I’m fast becoming the king of 2D gaming at The Gamer’s Hub. This is absolutely no bad thing as I do love a classic, arcade style game. Anyway, our thoroughly delicious editors recently sent me the PSN code to get my grubby mitts on MATT HAZARD : BLOOD, BATH & BEYOND, a game which lifts its title from a gun store in The Simpsons. This side-scroller is the sequel to the rather amusing “Eat Lead: Return Of Matt Hazard” which was a 3D-style game in keeping with the Gears of War franchise. The game is renowned for its sense of humour and ability to pastiche various elements of the gaming world.
The premise of the game is anything but simple. Matt is charged with going back in time to save the 8-bit version of himself and in doing so, stopping his arch-nemesis General Neutronov,. Several reviewers I have read have massively missed the point of this game. It’s an attempt to throw you back into the world of early platform shooters and is not an attempt at making a modern classic of gaming. The humour is well-placed and the gameplay itself is action-packed, throwing itself into its parody world with gusto.
One only has to look at the online world which developers Vicious Cycle and publishers D3 have created to understand the plan behind this game. The untrained eye might be fooled into believing that Matt Hazard was the most loved hero of the late-80s’ and early 90s’, much in the same way that this guy was. Blogs, fan-sites and even the official site for Eat Lead tell tales of a simpler time where Hazard was king. The gameplay doesn’t bring round many surprises. Run, shoot, jump, avoid really slow-moving bullets. It’s all pretty standard fare and shouldn’t take an experienced gamer long to dive their way through. Expect many a cheap laugh on the way to completion as the game rips off areas from Mirror’s Edge, Bioshock, Mario and even something that could be Pirates of the Caribbean are ripe for parody. Little touches like the random faux-heroic shouts from Matt halfway through levels add to the feel and tone of the game.
However, you’ll be left with a sense that more could have been made of these parodies. While the art style, level design and relatively ‘geared’ enemies are well placed, there are very few ‘in-jokes’ which would have worked brilliantly but there’s no sense crying over spilt gags. The game throws in a nice little local cooperative mode and it’s entirely more fun to blast through the endless waves of enemies with one of your friends/family members/particularly violent colleague than going it alone. Admittedly, the coop mode doesn’t change any of the gameplay but it is engrossing enough and it will make the couple of hours-worth of gameplay a little more enjoyable.
All-in-all, Bloodbath & Beyond is a fun, well-rounded run n’ gun but it lacks the voice acting and in-jokes of its previous, 3D incarnation. This is forgivable though as the written, scrolling cutscenes also serve to add to the overall feel of the game and the graphics are relatively well put together. The control system feels a little clunky at times but you’ll get over that pretty quickly as you realise that spraying the entire level with bullets is a far more efficient method of progression than trying to take everyone out with a precision shot to the errogenous zones. £10 may be a bit over-the-odds for a game which misses out on so many opportunities for jokes but if you want an antidote to the super-serious worlds of Gears of War, Killzone 2 and Call of Duty then this might just be the game for you.
Developer: Vicious Cycle Software
Publisher: D3 Publisher
Platforms: PS3 (Review), XBox 360