Matt Hazard: Blood Bath and Beyond (Xbox 360) Review
Title: Matt Hazard: Blood Bath and Beyond
Publisher: D3Publisher of America, Inc.
Developer: Vicious Cycle Software, Inc.
Rated: M (Mature)
Last February Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard was released and initially seemed like a great concept. You play as Matt Hazard, an early pioneer of action video games with over 25 years of experience. After fading from the public eye, Matt decides to come back on the next-gen consoles. While the game featured clever parodies and voice acting from Will Arnett (voicing Hazard) and Neil Patrick Harris (voicing nemesis Wallace “Wally” Wellesley), it also featured poor level design and repetitive gameplay and generally left players with a disappointing sigh at best. A little less than a year later, developers Vicious Cycle have released a more retro Hazard, entitled Blood Bath and Beyond
The game takes place five years after the events of Eat Lead and now Matt revisit his catalog of video games to stop the villainous General Neutronov. He’s attempting to destroy your 8-bit self and prevent you from ever existing, so you must chase him through various games to find him before it’s too late. No time is wasted in poking fun at their previous game’s poor reviews – one of the opening lines of the game makes fun of it. While the original game was a 3D shooter, Blood Bath and Beyond combines 3D backgrounds and 2D side-scrolling for a unique run and gun experience. The controls are good in most aspects, though aiming at times can be a complete drag. While there is a precision aim mode, it leaves you completely vulnerable and with no line of sight it’s difficult to judge where the bullet will go.
Matt Hazard has it rough, and so will you. The levels come completely loaded with enemies firing at all times and from all sides. Enemies will also appear from the background but pressing the left trigger will aim at them. This allows battles to get particularly intense when you’re having enemies dropping from the screen, attacking from both in front of and behind you, and more are coming from the background. While I consider myself pretty good at most shooting side-scrollers, I found myself dying frequently on the normal difficulty, which is titled Damn, This is Hard. For those who want to play on easy, choose Wussy, or if you’re feeling like you really need a challenge, pick Fuck This Shit. After you play the levels a couple of times you’ll get the hang of it though.
Jump Matt, Jump!
The various games you travel to will include parodies of Mario Brothers, Mirror’s Edge, an entire level in the style of Team Fortress 2, and one “game” that featured collecting small creatures but it never would have worked. As such, the game is incomplete and this will be reflected in the level. Some levels feature points in which the gravity is varied. What this translates into is the game is extremely varied in its level selections. Enemies range from standard drones to guys with jet-packs to ancient beasts. One major complaint I have is that the boss battles are repetitive and far too long. Their health bars are huge and by the end of the battle you’re not excited, but instead just happy it’s over.
Throughout your journey you’ll encounter an assortment of weaponry ranging from a machine gun, flamethrower, plasma gun, shotguns, and a healthy amount of grenades. Weapons are dropped in constantly, so you’re always packing some heat. Health comes occasionally, but not nearly often enough. For those of you who enjoy hunting, Hazard can find pachinko coins by killing certain enemies. At the end of each level you can turn in your coins for a chance to play a plinko-like mini game for bonus points. There’s also three cartridges to pick up in each level that unlocks a short bio on each of Matt’s previous games.
Co-op is available for 2 players but there is a catch – local co-op only. This is pretty disappointing, and really should have been a no-brainer. Player 2 will take the role of Matt’s partner, Dexter Dare. It’s a nice diversion and it’s definitely fun to play with a friend, but without online it falls flat.
Mirror’s Edge, anyone?
Overall, Blood Bath and Beyond is an extremely fun game for what it is. It’s a modern take on a retro shooter and it does a great job at emulating that, though it’s not perfect. The aiming is frustrating and at times you simply feel overwhelmed to the point where you don’t care if you die anymore. I always feel like that’s a bad thing. The game can be pretty bad about respawning you too, sometimes putting you right next to certain death. Also, the game will last you around 3-5 hours, depending on your level of difficulty. The game runs a bit short based off the $15 purchase price, but side-scrolling fans should eat this up and find multiple runs a joy.