If Xbox Live Indie Games was Santa and I was a prospective present recipient, you’d think I would have been judged ‘naughty’ with all the coal I’ve received this year. Suffice to say, 2012 hasn’t been a banner year for the service. But after playing Bleed, it might have all been worth it. Bootdisk Revolution has put together something truly special and any gamer with a love for the classics would be remiss to pass it up.
The objective in Bleed is simple: Defeat the world’s best heroes to become the newest member of the Hall of Heroes. Your quest takes you through the home bases of each of the world’s six champions, plus one final stage afterward. Each one has a theme that matches the style of its owner. The extravagant and creepy mansion belongs to the gelatinous slime ball with the googly eyes and fly wings. The security-intensive high rise houses the defense robot with a penchant for homing missiles.
All of the levels have their own hazards and challenges. The aforementioned high rise is populated with security drones and trip lasers. One slip up and you’ll be set upon by a cloud of tiny droids. Sometimes the lasers move and you’ll have to time your progress to their pattern. Another level has an avalanche of rocks which you’ll need to traverse. There’s never a point where the levels feel unfair or sloppily planned, and moving to the next screen is almost always fulfilling.
Moving past these obstacles is made easier, of course, with the ability to slow time down using the left trigger. Mastering use of this ability, in conjunction with the quadruple-jump, allows you to jump between bullets like a ninja master. Don’t be misled if that makes the game sound easy, however, as this game is far from a cakewalk on Hard and Very Hard. There were quite a few swear words flying toward the television in the later stages, which is the hallmark of any difficult game. The controller, however, remained unthrown, which is the hallmark of a well-designed game that happens to be difficult.
The control scheme is going to be the point of some contention, but those who give themselves a chance to adjust will find the movement feels smooth and natural. Jumping is tied to the right trigger. It doesn’t sound like it should be too mindboggling but it does feel pretty alien at first. This is required because the game uses the right stick to direct your line of fire, keeping you from being able to use the face buttons while shooting. The entire first level is crafted in a way that helps you adjust to this setup, so you’ll be zooming around taking bad guys out like a super hero by the time the second level starts so long as you don’t fight the scheme.
Using the points you accrue during a level as currency to buy new weapons or upgrades was a nice touch. It’s a shame the default weapons were the most useful by far, but it’s always good to have options. Beating the game unlocks a couple of extra options too — who doesn’t like a chainsaw? — though their usefulness is also on the lower side of the spectrum. Still, it’s a nice bonus for those going for a no-death run or others who may want to complete other difficulty levels. For the record, the bosses have slightly different attacks on higher difficulties, so don’t expect your only problems to be a damage boost and faster patterns. Higher level play is required for success. There are also unlockable characters and arcade challenges, for those looking to wring more value out of this one as well.
Bootdisk Revolution has crafted a classic. Bleed is a highlight on XBLIG, not just for 2012, but for the catalog as a whole. Yes, the price is high. But it’s one of the absolute best titles available and worth every spacebuck being charged. Don’t pass this one up.
This review is based on the press copy of the full XBLIG version of the game, which was provided by Bootdisk Revolution. The game is available on the Xbox Live Marketplace for 400 Microsoft points ($5), and on PC through Gamersgate for $5.