The world is full of dreamers. Most are making grand plans that they never get around to starting. And then there are the few that stop just thinking about it, knuckle down and take action. Ian Campbell from Toronto, Ontario, is definitely more of the latter.
Action-platformer Bleed is the result of Campbell’s dream to make a fun game with a unique control system that stands out from the crowd. The design, development, art and audio were all done by him. It had a successful release on Xbox 360 in 2012, and now it’s found a home on the Nintendo Switch, a console that definitely knows something about being ambitious.
The unique controls at its core may divide opinion. Sometimes there’s a problem with unique; different isn’t always better. Where Bleed is different is that it maps Jump to the right shoulder button, ZR. It doesn’t sound like that big a deal, right? Well, when you’ve been hammering B for years, for some, it may be brain-melting.
Ignore the purists, though, because Bleed should be praised for toying with the familiar. The initial feel of Bleed’s controls may put you off at first, but give the game the time it deserves and you’ll soon be singing its praises and wondering why all games don’t put Jump on the shoulder buttons. Okay, well, maybe not that far, but you’ll respect the risk and enjoy the ride.
The other thing that makes Bleed stand out, and has been a cool feature since 1999, is the ability to slow down time. Hold ZL and you’ll go all bullet-time to better kill those enemies and resist incoming fire with style. Shoot by pointing the right analogue stick and you’ve got a game that has most of the controls of a SHMUP, in platformer’s clothing. You’ll have a lot of fun jumping in mid-air while killing bad-guys, weaving between bullets, while curving towards the next platform.
As Campbell has done it all single-handed, you can maybe forgive the fact that graphically Bleed is a bit underwhelming. Its 16-bit style graphics are a nice nod to the SNES era, all the more fitting that it’s now on a Nintendo console, but it may be showing signs of its 6-year age.
Apart from main character Wryn’s pink hair, there’s not much that makes it stand out looks-wise. There’s an odd selection of enemies that don’t always suit their surroundings. In the first level, why are you fighting obese cats and fireflies in an empty mansion, for instance? Cats pop in a bloody explosion when you shoot them, so maybe that’s reason enough?
It’s a shame that on the surface it doesn’t stand out as much as the way it plays, but that’s not to say the level design is boring. The train level is ingenious and a joy to play, seeing you time your jumps to avoid oncoming bridges. Enemies present a new challenge every stage, and each boss fight is excellently crafted and a lot of fun.
There’s the ability to buy new weapons and perks throughout, including adding to your health and slow-time metre. This should help you through the tougher levels, and approaching a difficult boss with a new gun in your arsenal could help you even the score.
For a one-man project, it mostly lives up to its lofty ambition. But there are downfalls to having such a small team. You can’t devote time to all facets of the game in equal measure, and for that, a few areas have suffered, such as the slightly uninspired roster of baddies, and a story that doesn’t quite get all of its potential charm across.
The real killer is Bleed’s length, however. After the brief seven levels, there is some replay value with the Arcade and Challenge modes, but Bleed is short enough that you’ll be left wanting more. The good news is that Bleed 2 is on its way, but with the high price on the eShop, you may want to wait for Bleed to hit the sales.
Short but sweet, Bleed should be praised as an achievement, especially for a one-man studio. You could wait for that sale, but surely you should support the little guy, right? There’s guaranteed fun if you do.