Almost one year ago, an absolutely crazy trailer for an indie project dropped. Lacking any form of remorse, the trailer showed arcade gameplay where the aim was to kill everything in sight in countless ridiculous ways. That project, developed by Paper Cult Games, is ready to launch, and it's a fast-paced, violent action-arcade experience called Bloodroots.
It follows the story of Mr Wolf, a ruthless killer and former member of notorious outlaw band the Beast Boys (not to be confused with the iconic and completely still relevant hip-hop band, Beastie Boys) as he grasps the betrayal he suffered at the hands of his former gang members. Filled with a thirst for revenge, Mr Wolf travels the Wild West hunting the man who attempted to kill him, Mr Black Wolf, eliminating all who stand in his way in the most creative ways he can muster.
At its core, Bloodroots is an arcade title. It features relatively simple worlds, jam-packed with interactable objects and enemies to try them out on. For the most part, this is what Bloodroots consists of: entering a zone and obliterating every living thing before moving on and doing the same again. At first glance, it may seem a little repetitive, but the catch is you only have one life, meaning you have to be flawless, else you start each area from the beginning.
The depth in the combat system comes when trying to complete each area with as much finesse and as efficiently as possible, in fact, Bloodroots encourages this. By exploring the weapons and generic items available, you can look to defeat enemies in a plethora of ways, with most able to eliminate foes within one hit. Our personal favourite tools of destruction would be a close toss-up between buckets and the Captain America type shield. Strangely enough, they're both equally lethal, except the bucket can only be used to kill one person whereas the shield has the ability to take three hits and can be caught as it pings back off an enemy. With this being said, the bucket feels satisfying to use, which always makes it a go-to tool, at least for us.
The enemies throughout Bloodroots are an assortment of soldiers and they wield a variety of weapons. Some will shoot, others will attempt to rush in and melee you, while some will be incredibly large and wield heavy weapons capable of moving the very earth beneath your feet, making for some new attack chains to deal with. Even more so, some will be equipped with protective rings, which either provide extra health, projectile resistance, or the ability to kill you upon contact. The point is, you'll have to judge your enemies and plan ahead in order to push through a level, making for an interesting combat flow that is much more challenging and occasionally a little bit more frustrating than a regular beat 'em up.
On the topic of useable weapons and items, the level design in Bloodroots has some verticality, so there'll be plenty of times when you'll have to scale cliff faces or jump over chasms. Whilst Mr Wolf is incredibly athletic, he's no superhuman, meaning occasionally you'll be required to use specific items to help you out. Ladders and oars, for example, help you reach new heights with a special jump mechanic; swords and spit-roasted chickens have lunges, making them great for crossing large gaps; cannons have a special system that allows you to fire yourself hundreds of feet into the air, which is great for getting up steep cliffs.
The storyline itself is split up into three acts, each one tasking you with facing a different member of the Beast Boys, before catching up to Mr Black Wolf himself. In these three acts, there are around five individual levels, with the occasional bonus stage sprinkled in, before the final boss encounter at the end. These final stages are a little different to the others as it's less of an arcade-combat experience, and instead leans more into platforming. Unlike the rest of Bloodroots, boss fights don't challenge you with endlessly socking it out with tough opponents, instead, it provides you with a chance to injure the boss at particular instances, usually after evading their attempts to kill you. It feels very similar to a late 2000s platformer in this sense, and it's actually quite fun and feels unique.
As an example, the first boss encounter sees you face Mr Boar, a morbidly obese money-bag tycoon. During his time running with the Beast Boys, he amassed considerable wealth, using a chunk of it to purchase a large flying train-car hybrid, which he uses at multiple times in his attempts to kill you. In the boss level, you'll have to dodge his attacks whilst running after him to reach stages where his vehicle breaks down, giving you the opportunity to give him a good ol' smack. After around three hits, he'll be prime pickings and ready to be finished off.
Bloodroots also offers an incentive to complete each level quickly, with as much variety and as few deaths as possible by having a scoring system and a global leaderboard for you to try and conquer. In fact, replaying levels is encouraged to achieve better scores as there are unlockable masks that each offer new skills both positively and negatively, such as double jump or inverted controls. These are found either by meeting strange hidden Easter egg creatures or by completing specific areas of the story.
Finally, one of the most interesting parts of Bloodroots would have to be its art and sound direction. The stunning style captures all the violence and gore of the tale it's built around, whilst simultaneously looking somewhat realistic. The cartoony style of the characters and items, against the gorgeous backdrops, makes Bloodroots a delight to play, especially during its wintery, mountainous stages. As for the soundtrack, the title offers a western ambience to accompany its western tale, with lots of guitars and drums to capture the essence of being a notorious outlaw.
In general, Bloodroots is a great action-arcade indie title. The story, art style and soundtrack bring to life the harsh western world it's set in, but the cream of the crop is its tight, fluid combat that has so much depth to explore. Being able to explre the "world is your weapon" mindset elevates the game beyond a traditional beat 'em up into a much more unique and enjoyable experience. Looking back, it really does live up to the crazy indie experience teased all those months ago, and any fan of Hotline Miami or Katana Zero should definitely take a closer look at what Bloodroots has to offer.