One of the most prolific genres of the retro-inspired game are games based on Contra, the classic side scrolling, bullet-hell shooter from Konami. To be fair, the appeal is obvious as the general gameplay loop is as addicting as it is simple: dodge bullets while shooting back. Bleed 2, a new port of a year old Steam game newly released for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, stands as one of the better examples in recent memory.
The similarities between Bleed 2 and Cuphead are fairly obvious, blending beautiful retro graphics with fast and responsive gameplay, both having a difficulty that is brutal but fair. The player picks a character (the only one unlocked at the beginning is the main character Wryn) with differing powers (Wryn and The Blonde Guy have the same, but deflect different colors). From there the gameplay is a loop of run, jump, and shoot through 7 levels to take down an invading force intent on conquering the world.
The story of Bleed 2 is very simple, but underneath is a genuine sense of humor drawing from both the ridiculous situations the player finds themselves in and a very genre savvy main character. The run time of the story mode is short, my first trip through was about an hour and a half before the end credits rolled. It would have been disappointing if that was the only gameplay, but not only are new characters unlocked for every difficulty beaten, but there are a decent amount of other modes such as the Endless mode with randomly generated levels and a “not to be taken seriously” mode where players fight up to three bosses simultaneously. All of these modes are tied to a scoring system that takes into account “style” (which is heavily weighted toward defeating numerous enemies without taking damage) as well as damage to give the player a letter grade at the end of a level. Don’t be surprised to see a lot of D’s and C’s at the end when starting out.
The main character Wryn is a video game obsessed, world saving hero. Bleed 2 begins and ends with her sitting in front of a TV playing games. The levels all have the spirit of various video games, from Contra, to a Super Mario Bros. self scrolling level, along with each level having at a minimum 3 bosses to be defeated. I very rarely died to a normal enemy, but the bosses get really tough, although Wryn respawns very close to where she fell.
The gameplay in Bleed 2 is fast and responsive after some getting used to the controls (R2 is jump, the right stick shoots and the X button is a taunt – I taunted instead of jumping several times until it became second nature) with the necessary dodging and jumping required smooth as butter and highly accurate. Wryn is able to deflect pink bullets back at enemies with her katana while shooting (both using the same attack mode). I would often risk taking damage to reflect bullets to damage bosses a little easier. There are no one hit kills in the game, even falling off screen only damages the character a bit; this encourages the player to take those risks and to perform more stylishly. If you have a friend around, you both can experience this game in co-op from start to finish.
Each of the levels are colorful, bringing players into a world that wouldn’t be far away from a world where people sing to talking animals. The pixilated levels are varied from city rooftops, a battle on top of vehicles, and even an extraterrestrial battleship. This imagination extends to the bosses, with each one being both varied and taking different strategies to beat, keeping players on their toes. The one caveat would be that the normal enemies tend to be very similar, but the focus is on the boss battles anyway.
There are a lot of enemies ready to take out the world, and Wryn is up to the challenge. Many enemies will fall (bloodlessly for a game called Bleed 2), but if you are up to the challenge then don’t delay in picking it up. There is a surprising amount of content for a $9.99 game. The action is fast and furious with a fair amount of humor. Honestly, this is my favorite pixelated game since Broforce.
Bleed 2 is available on Steam now and on PlayStation 4 on February 6 and Xbox One on February 8 for $9.99.
- THE GOOD
- Great visuals
- Smooth as Butter
- Humor hits more often than not
- Great throwback to retro 2d shooters like Contra or Metal Slug
- THE BAD
- Regular enemies generic
There is a surprising amount of content for a $9.99 game. The action is fast and furious with a fair amount of humor. Honestly, this is my favorite pixelated game since Broforce.
Jonathan Thornburg has been playing games for almost 25 years, and in that time has developed a love for the Gaming Industry. He plays on the PS4 mostly, but can be found indulging in games from the past 25 years as well. He streams on twitch.tv/leftstick and uploads to youtube.com/c/leftstickgaming.