29th May 2010 - Matt Hazard has been around since in 1983 where he graced the gaming world in “The Adventures of Matt Hazard in Hazard Land”. Since then he has been in a few games over the years with the last one being Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard which was released on the Xbox Live Arcade early last year. So how does he fair in his new outing? Read on to find out.
While BB&B is a no-brainer in terms of tactics, the game can be an exercise in frustration on the higher difficulty levels. The boss battles, unsurprisingly, are almost always combinations of twitch timing, movement, and pattern recognition and by the fourth or fifth boss, they all begin to feel the same. Playing co-op, the bosses are much easier to negotiate. In fact, the whole game is really better as a co-op shooter.
As we said, though, dying and killing are the easy part. What Matt Hazard: Blood Bath and Beyond attempts to do is add a layer of self-referential, ironic humor to the mix, so the game is partly about the critical failure of the original Matt Hazard as well as satirizing many of the iconic games from the past few years. Settings, enemies, and weapons from BioShock, Team Fortress 2, Super Mario Bros., Mirror's Edge, Portal, Monkey Island, Duke Nukem, and Ninja Gaiden—to name just a few—drop in for a cameo, and playing a game of “Catch the Reference” is a lot of fun, at least for a while.
Now we have a much more humble follow-up in the form of a cheaper, simpler, downloadable game, and the result is a real blast from the past. Whereas Eat Lead was a full 3D shooter, Blood Bath & Beyond is a side-scrolling run-and-gun effort in the tradition of Contra. It's a lot of fun and goes a long way towards repairing Matt Hazard's reputation. Now I actually want to play more of his games.
The eight levels play out in typical shooter fashion. You walk from left to right and spray bullets wildly while trying to avoid the slow-moving attacks from your countless foes. You can freely aim by holding LB and moving the left stick, which works well but feels clunky compared to last year's Shadow Complex, in which you could aim while running by swivelling the right stick. There are moments in which enemies will rush you from the background, and you can aim your sights that way with a tap of the trigger. It's not a particularly new idea, but it adds some depth to the typical shooting action, forcing you to keep your eyes darting across the screen to identify any potential threat. Weapon power-ups give the tried-and-true action a bit of variety. The assortment of machine guns, rocket launchers, and shotguns let you dispose of your enemies in deadly ways, but it's the flame-thrower that is the gem of your arsenal. It lights up your attackers like camp fire marshmallows, leaving behind a gooey residue that probably shouldn't be eaten.
Conclusion and Value
At five or so hours, Blood Bath and Beyond is not a long game, but with its stripped-down gameplay and one-note humor, it begins to outstay its welcome some time before the final credits roll. As a $15 download it's certainly a better value than its full-price predecessor. In the end, though, it's that easy/hard dichotomy: it's a lot easier to poke fun at something than to innovate or be truly creative.
AAG SCORE: 5/10
- Self-referential humour
- 3D Sidecrolling
- co-op shennanigans
- Gets old fast
- Almost not worth the value
- There is a full sized game of the same thing (at a now reduced price)
Reviewed & Written by Daniel Emmerson