|System: X360 (XBLA), PS3 (PSN)||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Vicious Cycle||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: D3 Publisher||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Jan.6, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
The comparison I made to Contra is particularly apropos in regards to Blood Bath and Beyond's gameplay and mechanics, which generally mirror Konami's shooter series very closely. Matt's normal weapon is a standard issue Contra-style gun, meaning you have to hit the attack button for every shot fired. There's a slew of various weapon types in the game that Matt can pick up, ranging from the typical (machine guns and shotguns) to more exotic selections (laser cannons and pulse rifles).
Hazard can also lob grenades, and each kill fills a "carnage meter" that, when full, temporarily gives you invincibility and upgraded weapon power. You'll need to make full use of this, too, as Hazard's enemy counts can quickly overwhelm if you're not paying attention. Aside from the immediate 2D plane of action, enemies often pop up in the background, which can be targeted separately. Blood Bath and Beyond also allows for individually angled shots while anchored in place a la Shattered Soldier-another crucial skill to master.
Despite its design implications, however, Blood Bath and Beyond never reaches either the off-the-wall ridiculous insanity or the equally insurmountable difficulty that makes Contra such a standout series. Think of this one as Contra-lite, minus all the Japanese wackiness. This doesn't make Blood Bath and Beyond a bad game, especially, just not one that's as interesting or entertaining as it could have been.
The goofy, splattery violence is a nice touch, and the humor is genuinely funny in some places, particularly if you unlock some of the bonus game boxes that chronicle some of Hazard's more questionable fictitious spin-offs (like kart racers or quiz shows). But, overall the humor in the game's design seems to be distributed unevenly, and doesn't affect the core shooting mechanics in any substantial way (unless you count shooting Mario-esque blocks a significant change to gameplay). If the game were a little cheaper, I wouldn't be quite as hard on it, but given Blood Bath and Beyond's $15 price point, just know that you're getting something that, despite its humor, doesn't raise the bar much higher than average. If you like Contra-style action, you may want to check it out. Otherwise, you might want to try asking D3 to drop the price to $10.
CCC Freelance Writer