Bleed 2 welcomes back pink-haired heroine Wryn, the world’s only remaining hero, as she sets off to defend the planet from a horde of invading villains. That’s the meat of the story, and about as interesting as it gets I’m afraid to say. Though as with any side scrolling bullet hell game, it’s all about the content and the gameplay. Does Bleed 2 excel in this department? Yes, and no. Bleed 2 comes packed with over 25 boss battles that have been crammed into just seven levels. One of the biggest downsides, however, is that the game can be completed in roughly one hour, which is a big letdown for those that enjoy a padded campaign.
There’s enough content within to justify the asking price of the game, but much of that content will only appeal to players that are satisfied with heaps of replay value alone. Bleed 2 offers a total of four game modes. The story mode sees you moving through a small collection of levels, each dishing up unique environments and challenges. There’s four different difficulty settings that you can take to, ranging from easy to very hard. Completing the story on specific difficulties will reward you with new characters and weaponry that you can then use to rerun the story with – accessed via the loadout screen in the menu. You’ll also unlock mutators which modify the gameplay at the cost of disabling achievements, these mutators include benefits such as death bullets, mini bullets, infinite health, infinite energy, and so on and so forth.
Each of these characters handle the same as far as the controls are concerned, but they do indeed house their own standard abilities. Despite the short story, players will be taken through a range of interesting locations, including an air ship, a zero gravity warship, a highway chase, and more. It took me a small while to properly gel with the controls, but once I did, I was blasting through foes like it was second nature. I’ll admit, it took longer for me to adjust to the jumping, being that it’s tied to the shoulder button rather than the A button. Movement is tethered to the left stick, whereas directional shooting is achieved via the right stick. If timed correctly you can repel enemy attacks with your katana by swiftly flicking the right stick against incoming projectiles.
This comes in handy when you want to send an enemy attack straight back to them, often resulting in mass damage or total annihilation, Link and Ganon-esque. Wryn also has a time-slow ability that will almost stop time completely, giving you enough breathing space to clear a band of enemies or maneuver a particularly tricky environment. This feature will recharge itself automatically, which tends to take no more than a few seconds to refill, and can be used as many times as you like per level. The game handles extremely well, which is important for any bullet hell experience. Triple jumping though the air, smashing an energy ball back at an unsuspecting enemy, slowing down time to take care of some grunts below my position, and then touching down on the ground to taunt my fallen foes, the fluid controls make succession attacks like this all too easy to pull off.
The most challenging portion of Bleed 2 arguably goes to its various boss battles, and on this front, the game proves to be both exhilarating and utterly rewarding. Screen filling boss encounters will show up several times in each stage, individually utilizing their own attack patterns and behaviors. With that in mind, I was a bit disappointed by how easy some of these encounters were, more so during the second half of the game. Many of these encounters simply sees you slowing down time, stick mashing the repel feature, firing your guns to chip away more health, and rise and repeat. This process, even on the higher difficulties, is far too easy to rely on and removes that sense of reward when you can circumvent much of the challenge. It would have nice to see enemies disabling some of Wryn’s features, or maybe coming with some puzzle elements, but beggars cant be choosers, right?
These problems are not exclusive to the boss battles. Enemy variety and enemy placement is standard and somewhat predictable, with each level lacking any ‘stand out’ moments. The ability to jump, double jump, and triple jump is far too generous when there’s a lack of necessity for them outside of dodging bullets or moving from platform to platform. I was half expecting some puzzle elements sprinkled in to make better use of this function, but sadly that’s an absent aspect. It’s clear from the get-go that this game has been crafted specifically for speedrunners, twitch streamers, and completionists, which is a shame because the foundation to please the casual gamer is here too, but never quite realized. When you’ve given the story mode all that you’ve got, or earned all of the rankings, there are other modes on offer to dive into.
Arcade mode is the same as the story mode, only you’re tasked to complete it with just a single life. There are two options present here, Freestyle and New Game. Freestyle allows you to run the mode with any of your unlocked weapons or characters, whereas New Game is the polar opposite. Challenge mode on the other hand enables you to take on up to three bosses at once, to which you custom select your opposition beforehand. That leaves us with the Endless mode, which is (I thought) the most interesting mode out of the lot. In endless mode, you’re tasked with taking on a series of randomly generated levels. Each play through in this mode is often unique, ensuring that you never know what’s coming next. It’s a great addition to the game, but hardly enough on its own to appeal to the casual gamer.
In terms of visuals and design, I quite enjoyed the level structure as far as the platforming goes. Visually however, I cant say that I was all too impressed. I’m a big fan of pixel art, and although the character, enemy, and boss design proves to be well crafted, the level design just doesn’t hit that high note. There’s no shortage of detail when it comes to the varying stages, but with some decent color usage to the side, nothing really jumps out. We’ve seen some truly amazing pixel art this gen, but Bleed 2 just sits as a standard offering when it comes to the visuals. The varying locations helps to alleviate this to some degree, but even then it’s hard to appreciate this variety when everything, across all modes, comes across quite flat and devoid of life and energy.
Bleed 2 is an average bullet hell game that will be better appreciated by streamers and speedrunners. Those looking for a padded, in-depth, side-scrolling shooter, will be left in the cold. Despite some interesting gameplay design throughout the varying levels, Bleed 2 just doesn’t stand out. It’s worth the price of admission for its content alone, I’ll give it that, but it’s far from revolutionary and lacks originality.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.