Bloodroots Review — Hackin’, Whackin’, and Smackin’
Bloodroots is a highly-replayable romp that will see you utilizing everything from a fish to a carrot in order to take down foes.
Games like Hotline Miami, Katana Zero, and Superhot have been some of my favorite indies over the past few years due to each title’s fast-paced nature and reliance on one-hit-kills. If you have a game of this ilk that is entirely focused on snappy gameplay and getting as high of a score as possible, there’s a good chance that I’m going to be a big fan.
Bloodroots from Paper Cult is the latest game to be cut from this same cloth and wouldn’t you know, I love it a whole bunch. With tight gameplay mechanics, well-designed levels, and an art style that brings the whole package together, Bloodroots is one of the more enjoyable indies that I have played in recent memory. It had me encouraging myself to make just one more run more times than you can imagine.
Bloodroots places you in the shoes of a wolf-hat wearing character that simply goes by the name Mister Wolf. This one-eyed, bearded fellow is thought to be killed by a posse known as The Blood Beasts during the opening moments of the game. After recovering, Mister Wolf sets out for revenge against The Blood Beasts and its leader, Mister Black Wolf, killing anything and anyone that might be in his path in the process.
Largely, the story takes a backseat to the action throughout Bloodroots, but the writing and throughline narrative within the game is enjoyable. All of the major characters in the story, especially each member of The Blood Beasts, are enjoyable and well-written in their own way. Mister Wolf himself isn’t a cult of personality by any means, but he’s also a more-than-adequate protagonist that is focused on getting revenge and nothing else.
The basic story set up in Bloodroots is mainly meant to serve the main allure of the game, which is the gameplay. As briefly mentioned, Bloodroots plays somewhat similarly to a hack-and-slash version of Hotline Miami where one single hit can take down not only (nearly) every enemy that you’ll come across, but also your own character. However, the biggest difference in Bloodroots compared to similar games is virtually everything you see in the environment can be used as a weapon. This includes standard weapons you might find like an ax, a sword, or a wooden plank, but also encompasses some off-the-wall items like a carrot, a fish, or shish kebabs. Anything and everything in Bloodroots is a weapon, which can lead to some hilarious takedowns, especially during the game’s cinematic kills which activate when murdering the final person in each section of any given level.
Bloodroots’ gameplay is very simple at a baseline level, but the depth the game offers makes it so much more enticing. While each weapon you utilize usually has three hits until they break, Bloodroots actively encourages you to vary your weapon choice as much as possible. One of the scoring modifiers in the game stems from how often you change up the weapons you’re using. So, if you opt to just use certain items too often in a level, you won’t have as high of a final score.
The more you play Bloodroots, the more your goals start to become multi-layered. Not only are you trying to kill every enemy in each level, but you’re also trying to do so as fast as possible while also making sure that you’re utilizing different weapons and keeping your killstreak combo intact. It’s hard enough to get through some levels in Bloodroots on their own, but it becomes an entirely different feat when you’re trying to blaze through levels while constantly switching weapons to vary your takedowns and pursue a higher score. There’s really a ton of depth here and makes the game extremely replayable, especially if you’re aiming to get a high score on the leaderboard.
For the most part, the level design in Bloodroots is pretty great and frequently mixes things up enough that it never feels stale during its brief runtime. The placement of enemies in each level is also typically really smart and often times feeds you down a specific route that ensures the fastest path to completion. It’s during these moments where you utilize the items laid before you to take down foes in a certain pattern that you feel extremely powerful.
That said, the level design is also what I found to be one of the biggest weaknesses in Bloodroots, too. Some levels in the game feature platforming sections, which to me, almost never felt satisfying in Bloodroots. This stems mostly from the fact that I found it really hard to discern depth at times. While Mister Wolf has a slightly visible shadow underneath his character model, too often I was jumping right off the edge of a stage because I couldn’t tell how close or far I may have been to the next platform. Any time I had to do some platforming for any period of time, I wasn’t too pleased.
There are also some sections in certain levels that drastically change up the gameplay for a few brief moments for seemingly no reason. More often than not, I never cared for these areas and found that they just stifled any momentum that a given level may have had. One section of Bloodroots, in particular, mirrored the gameplay stylings of Flappy Bird which I found to be a pretty major drag.
I’ve mentioned it already, but one of the best parts of Bloodroots comes with how much longevity there is to the game. While completing one single playthrough will only take you a couple of hours, there are countless collectibles to find, high scores to chase, and gameplay stylings to master. Each level also can be replayed while wearing a different hat on Mister Wolf. Each hat gives you different abilities and can change how you might approach a level, as well as alter certain gameplay aspects. If you get obsessed with trying to reach the top of the leaderboards as I have done, then you’ll likely find yourself coming back to Bloodroots time and time again.
I also can’t go without mentioning the art style of Bloodroots, which is pretty much a visual joy at all times. There have been a lot of comparisons between the art styles of both Bloodroots and Samurai Jack; those comparisons are pretty spot-on. The expressiveness of the characters combined with the colorful locations you’ll see in Bloodroots always made the game visually appealing, even during some of the aforementioned levels that I wasn’t the biggest fan of.
On the performance front, Bloodroots definitely isn’t without a few issues here and there. I played the game primarily on a PS4 Pro where I was met with some surprisingly long load times prior to each level. I also experienced instances of the frame rate dropping. These dips in the frame rate didn’t occur nonstop and primarily happened when there were numerous enemies on the screen at a single time. For the most part, neither of these minor issues ruined my experience at all, but I figured it was worth mentioning.
Bloodroots is a very simple, straightforward game at face value, but it’s also one that offers tons of replayability and features a high skill ceiling. If you’re a fan of games that are all about mastering gameplay mechanics in pursuit of that one, perfect run, you really can’t do better so far in 2020 than Bloodroots. It’s a game that I’m very much looking forward to returning to time and time again over the coming months.