The top-down arcade shooter has grown in popularity and mainstream appeal the past few years. Owing much of the renewed appeal to 2012’s Hotline Miami. A new contender has now entered the fray with the outlandish and gruesome Bloodroots.
You are Mr. Wolf, a grizzled mountain outlaw who has a wolf pelt on your head. You were left for dead, shot by Mr. Black Wolf. Betrayed by the rest of your gang who also adorns animal heads and pelts, you wake up with a thirst for their blood. From the likes of the rotund Mr. Boar, to your former protege Ms. Bison, and the aforementioned Mr. Black Wolf, you will use all manner of random tools, weapons, and produce to exact your revenge on your former gang. You will also be tasked with slaughtering every single goon that still follows the members of your former crew.
Each chapter is broken up into individual levels. These levels will then task you with killing everyone you come across, as quickly and as efficiently as possible. Doing so will increase your combo multiplier, growing your score on the leaderboards.
The layout and equipment of your enemies make each level almost like a combat puzzle. Items scattered around the levels can serve either as traversal tools or lethal weapons. For example, oars will allow you to jump extra high. Sabers will cause you to quickly dash in a straight line, letting you take outlined up enemies down all at once! Grappling guns, cannons, pots, and plants will all determine how you approach a stage.
For me, whenever I saw an oar, I would instantly gravitate to that, using it more as a way to scout out the level, instead of as a tool of destruction. This allowed me to take note of various traps, enemy positions, and other dangers that were littered throughout. Seeing what other weapon options were available to me also helped me plan out my route of destruction. This exploration and experimentation also prove to be important as stages also contain hidden wolves and special requirements that will unlock new hats. More on those in a bit.
It’s rare that you will be able to finish a level the first time you reach it. Each life you lose serves more as a learning tool, helping to hone and polish your route through the level. Perhaps one life you will try the brute force, head-on approach. With another you bait enemies to come to you, taking them out one by one, guerrilla warfare style, thus providing you with a clearer picture of the path you should take and where to direct your violence.
The chapters end with you contending with the animal-themed mountain men that betrayed you. These fights are a bit different from your standard confrontations. Each will test you reflexes, quick thinking, and expert execution. The first main boss as an example, Mr. Boar is more of an endless runner, where you have to chase after your former henchmen while rolling barrels over spikes, jumping between giant lasers, and enemies being dropped on your way. You lose the ability to stop and think, having to act on sheer instinct alone.
By completing certain objectives or killing bosses, you will get new hats that you can swap out your wolf head for, giving you new or enhanced abilities such as giving you a dash punch. These new wearables are only usable in previously beaten levels, giving you some incentive to revisit them. With the main draw of these revisits being to increase your score and reduce your completion time.
The bloody mess you leave in your wake is cartoonish and bright. Bloodroots has an artistic style to that of Samurai Jack, its stylized direction makes the choreographic violence much more striking. This is especially so with the over-the-top final kill of an enemy in the area. Never before have I seen such a beautiful take of a man being beaten to death with a carrot.
The story, while filled with silly characters, is admittedly dark yet interesting. It’s a narrative that spirals deeper and deeper until you get to the bottom of what led to your gang to attempt to assassinate you. I enjoyed the fact that after you kill your former gang members, their ghosts will keep you company at your campsite. It’s a clever way of shedding more light on the events that led up to the game’s beginning
Most of my frustrations didn’t come from me dying to an enemy, it was the platforming. Much of the game takes place from an isometric camera perspective. Due to this angle, it led to many missed jumps. There were many times I just could have sworn I was on target to land on a barrel, only to land short or overshot it, landing in spikes or a pit, and forcing me to start the level all over again. Trying to land on some of the level’s small platforms proved equally frustrating. Between the tense and chaotic action happening around me, I just don’t feel that when platforming was mixed in, that the camera performed.
If you are a fan of titles like Smash TV, Hotline Miami or Katana Zero, there is a good chance you will also have a good time with Bloodroots. The developer, Paper Cult, knew that you would be dying a lot, and as such has made the downtime between your lives incredibly short. The moment you die, you will be back at the start of the last checkpoint within a second or two. Some levels are almost unfairly difficult, but the puzzle-like feel of the game can be quite addictive, making you want to give a stage one more go to get that better score or time.
I had a good time with Bloodroots and the great art style, silly characters, and outlandish violence easily cover over the few issues I have with the game. Your enjoyment of this game might be proportional to how much you like to compete against your friends and well you deal with tense situations, alongside a healthy mix of how much you can stand some annoying platforming. With the plethora of free time, people find themselves with right now, I highly recommend picking up Bloodroots and blowing off some steam with some great cathartic cartoon violence.
This game was reviewed on a PlayStation 4 Pro system with a review code provided by the PR Firm.