I was a huge advocate of Eat Lead when it was released last year, and when I reviewed it post-release I felt a little disappointed at the lost opportunity. The idea of Matt Hazard is still one of the freshest concepts for a humorous game in a long time. Thankfully Matt does not end up like his fictional storyline character and we get a second chance to fall in love with this bargain bin hero. Blood Bath and Beyond (which may be the greatest game title ever) has landed on both XBLA and PSN, and delivers the same type of slapstick humor of the original, with a more digestible price.
Taking a step back into the back catalog of gaming that Hazard originated from Blood Bath and Beyond is a straight up side-scrolling shooter in the same mindset as Contra. The story revolves around Hazard’s nemesis kidnapping the 8-bit version of himself and Matt having to travel back through his timeline of games to rescue, well himself. Yes it’s goofy and it pokes fun of itself more often than not, but it’s that charm that makes the game such a delight to play. Even Eat Lead was enjoyable in the humor department; it just didn’t follow-through where it mattered.
Blood Bath and Beyond never graduates from the standard run left-to-right and shoot everything in the way mentality, but then again it never needs to. The simplistic mechanic works well enough and the humor drives home the appeal of the title. Matt can lob grenades, pick up power-ups and even shoot into the 2.5D environment, but none of it is anything we haven’t seen before. For a shooter it handles itself well if not a bit predictable. Stages are challenging and sometimes you will blast through several continues thanks to cheap deaths, but that seems to be standard procedure for titles like this.
I cannot stress enough though that the level designs and included humor really make the game. Blood Bath and Beyond takes a stab at nearly every gaming cliché and franchise out there, and even manages to poke fun at itself on more than one occasion. The ragdoll physics are absolutely out of control leaving bodies flailing around in all sorts of peculiar positions as you blast through each level. The blood is overdone, the enemies are completely outlandish, and things are just over-the-top enough to not feel overplayed. The humor and feeling of the entire experience is truly what makes this game shine.
The one area that may feel a little disappointing though is content. While the game is only $15 on either PSN or XBLA, there are only a handful of levels and they rarely range outside of the 15 minute mark. You can complete the game in one sitting if you dedicate yourself to it and outside of leaderboards and Achievements/Trophies, there is little reason to head back through them. You can play some local co-op, which is truly a blast if you have two controllers, but a lack of online co-op really is perplexing. The price tag may seem like just a touch too much, but I still recommend picking it up if you are a fan of humorous titles, especially if you enjoy the old-school feel of games like Contra.
Visually the game looks decent enough with some fantastic level design and competent animations. I love the fact that each level takes on a theme of its own, and it really is worth checking out all the subtle nuances scattered throughout each environment. The sound is equally impressive with some great one-liners being dispersed at every turn. Hazard really does deliver some humorous dialogue, even if it does repeat far too often. Everything about the game mimics what it is trying to imitate fairly well. Games such as Mirror’s Edge, Mario and even a nod to Team Fortress make an appearance, making this one of the funniest games aimed at gamers.
I still highly support and love the idea of the Matt Hazard games and this latest entry restores some of my lost faith in the franchise. While it may feel a bit overpriced for what it delivers, I would gladly pay up for a chance at more in the series. The humor is fantastic, the level designs are truly fun and the gameplay is a classic formula that takes no chances, but still delivers a good time. If you even remotely liked the idea of Eat Lead I highly recommend giving this game a whirl. The references to classic games and hilarious clichés is more than worth the price of admission.
Review copy provided by publisher.