I talk about this all of the time but high-score chasing games are one of my favorite, rarely seen genres. Games like last year’s Nex Machina and the fantastic Hotline Miami 1 & 2 are games I still return to regularly, always in pursuit of that one perfect run in a given level.
So it stands to reason that when I ran across Bloodroots recently at PAX that it would be something tailor-made to my liking. Paper Cult, the developers of Bloodroots, have taken that format of defeating enemies and stringing together combos but have placed it within the format of a hack and slash framework rather than that of a shooter. It’s a simple change of combat style on paper but it’s the execution of Bloodroots that makes me think it has a lot of promise.
Bloodroots plays very similarly to Hotline Miami in the sense that one level will be comprised on multiple different areas. Each area is filled with a certain number of enemies and once you clear all of them out, you advance to the next stage and do the same thing. The trick though is making sure that you clear out all of these foes in each location without breaking your combo. If you get hit, it’s also immediate death. Luckily, you’ll start back at the beginning of that same area with the same combo streak that you brought into it if you die, so the game is pretty forgiving in this way.
What’s cool about running through each of these areas though is that literally everything you see within can be used as a weapon. See an axe? Pick it up and smack someone over the head with it. How about that carrot? Sure, beat someone to death with that, too. Where the higher level of strategy comes into play is when you realize that by switching weapons as much as possible, you earn more points for each subsequent kill. To really earn a high score you’ll have to be picking up new items to attack with whenever possible so that you don’t just rely on one weapon endlessly. This is an incredibly smart idea and once I realized this did I really start to see where the hook was with Bloodroots.
Some of the developers from Paper Cult told me that Jackie Chan films were a huge inspiration for them when developing the combat because often times, Chan will utilize anything and everything around him during fight sequences. Check out this famous scene from First Strike to see what I mean. It’s just altogether a really cool idea to utilize in a game of this manner and I really dig it.
Another major inspiration for Paper Cult, if it wasn’t obvious enough, lies within the art style of Bloodroots. There are major correlations between Bloodroots and that of Samurai Jack, which is a comparison that the developers weren’t shying away from. The hyper-stylized and vivid color palette of Bloodroots works well with its brutal action. This is most easily seen at the end of every area when a slow-motion cinematic kill cam shows you finishing off the final enemy in that location.
A lot of times, I know developers prefer not to wear inspirations on their sleeves and instead opt to present their product as wholly original, but I found it refreshing how blunt the developers were when telling me what they based Bloodroots off of. They’ve found a way to make this game feel completely unique to itself while still having clear influences. It’s proof that just because you are taking inspiration from other media doesn’t necessarily make your own product a “ripoff” or whatever other words I know people use to diminish the hard work of creators. Even though Bloodroots felt reminiscent of other things that I’ve mentioned, it still felt like nothing else I’ve really seen in the gaming space.
Even though I only was able to check out one brief level of Bloodroots, I was constantly ready to dive back in and try to surpass my previous score, which is a really positive sign that what Paper Cult has made is just as engrossing as these games should be. By the time I had left the booth, I was told that I had achieved the highest score of the weekend up until that point — don’t tell me that video game journos suck at video games.
There’s still a ton left to see and learn about Bloodroots, but I can’t help but be extremely excited about this one on a personal level just because it falls within a genre that I love so much. Bloodroots is slated to release some time in 2019 for PC and consoles that have yet to be determined.