If you have ever read the book or seen the film of A Clockwork Orange you will be aware that the main character Alex is a fan of the old Ultraviolence. A new title from Paper Cult Games in Montreal has just been added to Xbox Game Pass and I get the feeling that Alex would heartily approve of it. Let’s look at why that is in the XboxEra review of Bloodroots.
We begin at a town full of slaughtered innocents, the ground is soaked crimson with a sea of spilled blood. Within moments our hero or is that anti-hero? Is shot and then finished off with an Axe by Mr Black Wolf one of the members of his gang. His body lies bleeding out in the snow until he dies with a look of bemusement on his face only for him to be reincarnated moments later. He then sets out on a rip roaring rampage of revenge against not only those that he believes betrayed him but absolutely everyone that stands in his way.
The game takes the form of a fast paced brawler within an isometric platform environment, with a simple control set consisting of the directional thumb sticks and only three other buttons A for jump, B for pick up and X for attack.
Violence is in the eye of the beholder
Using these simple controls and lightning fast reflexes the idea is to kill absolutely everyone that you come across while trying not to develop a Repetitive Strain Injury. The reason for this is that there is a lot of repetitive play while trying to clear each section of enemies without dying yourself and starting at the start of the section again. Two in game rules are the cause of this repetition and these are that one hit from any enemy will instantly kill you and that you must kill every enemy in a section in order to be able to progress to the next. There is no option to manually save so you are totally at the mercy of your speed of thought and hand to eye coordination skills.
There are a huge range of weapons at your disposal starting with your own fists and working their way up from knives, axes and snowballs to flame throwers, mini guns and giant scythes. Each section has a slightly different range of weapons and there are far too many to list here. A shield that can be thrown a la Captain America was very handy at certain points. Ranged weapons such as snowballs and tin cans can only be used once whereas others such as knives can be used a maximum of three times. As soon as a weapon has been used up you are required to very quickly locate another one to take out whoever is bearing down on you next.
Know your enemy
Enemies also range in style from simple fist fighters, to armoured individuals, spinners with long sharp spears and mini bosses with oversized weapons such as hammers who can cause objects to come crashing down on you whenever they make impact with the ground. Only through identifying which type of enemies lie ahead of you (obviously various types are mixed up together in every level) can you carefully plan the use of the weapons lying around the map to deal with them and progress. Dying multiple times in a section is the only way to learn what is ahead of you and plan accordingly in order to complete it. Perfectly timing striking down the opposition gives you extra points and multipliers can be earned by killing people in chains quickly and in different ways. The replay ability of Bloodroots is increased by the worldwide score ranking system at the end of each level and the fact that it is possible to earn hats in game that have a different effect on your play if you go back to a section to try and attain a higher score. Examples of this are the Bear Hat which makes it possible to punch enemies to bits and the Buffalo Hat which allows you to start with a gun.
As the game progresses subtle additions bring even more depth to the gameplay. Dry areas can be set alight to kill multiple opponents, lasers sweep the floor of arenas and must be avoided, icy sections have to be navigated, sometimes with a backwind forcing you towards spikes and traps lie in wait to strike you down. On several occasions I mastered a section of fiendishly cunning trap placement to clear all of the enemies only to fall foul of a trap that I had already successfully avoided. How I laughed or was it nearly cried when I did that.
The harder you fall
Being a platform game there were multiple opportunities to fall off the map at a really bad moment such as when there was only one opponent left to kill and I took that opportunity far too often. Ladders, Cannon and oars made for some interesting methods of gaining access to the higher areas of maps and hidden throughout the game are black wolves (you are hunting for Mr Black Wolf after all) which can be collected to gain an achievement. These are not in obvious areas and take some seeking out. Powering through the game to review it I must confess that I only discovered two of them in open play.
It really is a case of try, try and try again to work your way through the levels. Avoid power weapon wielding enemies and take them on last or clear the easy grunts first and work up to the power weapons at the end? Do I use this power weapon now or save it for later? How do I get up that high? These are some of the calculations that were constantly necessary as I made progress and it was extremely satisfying when I was able to work out the patterns and beat problem sections that had seemed impossible only minutes before.
Like a Boss
Boss battles are another matter that needs to be discussed, taking the typical form of three rounds they can be very tricky and are certainly a challenge. Especially when at times objects are constantly falling from the sky and have to be avoided (remember the one hit kill rule) as you concentrate on deciphering another pattern of play to try and stay alive and slay the boss. Big respect to the developers here who want the game to be challenging but also want everyone to enjoy it and not get frustrated to the point of rage quitting. In the options an immortality mode is available which can be toggled on and off at will if you are sick of dying repeatedly in any part of the game. It is worth noting though that you can still fall off the map and using this tool prevents getting a worldwide score ranking for the level you used it in.
Each level ends with a cut scene and you are also able to listen to the ghosts of previously slain bosses at the campfire before you start the next one. The story fills out via these moments between the normal all action game play. Bonus levels are also included every now and then which require the destruction of multiple dummy targets within a set time limit. These are however irrelevant to the main story.
Bloodroots ran smoothly on my Series X and the only glitch that occurred was when the game totally froze with a red screen two thirds of the way through the final boss battle requiring me to reload and start the battle again from the beginning.
This is a fast and (in a cartoon style) gloriously violent game. It looks great and has numerous levels of complexity and depth making it a challenging yet ultimately very satisfying experience. Newly available on Xbox Game Pass, I recommend that you give this gem a try.
Played on Xbox Series X
- A game that is mentally challenging and requires quick reflexes.
- Has an invincibility mode to prevent frustration inspired rage quitting.
- Is far more complex than it first appears.
- May be too hard for casual gamers without using the invincibility mode.
- Not exactly child friendly although the blood can be turned off in the settings.