It’s been a hot second since I’ve played the last kill-em-all Hotline Miami style game, and I have to admit that I’ve been hankering for some to sink my teeth into a new one. Paper Cult Games’ Bloodroots is pretty much that, a fast paced action game in the mold of Dennation Games’ bloody masterpiece, under a somewhat more friendly façade. But don’t be fooled by its cute aesthetics, Bloodroots is as brutal as they come.
There’s not much to go for in terms of a story, and honestly, the game’s much better for it. Basically, you control Mr. Wolf, who was left for dead after his village was attacked by a group of rogues. Having somehow survived and recovered, you’re out for revenge as any man in that situation would, axe in hand and with a thirst for blood. You’re significantly outnumbered and outmanned, but thanks to your unnatural knack for making weapons out of a lot of crap lying around, you might just make it to the end.
Levels in Bloodroots are by the numbers in the way you beat them. You have to kill anyone standing in your way. That’s it. The thing is that you can yourself only take one hit before calling it, so the key to winning is going for it as fast as you can, before things get out of control. Like its inspiration, you can freely aim 360 degrees in order to pick and choose who to take out next, but differently from that game, the action takes place in a more isometric view, which sometimes can work against your efforts by undermining your sense of depth.
That’s particularly troublesome since some sections of Bloodroots require some tricky platforming. Thankfully, stages are split between checkpoints, so dying isn’t much of an issue unless you’re going for a high score and letter grade. It’s extremely satisfying to get to the end without dying and earning a perfect ‘S’, but don’t feel discouraged by failures. They come naturally in these games.
In a bit of a too close for comfort take from Hotline Miami, Bloodroots also borrowed the mask element from that game. You can use a variety of animal skins you earn along the way and replay beaten sections of the game with special skills and powers. It’s a neat concept to try and build up some replayability, and while it’s conceptually very similar to what was done in that other game, the fact that you can only partake in this when replaying levels makes it feel somewhat more special.
I wouldn’t call Bloodroots a tough game to get a hang of, but you could make the argument that it’s got somewhat of a steep amount of depth to discover. Weapons you find and use have a limited number of attacks you can perform with them before they break, and depending on what you’re wielding, you might be able to do something other than simply swinging against an enemy. Say you jump over a wheelbarrow instead of simply ripping out one of its wheels. You can ride it and run over an enemy or three and get them out of your way in a gif. Or a ladder, which not only performs its primary function of letting you access a higher platform, but can also be spun as a deadly wooden blender of death.
Bloodroots is quite creative this way, but you have to work a little for it and experiment. Then again, you can just find an axe and do it the old fashioned way, and that works fine, but it’s in trying something nuts that Bloodroots excels and truly shines. It’s fun to try different approaches, and the game’s all the better for it, because honestly, it wouldn’t have much going for it if it were simply a balls out action game. Not having to have much contact with enemies other and killing them works to Bloodroots’ advantage since the hit detection when doing anything other than mashing anything in your way can be a little dodgy at times, resulting in some cheap deaths and retries.
All in all, Bloodroots is a game that serves its purpose well as a fast-paced action game. It works extremely well in bursts thanks to its level structure and checkpointing, which is fine for a game on the Switch. Portably, it looks and plays fine, even more so because you can forgo using the digital controls in favor of the analog sticks on the Switch, which are by far the best control method when using JoyCons. It’s hard to separate this game from what’s come before it, but if you’re willing to take it for what it is, it’s a serviceable pickup for anyone looking for something new to play in this style.