Playing Bloodroots, the upcoming brawler from Paper Cult Games, immediately reminds me of Hotline Miami. Instead of seizing assault rifles or knives, however, I’m given a wackier arsenal for my murder spree. Sometimes, these tools are obviously deadly and I sprint for them — like a Mario-esque Chain Chomp weapon that can rip enemies in half.
Other times, the weapon repertoire is completely unexpected. Early on, I learn that I can grab a fish from a camp site, pull it over a man’s head, and watch him run in circles in a blind panic.
Bloodroots, which is coming to Steam and consoles in 2019, puts me in the comfortable hiking boots of Mr. Wolf, a lumberjack with a need to kill. Bloodroots’ mechanics focus asks players to chain melee attacks together by grabbing everything within reach and using it to devastating, dramatic effect.
It’s less about getting the job done as fast as possible — although that’s certainly a goal — and more about enjoying the chaos of, say, blinding a man with a jug while I set a hay bale on fire and use it to chase down another poor sucker.
Everything around me is a weapon, but each tool can only take a limited number of hits. A carrot can dispatch an enemy well enough, but it only lasts for one hit. If I find an axe buried in a stump, that’s a sturdier weapon that can last for three hits. Other tools, like barrels or hay bales, have special properties. If I grab a barrel, I toss it on its side, climb aboard, and roll it forward with my momentum to crush everyone in my path.
“We made Bloodroots a bit like Quentin Tarantino makes his movies,” says Raph Toulouse, co-founder of Paper Cult Games. “It’s a patchwork or a collage of influences. The main one is Jackie Chan for the idea that everything is a weapon. Obviously Hotline Miami played a big part of the game, the loop of a fast paced action game. The setting is inspired by The Revenant with DiCaprio and the bear, and the art style is inspired by the background artists on Samurai Jack.”
There are projectile weapons in the game, but Paper Cult Games focused on melee weapons to encourage a certain gameplay loop. “We decided that we didn’t want the player to run away from enemies and hide in the corner. We wanted to force players to move towards enemies, always be hopping from one entity to the next.”
The limited durability of weapons, combined with the need to move forward, forces me to improvise. So I grab a sword, slash through enemies, seize a fence post, crack it over a goon’s head, run forward to grab an axe, jump up on a platform and start hewing through enemies on the high ground, then hop down to a cabin, grab a ladder, run it through an open flame, and whirl through a mob of lumberjacks with a spinning helicopter of fire.
Bloodroots is relentlessly stylish, bloody, and fun. Most impressively, losing a run can be as fun and satisfying as a victory. Paper Cult have captured the breathless exhilaration of pulling off a perfect combo in Hotline Miami so well, that even losing can be fun.
What’s fun about the failures is that they feel fair, and more importantly, they introduce enough chaos to keep things entertaining. It’s hard to be irritated when a barn gets overrun by blazing hay bales engulfing everything, including the corpses — and you watch as a swarm of lumberjacks rains down on you. It’s a legitimately funny situation, and the dynamic environments mean that these outcomes change slightly every time.
Bloodroots is due out in 2019; the exact release date has yet to be announced.