I seriously do not see how Bleed received any positive reception; this game is borderline unplayable. I went into this game because I like 2D run and gun shooters, and the game had a female protagonist, which is always a plus. Unfortunately, this game is killed by its horrendous control scheme. This is going t be a short and brief review because there is not much detail I can go into when the game was killed by one fatal flaw.
The story is just an excuse plot so I’m not really going to bother talking about it. What I will give Bleed credit for is its quirky humor, which did give me a few laughs. I have not been able to complete the game seeing as how I reached a point where I was struggling to even get past the first screen of a level. As such, I really do not remember much, but I do remember the game over text was amusing. I notably remember one of them being “I thought this was supposed to be easy mode?” This indicates that the message changes based upon certain variables such as the difficult setting or the stage, which is usually a pretty good sign.
What is also nice is the graphic design, which uses pixel art in a way that actually looks like something post 16 bit era and isn’t just a case of “muh retro pixel art.” The designs are nice and colorful and everything is aesthetically pleasing. The music is in a faux 8-bit chiptune style that was nice to hear but also didn’t stick out. But once again, it all falls apart when you get to the actual game.
What sets Bleed apart from other run and gun titles is its control scheme which, according to its Steam page, “enables crazy fast action.” While that makes effective marketing buzz, it fails to acknowledge that “fast and crazy” is not always good. In fact, having a difficult to manage control scheme is the LAST thing you need in a game that is “fast and crazy.”
The first problem with the control scheme in this game is that there is no option to use the arrow keys for movement. This means that you HAVE to use the WASD keys, which would not be a problem if the jump command was not mapped to the spacebar, which you can only barely reach with your left thumb. As bad as it would be to need to use your right hand for both movement and aiming with the mouse, it would at least allow for the type of pixel perfect movement that this game requires. Instead, you are expected to not only dodge a whole bunch of shit, but also make perfect jumps and dashes with more button than you can reach (and with most people non dominant hand at that).
I was barely able to scrounge through the first five levels on easy mode due to these abysmal controls, but I gave up on the sixth stage “The Dragon.” While I was able to brute force my way through the previous levels, I was never able to get past the third screen of this one, and I rarely even got past the second one either. The gimmick to this level was that you needed to dash through each room and get to the entrance before the ceiling crushes down on you. The problem is that you need to use the dash command (done in a similar manner to Mega Man X) to pass through short gaps, but it is next to impossible to get a dash to work in any direction other than upwards because of the aforementioned controls.
Normally, my reviews are more in depth, but there is not much to say here, the controls kill this entire game. The visuals, music, and writing are all nice, and the levels could have worked had it not been for this horrific control scheme. Hell if they even included the option to map the controls to different buttons then this game may have been decent, but instead it is borderline unplayable. And no, using a gamepad doesn’t fix anything; it just makes things even worse. There are also additional gameplay elements such as other weapons and playable characters, but the controls were so bad that I never got to experience them.
What really baffles me though is that my opinion doesn’t seem to be very common. I’ve found very few negative reviews of Bleed on its Steam page, and the few I did find do not mention the controls. It feels surreal looking at it; did we play the same game? And I’m usually fairly good at adapting to strange control schemes. I was able to play through the entirety of The World Ends With You on manual mode, and Mega Man Anniversary Collection on the Gamecube was not a problem either, but I don’t see how anyone could find this game playable, much less entertaining.
This game (along with Star Fox Zero) show why fucking with the controls of an already established game genre is no substitute for innovation; you often end up with things made much more needlessly difficult than they need to be. Bleed has a sequel Bleed 2, but I’m unlikely to play it unless anything leads me to believe it will be different from this disaster, and I can only assume the title refers to what it causes its playerbase.
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