A bit of Friday fisticuffs fun today: Mother Russia Bleeds by one of my favourite publishers at the moment, Devolver Digital. Another game I’ve had for a little while, sitting in the backlog pile, today (actually Thursday night in preparation for Friday), I sat down to finish at least one playthrough.
I recall seeing a trailer, as most of my reviews start, and thinking that Mother Russia Bleeds is a game that should go on the list. Much like a Streets of Rage or Final Fight side scroller, this is one of those games I used to play growing up. Unfortunately, I forgot all about it until a few months ago, snapped it up, then played a few levels. Today was about knuckling down (forgive the pun) and getting stuck in.
Mother Russia Bleeds is a classic side scroller from ‘back in the day’. The game is set in the ’80s, which feels appropriate, given the style of play and the graphics – very much 16-bit sprite led animation. In true form, it’s a bit of a button masher with a few simple moves, but enough to keep you satisfied. If you like beat’em ups, that is.
Pinch Punch, Almost End of the Month
There are four players to choose from in the game, and they all resemble the typical archetype; the all-round leader Sergei, the tank Ivan, the token woman who is super quick, Natasha and Boris – the resident nutter. They’re all part of a Romani group, often fighting for money.
The government suddenly kidnaps our ‘heroes’ and conducts experiments on them without their consent with a new drug called nekro. The characters become dependent on this and consequently have an amplified rage – going on a rampage, killing everything in their path. They escape from the test labs killing scientists, the military and the mob – to name a few.
Mother Russia Bleeds doesn’t have the conventional health kits to collect. Instead, the gang can extract nekro from their fallen enemies, should their bodies start convulsing. Stay with me. They remove this essence and can then use it to either boost their health or in a rage which temporarily ups their speed and attack power.
Walk to the Right
The controls are simple to apply. Like it’s counterparts such as Double Dragon, walk left, right, up and down. Actions include punch, kick, throw and jump. You can also dash so you can knock over players with a flying kick or elbow. Additionally, as stated above, you extract the nekro with L – inject it with ZL or ZR to rage.
As with the games before it, Mother Russia Bleeds pay homage to the traditional side scroller where you can pick up melee weapons along the way like pipes, knives, guns and grenades. There isn’t anything new introduced here, but it lives up to expectations if you are looking for the likes of Vendetta or even a less violent The Simpsons arcade game.
And that’s where the focus is on with this game: the violence. Mother Russia Bleeds is hyper-violent in comparison to the beloved classics. There are blood splatters, exploding body parts and decapitations – it’s very over the top, yet strangely satisfying – despite being anti-violence in real life.
Not One for the Kids
A teenage boy could have written the dialogue. It’s layered with f-bombs galore and on the verge of irritating. Sure, it’s not high brow material, but they could have toned it down a bit. Then again, punching a character repeatedly into the floor until they’re mush kind of puts the language into perspective.
There are eight levels in all for the story mode, and you’re looking at 10-15 minutes (ish) of completion time. Outside of the main story is a survival mode where you pit yourself against enemies in an arena. It’s a little bit like Gekido: Kintaro’s Revenge both in features and graphics. Like Gekido, there’s also the option for scanlines. Now, you either love them or hate them, but I grew up with them in the arcades so I implement them whenever I can – it adds to the nostalgic feel for me.
Outside of the sparse game modes are the achievements. Mother Russia Bleeds is already quite difficult – despite the simple concept. You can unlock new achievements through playing harder difficulties, but some of the challenges are frustrating, such as not getting hit by a train. In one particular level, suffer one slight kickback from an NPC, and you have to restart the level (if you’re looking for 100% completion).
Knocking ’em Back to the ’80s
As I said, the game originates in the ’80s and many respects; it should remain there – what with the themes, gameplay style, stereotypes and genre. That doesn’t mean that it’s a bad thing – in fact, I thoroughly enjoyed Mother Russia Bleeds, even when things got pretty hairy. Some of the boss fights are ridiculously hard.
To counter the difficulty (other than changing it on the menu), I would highly recommend co-op mode. You can have up to four players on screen at once. Due to the nature of a side scroller, there aren’t any split-screens, and you all occupy the same space. It gets confusing as to who is who and this is where ‘accidents’ happen. What I like about the game is you can turn off ‘friendly fire’ so no clipping your mate with a sharp punch or throwing them into a mob.
Does this have any replay value? Yes, of course. As I began with the review, I bought this some time ago and played a few levels and pretty much enjoyed it. When I came back to it today, it felt just as fresh – even when playing the same stages. It’s more of a tribute to the golden age of side scrollers – Golden Axe suddenly springs to mind too – and it does the job perfectly. Have a look at the video I made below for the opening gameplay – perhaps I’ll make another, but preferably without my daughter seeing. This isn’t suitable for children.