Bloodroots review – bloody amazing
New indie game Bloodroots mixes Hotline Miami with Looney Tunes to become one of the most enjoyably violent games of the year.
We’re always complaining about indie games having rubbish names, that needlessly put off potential players, and while Bloodroots is by no means the worst offender we’re still not really sure what it’s supposed to mean, especially as it absolutely doesn’t involve killer trees. What it does have though is some of the most amusingly violent action we’ve seen in a long time, that works like the bloodiest Looney Tunes cartoon never made.
Bloodroots is a little difficult to pin down in terms of genre, but its top-down view and high difficulty is reminiscent of the underrated Ape Out. Bloodroots is a bit more varied in its action, with an enjoyably wide range of weapons to deploy, but ultimately both you and our opponents are working under the same restraint: that just one hit from any weapon can kill you in an instant.
Despite its cartoonish aspirations Bloodroots has a surprisingly good script, with some strong visual storytelling, even though the plot itself is fairly basic. It involves outlaw Mr Wolf trying to get revenge against his gang, the Blood Beasts, who all have similar animal-themed surnames like Mr Boar and new leader Mr Black Wolf. Mr Black Wolf did not gain his leadership through democratic means and so it’s your goal to teach him and your ex-gang members the error of their ways.
Each of the Blood Beasts now runs their own gang, which means your revenge list also has to include all their underlings as well. When we say the game has a wide range of weapons, we really mean it. Canadian developer Paper Cult has clearly amused themselves no end by making almost everything in the game world a weapon, from the obvious axes and guns to root vegetables and freshly caught fish. There’s everything from landmines and flamethrowers to snowballs and explosive barrels you can ride on, with each having their own unique characteristics.
A successful kill ends up in an explosion of blood that would be absolutely horrifying if it was portrayed in any kind of realistic manner. But as it is, you just end up chortling with sadistic glee and wondering how you can make the next kill even more over-the-top. Your fragility as a character is a concern, of course, but there’s also the fact that by chaining kills together you can get a higher score and increase your grade at the end of a level – which quickly becomes an obsession.
There’s a great sense of freedom to all this, as you desperately rush around the levels using everything that’s not tied down to try to bludgeon enemies before they get you in their sights. Most weapons break after only one or two uses, so knowing where your next cudgel is coming from is always vitally important. Knowing how they work is also vital, as each weapon handles differently, from the different ranges of knives and stabbing weapons to things like the cannon that shoots you out as a human cannonball.
Although the mechanics are very simply the speed at which Mr Wolf moves is fast enough that there’s a reasonable learning curve involved, so that you don’t just end up running straight into everyone. But learning not to do that is important for several reason, given all the one-shot kills, and it encourages you to plan ahead and think before acting. Especially given the overhead view there’s a clear element of Hotline Miami to the action, even if the tone is considerably more comedic.
Bloodroots’ campaign runs to around eight hours and has a very worthwhile post-game element where you’re trying to collect the hats of your animal-themed enemies, which give you new abilities that make replaying previous levels particularly enjoyable. Boss battles are especially fun to replay, as you gain new abilities or realise you could’ve tackled them in a completely different way.
Although everything generally works very well, Bloodroots’ high difficulty does create frustration where there might not necessarily have been any. Patches of ice are absolutely infuriating when you start slipping on them and the game’s camera is sometimes too concerned with framing the action in an interesting, rather than helpful, way. Aiming with ranged weapons can also be finickity but generally these are minor irritations that don’t spoil the fun for any appreciable length of time.
Bloodroots is a fantastic little action game and one that manages to make extreme violence seem fun and amusing in a way only video games can. And although there are obvious inspirations from other games it’s also remarkably assured and original for an indie developer we’ve never heard of before. Bloodroots is bloody great and offers just the sort of cathartic carnage you need in a year that’s so far been filled with nothing but bad news and too few new games.
Bloodroots review summary
In Short: A highly enjoyable action romp, with a winning sense of humour and a hugely entertaining range of unusually varied weapons.
Pros: Wonderfully inventive violence, with a wide host of weapons that all handle very differently. Great boss battles and fun visuals, with lots of replayability.
Cons: The camera isn’t always as helpful as it can be and some elements, especially the ice patches, push the difficulty level just too far.
Formats: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PlayStation 4, and PC
Price: £15.99 (£11.99 on PS4
Publisher: Paper Cult
Developer: Paper Cult
Release Date: 28th February 2020
Age Rating: 16
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