The original Bleed, which was released back in 2012 on PC and in August last year on the PS4, was a perfect example of a solid indie pixel-art side-scrolling action game done well. From Bootdisk Revolution, Bleed reminded me of a mash-up between the bullet-hell gameplay of classics like Contra and over-the-top action you would see in movies such as The Matrix. The game didn’t care if you finished the level – it was all about finishing the level in style and replaying them in order to get a better rating each time. In comes Bleed 2 with a ‘more of the same’ attitude, only with new features, new enemies and endless fun (literally).
Bleed 2 starts where the original Bleed left off, our protagonist, Wryn, has just succeeded in wiping out all of the other heroes in the world and is now settling down to play some video games. However, Wryn didn’t realise that now she is the sole protector/hero left on Earth, if any villains were to show up then she would be the only one who could deal with them. Whilst happily playing her games on the TV, Wryn’s house begins to shake and that can only mean one thing…
As she runs outside to see what all the fuss is about, everything becomes clear. She sees a mother ship, from an unknown being, pouring its minions into the city. With her trusty double pistols and katana in hand, she smiles as she runs head first to take out this new villainous threat – so she can return to playing her video games! You will control Wryn through seven levels of bullet-hell, constant deaths and many, many bosses as you uncover who the new threat is and aim to eliminate them.
The controls in Bleed 2 are simple and rock solid. First, the standard controls – Left stick to move, L2 slows down time and R2 jumps. It’s strange having R2 as the jump but I got used to it, you can also jump up to three times in the air for a triple-jump effect. Which is yet another unusual choice. To shoot, you push the Right stick in the direction you wish to shoot – like you would in a twin-stick shooting game. The difference here is that you have both a set of guns and a katana which are both operated by the same action. As soon as you push the direction of attack, the first move Wryn will perform is a slash of her katana, keep it held down and she will proceed to fire an unlimited array of bullets.
The katana is your best weapon, before you complete the game, as it opens many opportunities to turn the battles into your favour. Throughout this review, you will see images where the screen has pink and yellow projectiles or tints on the various enemies. Anything that’s yellow can’t be stopped – you may be able to shoot them with your guns or you may have to just avoid them – but the pink ones are where it gets interesting. Anything pink can be reflected with a hit from your katana. For example, if you’re in a boss fight and it is spewing out pink rockets, hit them back to cause massive damage – or maybe there is a boss with spiked walls that close in on you in order to crush you, hit the one that’s glowing pink to knock it right back whilst also inflicting damage onto the enemy.
The katana ability is important because there are no regular powerups within the game – no weapons to pick up, no boosts, no multipliers – nothing. The game keeps it nice and simple and straight to the point – kill anything that moves. Some people may see this as a title with a lack of content, whereas in reality, it’s a game which keeps the main focus where it counts, on the gameplay and not on the player looking around to gain an advantage in battle – it’s all down to skill whether you get out alive or not.
Bleed 2 is such an amazing indie title, it even stands up to some of the bigger companies 2D titles as well! The game has been designed around allowing you to do whatever you need to in order to both achieve a high score and look cool in the process. From jumping off a moving truck to avoid a missile then promptly jumping back up without touching the ground, to slowing down time so you can jump through a tiny gap in the oncoming barrage of projectiles – it’s so sleek and seamless. One thing which really stood out for me is that I never got bored of all the action which was happening on screen. There have been a few other games in the past where I would become bored due to performing the same actions over and over in order to overcome the threats – in Bleed 2 almost every fight requires a different strategy.
Speaking of the battles, whereas in regular games you would have a stretch of enemies followed by a boss battle and then move onto the next stage, Bleed 2 does things differently. Not only do you have a few mid-level bosses, but sometimes those bosses have mid-boss bosses and some even have multiple bosses at a time! Each one is more like a puzzle than a mindless bullet-fest as well, as you are forced to spot patterns and then abuse those in order to overcome your opponent. Technically you could just shoot them with everything you have and hope for the best, but that method isn’t guaranteed to work. Every single boss is different as well, not just aesthetically, but in terms of the patterns, it’s fighting style and how it chooses to engage you in combat. In both of my playthroughs I’ve been on edge whilst facing them and never thought any of them were monotonous.
The main crux of Bleed 2 is it’s initial length as it may put some people off. I was able to complete the whole game, all seven levels, within a few hours at most – and that’s abusing the infinite continues everytime I died. However, Bleed 2 isn’t a game to play through once and call it a day – it was made to be a short game so you can continuously replay the game and get better each time. Who would want to replay a game 5, 10, even 20 times if it was a 10-hour game? Once you complete the game new things are unlocked for you, new weapons you can change in-game and new characters to play as.
Also, as a means to extend your playtime with Bleed 2, there is an Arcade, Endless and Challenge mode to try and beat. The Arcade mode has you playing the entire game on either of the four difficulties with only one life. Try and make it as far as you can before your life comes to an end – needless to say, I didn’t do too well in this mode. The Endless mode isn’t technically endless. It’s a random seed-generated level which is different every time you play it. So, technically it is endless in that you can keep playing a new game for a new challenge – but not endless as in the level doesn’t end. Finally, the Challenge mode allows you to pick up to three bosses and an arena for a highly unfair and unbalanced battle.
so, if you were to try and get all the trophies (which require achieving the highest rank on each chapter) as well as playing through the three modes I mentioned above, the 1-2 hours can easily become 20+ hours of gameplay.
One other surprise for the game is the inclusion of a local co-op mode. As I stated previously, Wryn can deflect the pink projectiles and objects with her katana, pink – just like her hair. In co-op mode, the second player will take control of her blonde friend, who has the same colour hair as the yellow projectiles, the ones you can’t reflect – do you see where this is going? The second player can deflect the yellow projectiles and items and player one can do the pink ones. This is awesome and playing in co-op simply makes the game even better. It’s only local co-op though, so you can’t play online with friends. However, if you both have PS+ then you can activate shareplay and use that so the PS4 lets the other person stream your screen and join in as if they are sat next to you.
As I always state when playing a game like this – I’m not a fan of pixel-art games. However, some games just feel ‘right’ in this format and I’m happy to say that Bleed 2 is one of them. The game is clearly influenced by the brutal classic games yet combined with the helpful checkpoints of modern gaming. It’s also not a lazy pixel-art game, with everything being animated beautifully with small things like Wryns hair waving about and the enemies flinching as you hit them, really adding to the experience. This is met perfectly by the chiptune style soundtrack which perfectly fits the mood and atmosphere of the game.
Bleed 2 is a brilliant platformer which a lot of people may not have heard of. It’s core mechanics as a side-scrolling action arcade game are pulled off perfectly and the balancing of the various difficulties have been implemented with just the right amount of challenge and skill. The game never gets boring or repetitive, it’s always keeping you on your toes and if you do ever tire of the well constructed seven levels, you have the random endless mode to try and master. Not to mention the inclusion of the co-op mode and the ‘just for fun’ unbalanced boss arenas, there is more content here than a lot of the major AAA games out there.
Bleed 2 isn’t a game for people looking for an easy platinum, but it is for those who want a fair challenge. Also, pick up the original Bleed if you haven’t as it’s just as good.
- The core mechanics are spot on and work perfectly
- The music is a delight to listen too
- The co-op mode is lots of fun
- Tonnes of content with the endless, challenge and arcade modes
- Fun and original story
- The main story is a little short (1-2 hours)
- The graphics aren't anything to shout about (although the animations and care put into each character is something to shout about)