Bleed 2

A game by Bootdisk Revolution for PC, Mac, Linux, and Switch, originally released in 2017.
In the original Bleed, a young woman named Wryn has grown tired of the world’s old heroes. No new heroes have risen, and the old heroes have made no new contributions, content to simply bask in their former glory. And so she decides to kill them all and take over as the world’s one true hero. In Bleed 2, having completed her hero murdering spree, Wryn is hanging out playing video games when a new villainess – named Valentine – attacks the city. Wasting no time, Wryn grabs her dual pistols and katana, and dashes into the fray.

Players who enjoyed the original game will find much familiar territory here, with similar gameplay mechanics and a number of returning enemies and bosses, and even Wryn’s old rival. But everything in the sequel has been redesigned and tightened, giving the player a fresh take on the fast and frenetic gameplay, with plenty of new challenges on offer to put his skills to the test.

The first game started the player off with fast-firing pistols and slow but powerful rockets, with more weapons unlocked along the way. In the sequel, Wryn starts out with her pistols and an energy katana that lets her reflect pink bullets back at enemies. While the katana was an unlockable weapon in the original game, Wryn's starting loadout in the sequel emphasizes the game's focus on speed, mobility, and precision.

Attacking in any direction causes Wryn to swing her sword, followed by a fast stream of continuously-firing bullets, which means that she can let off the trigger for a second and attack again to swing her sword and deflect bullets without the need to switch weapons. This simple design change allows for a more tactical combat experience as the screen fills with pink (deflectable) and yellow (non-deflectable) bullets, with the player alternating between shooting at enemies and occasionally sending their own firepower back at them. Many bosses also have powerful dash and projectile attacks, and pink highlights indicate that the player can perform a sword slash to knock them back and cause heavy damage, while yellow highlights signal the player to dodge out of the way.

Aiding in this delicate and fast-paced balance is Wryn’s ability to perform up to three midair dashes, as well as slow down time, which drains from a recharging secondary meter. Air-dashing lets Wryn move quickly around the screen in any direction, even changing direction in mid-dash to slide between incoming projectiles. This allows her to attack her foes from any angle, but also gives the developer license to fill the screen top-to-bottom with danger. By slowing down time, players can make more precise midair movements to dodge projectiles, deflect attacks, or simply maximize damage output against a boss’ exposed weak point.

As in the first game, the player is ranked based on style, with the meter climbing as the player continues to deliver damage without taking any in return, as well as the player’s overall time to complete the level. Unlike the first game where currency was gained based on performance, the sequel provides unlockables for completing the game on various difficulty settings, offering Easy, Normal, Hard, and Very Hard modes. This also encourages players to return to the game, as veteran gamers can expect to complete the Normal mode quite quickly, especially given the game’s forgiving checkpoint system that returns players to the start of each boss phase with a fully-restored health meter.

Completing the game at each difficulty setting eventually unlocks numerous weapons, including the rockets from the original game, and players may alter their loadout at any time during the level, selecting multiple weapons to cycle through for any situation. Players also unlock several additional air dashes, including one that causes damage to enemies as they pass through them, and another that offers teleportation at the cost of energy.

In addition, the game offers several unlockable playable characters, including baddies from the game, as well as the claw-handed girl from They Bleed Pixels, with each character offering a different style of play. For instance, the clawed girl attacks with claws rather than bullets, and therefore has a shorter range. She can also only perform a single midair dash, but she hangs in the air when she causes damage to enemies, essentially letting her hover when dealing continuous damage to bosses. She also has a special move that allows her to regain health by draining her secondary energy meter (which recharges over time), making her all but immortal in the (non-clawed) hands of a capable player.

For players looking for additional challenges after the credits roll, an Arcade mode challenges players to complete the game on a single credit, offering leaderboard glory in return. Or players may enter an arena and fight any three of the game’s bosses for some totally unbalanced just-for-fun action that puts their shooting and dodging skills to the test. Players can also team up with a friend to play the game in 2P co-op across all game modes.

Gameplay in the Story mode is fast-paced, requiring constant movement and shooting on the part of the player. Most enemies go down quickly, but they are placed high and low, often spewing projectiles from all directions and filling the screen with death as the player weaves in and out of the spray while returning fire with 360 degree aim, and jumping and dashing between platforms.

At several points, gameplay is switched up, seeing the player running across rooftops, jumping from car to car while barreling down a freeway (and taking damage when touching the road), hopping from missile to missile while fighting enemies, being propelled through a forced-scrolling sequence while smashing barricades, and even flying in all directions through a weightless environment while slicing purple globs of goo.

The game is also positively packed with boss encounters, offering multiple miniboss battles during the course of the level, proper boss battles at the end, and many multi-phase encounters. It’s not uncommon for the player to fight through three or four boss phases at the end of each level, or to think he has defeated the end-level boss only to find one or two more bosses on the path ahead.

These boss battles are quite varied, each requiring a different strategy to defeat (although dashing and shooting are a good start). Some are also easier to defeat with certain weapons, making the unlockables more valuable for players looking to tackle the Arcade mode. While players may be able to defeat many bosses through brute force on the easier difficulty settings, mastery of the controls – particularly the katana deflection mechanic – is absolutely required in the Hard and Very Hard modes.

Skilled players who take on these tougher difficulties will find themselves sliding between bullets, bashing rockets back at enemies, letting off the trigger when facing bullet-deflecting bosses, and nimbly easing the slow motion on and off to maximize this quickly-depleting resource. Tougher bosses require players to prioritize the destruction of flying projectiles with the delivery of concentrated damage, the knowledge of when it is best to fight and when it is best to dodge, and when to prepare for (and properly aim) an all-important deflection, watching for hints and telegraphs as enemies emit color-coded highlights before attacking. Players will face bosses on the ground, flying through the air, on top of a speeding platform, in weightlessness, and even in front of a roaring crowd, and most bosses have several different attack styles in their repertoire, requiring players to remain constantly on their toes.

Between levels, a reporter excitedly recounts Wryn’s accomplishments, praising her greatness as she wins battle after battle, adding some character to the experience while contextualizing Wryn’s physical location as she moves from rooftops to city streets and into the sky in pursuit of the villain’s airship, which is seen flying in the background of earlier levels.

Bleed 2 was developed by Bootdisk Revolution, is a one-man studio headed by Ian Campbell, who is based in Toronto, Canada. The game is a sequel to Bleed, which was originally released on Xbox Live Indie Games in 2012, prior to which, Ian released GrappleBoy, Plucky’s 3D Adventure, Soaring Santa, Frequency, and several avatar-based titles. The soundtrack for Bleed 2 was composed by Jukio Kallio, a.k.a. Kozilek, who also composed the soundtrack for Nuclear Throne. Sound design was provided by Joonas Turner who also worked on Nuclear Throne, Broforce, Environmental Station Alpha, and The Swapper.