I can’t remember the last time I hooted and/or hollered at a video game as much as I did during the first 15 minutes of Bloodroots.
It’s a fast, stylish brawler with one very cool hook: you don’t have a single weapon, you have everything. The game’s world is littered with swords, hammers and guns, sure, but there are also countless pieces of junk lying around that work just as well, from watermelons to fenceposts to ladders to whole, cooked turkeys. And they’re all at your disposal.
Which is a fun, Yakuza-esque novelty, but it’s the way Bloodroots employs them that makes the difference here. Each weapon, or item that you’ve turned into a weapon, can only be used a few times, often only once. And there are usually multiple bad guys, all coming at you at once, and a single hit from them will kill you.
So the trick isn’t to thoughtfully select a weapon. It’s to grab whatever is closest to you, smack someone with it, then rush to the next, whatever’s close, whatever’s there, and repeat.
If it looks like a top-down John Wick brawler, that’s exactly what it feels like, and the longer you’re able to stay alive between deaths the more breathless you’ll be feeling as you string murder combos together one after the other, a knifing followed by rolling a barrel over someone followed by a sword strike followed by god anything else.
Because death is everywhere, though, not everything is as fast-paced as the trailer (and the game’s best moments) would suggest. Some sections slow to a crawl as you meet death after death, because to progress past them you need more than just quick reflexes. You also need the foresight to use certain items in certain ways, whether to best kill the bad guys in front of you or to overcome an environmental obstacle.
That’s fine, we could do with the break. Indeed the break is the point, often, with these almost puzzle-like sequences serving as a breather from the physical and mental strain of the more active, free-flowing sections. This is further emphasised by replays; you’re graded on each level (according to stuff like time, kills, etc) and encouraged to go back and replay stages to get more optimal.
That’s definitely something I’ve been doing, even as someone usually averse to replaying levels. The number of possibilities inherent in each attack, and the style and humour with which they’re delivered, resulted in so much fun that it didn’t really matter to me which stage I was on, so long as I was keeping my combo going by spearing a man with a harpoon gun then smashing a vase over his buddy’s face.
Bloodroots is out now on PC, Switch and PS4. If you want to see more of the game in action, you can see Paul play a bunch of it in the video below.