Bloodroots (Switch) Review
When Australia missed out on the Hotline Miami collection for the Switch, it left a gap in the Switch’s library for top-down ultra-violent shooters (well not that violent, but still…kind of violent). Paper Cult’s Bloodroots is now upon us to help to satisfy gamers lust for murder and mayhem. Am I ready to step up and leave a trail of death and anguish, armed only with a trusty carrot?
Mr Wolf is a hard man to keep down. Seemingly betrayed and killed by his gang of animal-themed villains, the Wolf still lives and it’s time for revenge. Over the course of the game, you’ll learn more about the other beasts who made up the gang. Every one of your gang has thrived in your absence and aren’t going down without a bloody fight. When even death won’t stop your revenge-filled rampage, what chance do they have? This tale of revenge is one I enjoyed following. You’ll spend enough time with the other beasts to fill in how everything came to this. It pays to remember that while they’re bad people, so are you and the game won’t let you forget.
Bloodroots is a top-down fighter/shooter in a similar vein to Hotline Miami, in case I haven’t mentioned it enough. Frenetically moving around arena-like environments, you have to be careful because you’re dead in one hit. Most of your enemies can only take one hit too, but you’re vastly outnumbered. Your weapons often only last 1 to 3 hits before breaking, so you’re constantly moving to not only evade attacks but to grab whatever weapon you can. One of the main premises of the game is you can kill with nearly any item. This includes vegetables, ladders, a fist full of fireworks or even a fish kebab. You’ll have to make the most of everything you can get your hands on, leaving a bloody trail wherever you go. It’s amusing to discover new unexpected weapons that may or may not work as you expect. Anytime there was fire involved you could devastate a whole area with good aim.
As you cut and bludgeon your way through the soldiers you’ll leave splashes of blood. When you’re killing the last person in an area you’ll be treated to a small stylish vignette of Mr Wolf killing them with an often silly item. Some of these scenes repeat the same outcome, some are over the top, but nothing ever feels too violent. The art style is cartoonish which reminded me of series like Samurai Jack which endeared itself to me. Just be careful that the cartoony appearance doesn’t mislead you into thinking it’s a kid-friendly game, it is not.
It’s almost strange seeing these kinds of violent scenes play out, it seems at odds with itself. It pulls back on the violence in some ways while still showing spurts of blood and people being killed. Not that I want to be bathed in blood and viscera, it just rarely feels like it’s flashy enough to require seeing it. Why show these fairly plain ‘finishing moves’ when you’re spending the game turning others in a red splatter across the great outdoors? Maybe it’s just a greater variety of finishing animations would’ve helped.
At the end of every stage, you’re given a ranking, you know, to rate how good a killer you are. Sometimes I surprised myself with how well I did, but more often I wasn’t too proud of my score. After all the time I spent wrestling with the game I didn’t feel too bad, the main thing is I survived (eventually). The Leaderboards are there to help compare how well you did against everyone else or just your friends. I expected to get some pretty poor scores when I died a lot, but often I was surprised with some A’s! (There is higher than that too) Although I don’t know if that was because I was playing from a checkpoint when I loaded up the game, maybe it erased all of the bad stuff that caused me to close it in the first place.
When you go back to levels you don’t have to just be stuck with your boring old Wolf hat, you can unlock a variety of animal hats to wear out. These work very much like Hotline Miami’s masks, each one giving Mr Wolf different abilities. Wearing the bear hat gives you the ability to punch enemies to pieces, and there are hats that give you a weapon when you start or enhance your movement. I only returned back to a level to see how the hat worked, otherwise, it was something I never really made use of. If you want to tackle your best score and climb the leaderboards the hats will be very useful to you.
There are assistance options, but they are at the cost of any ranking on the leaderboard. You can clear the area, or turn on invincibility. It’s really nice they offered both of these options, as the game can throw some puzzles at you that are frustrating. For a tough game like this, it’s great to see that an option like this exists. Hopefully, more people will play through to the end as a result.
Some attacks aren’t suited to the environments. When there are smallish platforms, half the attacks give you too much momentum and dash you off to your death. Areas with any precision platforming or navigating spiked floors become a real crapshoot, it always feels imprecise. It is up to you to a degree, learning how each item/weapon impacts on your movement and attacks.
While Bloodroots is a bloody, violent game, and is a surprising contrast to the cartoony visuals that help capture the ‘Weird West’ and the majestic outdoors. It’s not the easiest game to play in handheld mode because the camera is often keeping a distance. It’s not always clear to see weapons or enemies, which is vital to make this kind of game work. If you want to do well you need to be precise and be able to distinguish what items you’re grabbing for. For the amount of jumping and platforming you have to do, the angle can often obscure how high or how far you need to jump. It’s my bad most of the time I’m killed by an enemy, but having to redo a section because of unclear geography gets frustrating fast.
Wild West/spaghetti western-style music plays throughout and captures the feel of Bloodroots. It suits the action and evokes the feel of the Red Dead Redemptions soundtrack.
Framerate can really drop in the busier moments, but only rarely was it enough to have a noticeable impact on the action. On more than one occasion the game bugged out and wouldn’t progress or reset back to the checkpoint, forcing me to close the game and in one case hard reset the Switch. At other points, there were visual glitches where enemies seemed to be on tethers after being killed. While they didn’t impact on playing the game it was amusing to see enemies bungie away.
While Australia still doesn’t have Hotline Miami on the Switch, Bloodroots helps to fill that fast-paced violent wound. When you work out how to chain your attacks around the many arenas it feels great, although it can be too unforgiving. Bloodroots revels in ‘everything is your weapon’ slapstick, managing to keep it interesting across the three acts. Paper Cult has delivered a stylish bloody revenge tale that will grab your attention and stab you with it.
+ Fast-paced combat
+ Wild West meets Samurai Jack visuals
+ Options that help bypass some of the more frustrating puzzles
- Not ideal for handheld mode if you want to rank well
- Frustrating puzzles and platforming