After initially seeing the game during the Kinda Funny Games Showcase at E3 last year, I’ve been VERY excited for Bloodroots. Its mixture of over-the-top action, brutal kills, and stunning visuals ticked plenty of boxes for me, though the fact that it looked like it would be a blast to play helped too. Well, now I’ve finally played through the entirety of the brutal revenge-seeking adventure, and I’m happy to report that it surpassed my already lofty expectations. Bloodroots is simply a bloody brilliant game and one that Nintendo Switch owners won’t want to miss out on.
Bloodroots puts you in the worn shoes of Mr. Wolf, a savage warrior who is killed by his own crew after they slaughter all of the townsfolk in a quiet and peaceful town. Through mysterious circumstances, Mr. Wolf somehow manages to survive, but has just one thing on his mind: revenge. Thus, he heads out on an adventure that sees him looking to kill his old companions and ultimately find out why he was betrayed.
Despite the dark undertones, the adventure itself is actually pretty comical; there are some unique and silly personalities to meet in the game and each interaction with them is both entertaining and well-written. Admittedly, I did see some of the game’s twists coming from a mile away, but it didn’t stop the tale from being charming and keeping me hooked in until the end.
Bloodroots’ main gameplay setup is pretty simple: you work through a series of handcrafted levels that are split up into different areas full of enemies, kill everyone you see in that area by swiftly grabbing weapons and unleashing quick-hits, and then repeat the process until you finish the level. The best game to compare it to would be Hotline Miami, with it following a similar gameplay setup thanks to its brutality, the number of ways you can approach levels, and the fact that it’s tough as nails.
It’d be a discredit to Bloodroots to just compare it to another game though, because it really is a unique experience that feels special to play thanks to its quick-pace and the assortment of weapons at your disposal. It’s all about stringing together combos of kills, with both Mr. Wolf and his enemies defeated with just one hit – it means there’s just as much of an emphasis on staying out of the way of enemy attacks as there is on pummelling them yourself, with every encounter with a foe in the game essentially feeling like a one-hit shootout. Honestly, it’s thrilling.
There are multiple ways to approach levels too, with each designed to allow the player to be brave and run head-on into their foes, use the environment to be acrobatic to jump around, and even to isolate foes and pick them off one by one. The sheer flexibility you have in your approach is a real credit to the level designers, though there always feels like there’s one set path that’s perfect to follow too – I mean, come on, it can’t be a coincidence that the perfect string of weapons just so happen to be littered between enemies on some routes, right? No matter how you approach it, killing in Bloodroots never fails to feel stylish, with the zany selection of weapons keeping things both varied and brutal.
New levels bring with them new weapons and they’re all SO fun to use. Sure, beating up an enemy with a sword, a golden axe, a crossbow, or a piece of wood can feel pretty ordinary in the grand scheme of things, but slicing them up with a scythe, burning them with fireworks, going Tony Montana on them with a machine gun, stomping them with a giant boot, or suffocating them with a fish takes things to the next level. You can even use items in the environment to your advantage too, whether that’s running on a barrel to run enemies over or blasting explosives to cause maximum damage. That’s barely scratching the surface of the arsenal at your disposal too, with a ton of weapons to play around with. Best of all, your last kill in an area is presented in a slow-mo cinematic style, so you can really appreciate that FINAL kill when you’ve been stuck in one particular area for a while.
There’s some tactical use to the weapons too, with each having a certain amount of uses which is indicated at the bottom corner of the screen. It means that you’ve got to think through their use carefully when approaching a group of enemies – you don’t want to confront a group of four enemies when you’ve only got one use of your sword left for example, and whilst your fists are a viable way to take them down, enemies can be quick to overwhelm you. Fortunately, there are always weapons lying around, so you can plan out your course of action and where you’ll need to dash to in order to swap weapons or get out the way of danger. It’s really satisfying to see unfold in-game, whilst the fact you’ve got to time your attacks carefully ensures that skill plays a big role too.
Whilst Bloodroots’ gameplay follows a fairly simple setup, it constantly gives players new things to do as they work through each level. New enemies are introduced as you progress further through the game that utilise even deadlier attacks, moving platforms and vicious hazards put your platforming skills to the test, you’ll encounter small arenas where you’ve got to deal with swarms of enemies bombarding you in quick succession, bonus levels challenge you to destroy targets in a set time, whilst the end of chapter boss encounters (which are excellent) offer intense showdowns with some puzzle-like mechanics thrown in for good measure. There’s even one section that feels like a nod to Flappy Bird with the player controlling the hero’s momentum as they blast through a hazardous area using fireworks to keep their momentum going, which shows just how creative and zany Bloodroots can really get.
Honestly, it’s just an absolute blast to play and I had a smile on my face during my whole time savagely destroying my enemies (even after dying in some areas for what felt like the millionth time). You should be warned though: Bloodroots is a TOUGH game. There’ll be times when you’ll find yourself stuck on one area of a level for ages, and with so many enemies to be wary of it can feel like there’s no way to survive. When things finally do click and you string together those quick succession of stylishly brutal kills though? There’s nothing like it. Bloodroots is hard, but it just makes every success you have in the game all the more rewarding. Plus, respawns are instant, which is always a plus in a game like this…
Despite offering a thrillingly fun gameplay experience, Bloodroots does have a few little flaws that prevent it from striving towards perfection. For example, some of the weapons can take a while to get used to – not for killing enemies (which is always satisfyingly simple), but actually traversing levels. Some weapons will launch you into huge jumps across the level or blast you forward, which are actions that are essential for getting around but that can lack real precision when you’re quickly using them in the midst of a killing-combo. There were plenty of times where I felt like I didn’t have full control when leaping around with a boat oar or a flaming-stick (for a lack of a better technical term) and it caused me to leap out of bounds on a good few occasions, which could be a little frustrating given that it means you’ve got to start an area again.
The ranged weapons could be a little finicky with their auto-targeting too, and I often found myself accidentally shooting an explosive barrel in the distance as opposed to a vicious enemy charging towards me. Again, it’s a minor issue in the grand scheme of things, but when one wrong move can result in your death and having to start an area all over again, you’re going to be annoyed.
These problems are few and far between though and don’t stop Bloodroots from being a brilliant game. Even after completing it, I still find myself coming back for more to try and get higher scores and better grades. There are secrets to find across levels for those who like to explore every nook and cranny too, whilst the unlockable hats give you extra boosts when re-playing levels. The game itself should only take players around six to seven hours to beat in total, but score-chasers will certainly be able to add some extra hours on top of that if they want to work their way up the leaderboard.
Presentation-wise, Bloodroots looks fantastic. There are some really breath-taking sights to be seen across the world, whilst the environments themselves are packed full of little details and rich vistas. Despite the game’s chaotic undertones, there’s a real sense of calm to its world and it’s hard not to find yourself in awe when traversing through a peaceful field of tall grass, through luminous mines that sparkle with colour, or past a frozen waterfall – honestly, there are some wondrous things to see in the game that make you forget you’re going on a killing spree. It’s just packed to the brim with cinematic style, whilst the stellar soundtrack is on-point and manages to fit the vibe of each level perfectly.
It all runs fantastically on the Nintendo Switch’s handheld mode too, with the game’s colourful visuals standing out and the action running fluidly with no real instances of slowdown to be seen. Admittedly, some details of the environment could be missed with the smaller screen and I got caught out by a few enemies that I couldn’t make out on one or two occasions, but it’s not enough of an issue to stop players from enjoying playing Bloodroots on the go (or in bed until 2am struggling to get through tough levels like I did).
Bloodroots is an absolutely outstanding game that I had a BLAST playing, with its quick-paced and action-orientated gameplay offering the perfect balance of challenge, brutality, and fun. Add to that some fantastic visuals and a story that’s full to the brim with character, and it’s pretty clear that Paper Cult have something special on their hands here. Bravo.
Just buy the game; Honestly, you won’t regret it…
Developer: Paper Cult
Publisher: Paper Cult
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, PC