Games like Hotline Miami and Katana Zero have become instant modern classics thanks to their razor-sharp and utterly addictive gameplay loops. Following hot on their heels is Bloodroots from developer Paper Cult, a supremely stylish, confident action title that encourages improvisation and experimentation at every turn as you take down countless unfortunate foes. With a bit of polish here and there, Bloodroots could very well join its contemporaries as a true modern classic.
You play as Mr. Wolf (yeah, that’s really his name), a vengeful brute donning a rather intimidating wolf hide, and he’s on a quest for revenge against the formidable gang who left him for dead. That’s actually pretty much it. The story is fairly straightforward for the most part, although its mere inclusion is certainly admirable; the game would have worked perfectly fine without it, but the plot gives some much-needed context to the ongoing violence that you’ll be enacting upon the many enemies littered throughout the game.
The core gameplay sees you traverse a selection of linear stages, all of which are broken up into bite-sized segments. Your goal is simple: wipe out every enemy within the immediate vicinity before moving onto the next area. What makes Bloodroots stand out among other action titles is its remarkable selection of weaponry – everything from giant axes to inanimate flamingos can be used to take down your foes. Their varying durability also means you can only use them between one and three times before you’re forced to choose something else.
This might sound annoying on paper (particularly if you resented this mechanic in Breath of the Wild), but the sheer amount of objects that can be used is simply staggering. You can even smash up a gate and use its shattered remnants to smack your enemies on the head. You’re constantly going from one weapon to the next, and this ultimately forms the foundation for Bloodroots’ rhythmic action gameplay. Every weapon acts in a completely different way to the next. So for example, if you pick up a chair, you can swing it once before it breaks, but the deadly samurai swords can be used three times, allowing you to dash forward, potentially taking out two or even three enemies in one fell swoop.
Learning how best to utilise your weaponry is key to completing each segment in the quickest, most efficient way. With practice and many, many deaths, you’ll soon be gliding through the stages like the furry grim reaper you are. And take it from us, completing a level without dying once invokes a wonderful feeling of accomplishment that is rarely felt in other games. Add to this a nuanced grading system after each level – along with online leaderboards – and you’ve got a game that not only feels great to play, but encourages multiple playthroughs as you continually attempt to best your score.
The action is mostly displayed via an isometric viewpoint, with the camera very occasionally moving up to a birds-eye view, and often zooming in and out depending on the size of the terrain you’re traversing. It’s a great way to demonstrate the brilliant art style, although your view of the battlefield is sometimes a bit too far away, and it can be tricky to make out some of the smaller enemies hidden around corners – particularly when playing in handheld mode. Additionally, the isometric viewpoint brings with it a familiar issue in gaming regarding depth: platforming makes up a large part of the combat gameplay, and unfortunately, the camera angles make it difficult to make certain jumps, and it’ll often lead to needless deaths.
Thankfully, dying rarely ever feels frustrating. Like all well designed games, death is simply a lesson in what not to do. It rarely – if ever – feels unfair, and you’ll be dropped right back into the action almost instantly, much like Hotline Miami. We do have a few gripes with the long initial load times, but once you get stuck into the game properly, you won’t be kept waiting for very long at all.
Bloodroots is an incredibly well-made action title that will keep you hooked with its excellent, flowing combat gameplay. The ability to use pretty much every item littering the world as a weapon means you’ll be constantly experimenting to find the most efficient way of defeating your foes. Some lengthy load times and a few camera issues aside, this is a game that almost certainly belongs in your Switch library.