is going to have a No More Heroes crossover in the future.

  3. “Bullet Hail?” I thought the term was “Bullet Hell.”

    Or was this intentional, like calling the Ron Perlman movie about the big red guy who fights monsters for humanity, “Heckboy?”

    1. Cybron says:

      Bullet Hell generally refers to a specific sub-genre of top-down shooters (shmups). This is more of a platformer. I imagine this was just a general descriptive term.

      1. Alexander The 1st says:

        Also usable terms for the same genre:

        – Bullet Curtain

        – Danmaku

        Or at least, as long as you’re willing to use the more literal translation from Japanese genre definitions.

    2. You mean, that guy who went into the mayonnaise business when he grew up?

  4. Cyprene says:

    Bleed absolutely rocks. I’m terrible, just terrible, at platforming and shooting games and I found it thrilling and fun.
    You’re never bumped back more than 1 screen if you die, and your character is terrifically powerful and great at bailing out of bad situations (She has a QUADRUPLE-jump) It’s got a lot of difficulty modes and a lot of different weapons to try, so there’s plenty of reasons to come back to it.
    The heroine is cheerful and bright, and has an amazing amount of personality for such a tiny sprite, and I found myself really rooting for her despite the rather brief story. Every time you die (which is often when you’re learning the mechanics) she’ll pop up on screen with a brief message which often reads something like “You can do it! That one totally wasn’t your fault!”

    It’s a short game, but I cannot recommend it highly enough, even if, or especially if, you aren’t very good at shooters.

    1. Micamo says:

      Heartily agreed: After reading Shamus’s post today I got the game myself. Blew through it on Normal in about 2 hours (honestly after his indictment of the difficulty I thought it’d be harder) but had a blast every second, I plan to play through again tomorrow on Very Hard and see how it goes.

  5. Tobias says:

    Yes, that game looked pretty interesting.
    The problem is that I prefer a PS2 style controller over an Xbox style controller.
    And Bleed is incompatible with any input expect for an original Microsoft controller.

    1. Omobono says:

      If you have a ps3 controller, there’s an unofficial driver (not from Sony, but they are a certified windows driver, no malware there) that can be used to connect it to the pc, and said drivers have an emulate x360 option; google motioninjoy for it.
      Any recent 3rd party usb controller is going to be fully compatible with xinput, and they tend to default to the ps2 button layout.

    2. anaphysik says:

      “And Bleed is incompatible with any input expect for an original Microsoft controller.”

      No mouse/keyboard either?

      1. Syal says:

        Mouse and keyboard work fine, though I’m not sure if it makes jumping harder or if I just suck at jumping.

        1. Alexander The 1st says:

          So far as I can tell, you have to use an Xbox 360 controller for the second player in multiplayer.

          Which makes relative sense – you can also make player one use a controller as well.

  6. hborrgg says:

    You know, it’s funny you brought up that old post of yours, because my sister originally started playing Minecraft and Portal a couple of years ago and has now begun getting really into first person shooters.

  7. X2-Eliah says:

    Hmm. That mention of Portal as not-designed-by-comittee.. Hm. Makes me wonder, Shamus – would you describe Portal 2 as designed by comittee?

    1. Shamus says:

      I think Portal 2 kinda was, but it doesn’t feel like it. According to the dev commentary there were a lot of cooks in that kitchen and they were all pulling in different directions. I honestly have no idea how Valve does what they do.

      1. Nidokoenig says:

        Isn’t Valve’s big advantage that the only people working on a given project are people who actually want to? A lot of the problem with design by committee is that a lot of people on the committee are only there because they’re paid to be and thus have a disincentive to say they shouldn’t be on it because they don’t care and/or don’t have the right expertise. At Valve, if they’re not totally enthused by their work on Ricochet 2 they’ll just unhook their desk and go work on trading cards or whatever. This does lead to the problem that if nobody wants to do that thing everybody expects Valve to do it doesn’t get done, but that could be considered a feature rather than a bug.

    2. Dreadjaws says:

      I believe it’s an entirely different story when the comittee is also trying to make a game they’d like to play instead of a game that’ll sell. That’s pretty much what Valve does with all their games.

  8. Cybron says:

    This game looks fantastic and I’m wondering how I missed during the Steam sale.

    Off to get it now.

  9. bloodsquirrel says:

    This kind of post lends credit to my theory that a lot of people who complain about a game being too hard are really complaining about it not being fun enough to stand being played without constant progression handing them new upgrades/cutscenes/new things to see or do.

    1. X2-Eliah says:

      Oh, it certainly is the case. Personally, I quit games when they aren’t entertaining me (not necessarily ‘fun’, but enjoyable they must be), and that is not really related that much to difficulty.

      HOWEVER. I find that a game which frustrates a lot – due to some kind of difficulty that seems unfair, or impossible – is likely to not be enjoyable to play (at least for me). In that sense, difficulty can be yet another nail in the coffin (potentially a very big one) that kills enjoyment in a game, and thus leads to quitting.

  10. Gordon says:

    the “by committee” thing is something I get most clearly in assassin’s creed games. Well, the first one least so, because it wasn’t a franchise and was playing with an interesting premise and governmental philosophy, but the second and third ones definitely. I think it’s that all the “real world” characters feel so relentlessly engineered, and Desmond and Lucy are so blandly good looking that their “romance” feels like a pair of action figures being held up by a kid.

    Oddly, I don’t get that feeling often with games. I think Arkham City verges on it, but It has the sheen of true fandom about the source material that defends it.

  11. Felblood says:

    You use the laser when you are fighting a boss that shoots destructible projectiles, since you can shoot the projectiles and still hit the enemy behind them.

    I’ve never played this game; I can tell that from the trailer you re-posted above.

    I speak the language of Bullet Hell, but I’m not too terribly good at them myself..

  12. BeamSplashX says:

    For some reason, I never checked if this game had controller support, as I generally prefer to use that for platforming. So this review was more of a reminder to do that, but I’m thankful anyways. I also had this confused with They Bleed Pixels, which I was less interested in.

    I also had one bad day of wi-fi that made me far more wary of getting games through Steam, so I believe I will buy this directly. Once I cash some checks. After I get those checks. It looks like it’s totally worth $5.

    1. Zukhramm says:

      Though it the developer’s selling it without DRM anyway, I don’t see why they’d put DRM on the Steam version.

      1. BeamSplashX says:

        Offline mode didn’t work, making Steam the DRM obstacle that day.

        1. Zukhramm says:

          Not all games on Steam use the Steam DRM though.

          1. BeamSplashX says:

            Like, just running it from the folder? I figured as much, but Home didn’t work that way so I never assumed it of other indies.

  13. Kanodin says:

    Man it’s such a shame that by the time people can get these recommendations out the sale that sparked the purchases is over, I”ll be waiting till winter to give this one a shot. I suppose that’s why the last day is all repeats, to give people who passed on it but then heard good things to have another chance at emptying their wallets. I’d bet putting a few of the smaller games like this one on sale a week or two after the sale would have a similar effect.

  14. Bryan says:

    I actually bought this game twice, on steam and Xbox.

  15. JPH says:

    Hurry up and review Mark of the Ninja already!

    EDIT: On topic: As a definite fan of action-platformers (platformer is the only genre I might be willing to call myself an expert in) I found Bleed to be pretty decent. I didn't dislike it, but I didn't finish it either. Maybe it's because the past few years have also gotten us They Bleed Pixels, Dustforce and Rayman Origins that I find it kind of meh in comparison. Not bad, just not particularly engaging or well-paced.

  16. Nixitur says:

    Oh, this game. I bought it pretty much immediately when it came out and found it extremely enjoyable.
    Yes, this game is difficult, but trying to get through the Marathon mode (forgot the exact name, but it’s playing through the entire game without checkpoints) made it clear to me that you can essentially go through it without getting hit, especially since the controls are extremely tight.
    I found this game to work really well with mouse + keyboard because of all the shooting you do, but all the dodging might be better with a gamepad.
    What I also found refreshing is how setting the difficulty higher doesn’t just make the enemies harder-hitting and more spongy, but it mostly varies the attack patterns, often gives them entirely new attack patterns and makes them attack more often. And this applies to all enemies, not just bosses. Yes, the bosses also get more spongy, but that’s pretty much it.

    Highly recommend it.

  17. Deadpool says:

    Never heard of the game. But I’m gonna go on a limb and guess the laser pierces infinite enemies?

    I’m just curious if game logic is still the same after all these years…

  18. Freggle says:

    Have you ever played Magicka? I haven’t seen you mention it on the site, and this article reminded me about it. It’s also really a game hinged on it’s gameplay. The story is silly (but truly funny), there is no difficulty setting and it’s developed by a small team of (Swedish) start-up game designers. It’s frustratingly hard in places, especially when you can’t even survive a scene long enough to figure out which damage type even slightly hurts the mobs. But I had great fun playing through the campaign single player. And it’s 10 times more fun when multiplaying. Slight downside is the enormous amount of DLC’s and patches they have released by now, giving the (reasonably correct) impression they released an unfinished product.
    See the link for the developers trying (and often dying during) a playthrough of their own game, while commenting.

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