Bloodroots Review

I play a lot of video games, but when i’m not gaming I do have a day job: I teach public speaking at the collegiate level. One of the types of speeches that I teach is impromptu. Certainly terrifying to those with speech anxiety, impromptu speeches are given with little preparation and rely on a speaker’s instinct and gut reactions. The speech won’t be perfect, but given the circumstances, they are an efficient way of communicating a message. 

The traits of an impromptu speech were stuck in my mind while recently playing through the game Bloodroots. In it you help Mr. Wolf exact his revenge by tearing through stages, picking up anything you can use as a weapon and improvising along the way. The game was designed by Canadian developers Paper Cult, and was released on February 28th for the Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, and the Epic Games Store.  

The world is indeed your weapon in Bloodroots (Credit: Paper Cult Games)

There are obvious comparisons to make between Bloodroots and Hotline Miami. The fast-paced action is very similar, having you carve your way through sections of a level filled with enemies and quickly swapping out weapons as you kill. You can use swords and axes sure, but you can also use ladders, fence posts, and even carrots! Your character dies in one hit, and a quick reload is all that stands in your way before you try again. Perfect the area by defeating all of the enemies and you get to move on.  

Where Bloodroots shines is in the level design, giving players plenty of freedom in how they approach each section of every stage. There are no random weapon drops or enemy spawns, so getting a lay of the land is crucial as you figure out the best way to tackle every challenge. Multiple routes, buildings and cliffs to provide elevation, and an abundance of weapons give the game levels a unique feel which keeps evolving as you play. I normally groan a bit when I see ice used in video games, but I liked the added challenge as I tried to weave my way through the soon-to-be corpses.

The art is stylish and a bit gory (Credit: Paper Cult Games)

While you are running your way through the varied levels, be sure to slow down from time to time to appreciate the clean art style. This definitely isn’t 80’s neon and pixel, but a smooth looking game fit for 2020. The story is fairly straightforward, and pinning your actions on “revenge” helps explain Mr. Wolf’s willingness to slaughter so many people, while not really providing a lot of ground to challenge his motivations beyond calling the main characters “Beasts”. 

Once teaching you the controls, Bloodroots takes off the training wheels pretty quickly. The first few enemies you face are basically punching bags dressed up as humans, but they build up from there. Some enemies take two hits to defeat, which can be tough if you have a weapon that you can only use once or one that’s about to break. Some enemies cannot be killed with a melee weapon, others are immune to ranged damage. Some are gunners, shooting at you from a distance, some use area of effect attacks, or simply spin at you. Tackle each one individually, or cleave through several at a time. But don’t stop moving if there are bad guys near, or else you will die.

Use whatever you find to kill your enemies. (Credit: Paper Cult Games)

For the most part, I felt like Bloodroots’ difficulty curve was pretty accurate to continually challenge me as I progressed through the game. Unfortunately, there were certainly a few frustrating parts that I described to my dog as “bullshitty sections.” I know, not the kindest of terms, but only a small section of the game felt a bit cheap, including a platforming section that I wasn’t prepared for in Act 2. 

At times, there are so many items on the ground that it’s pretty tough to pick up the one you want. Specifically, some ranged weapons require you to reload with ammo like a bow and arrow or nerf gun. For some reason Mr. Wolf prioritized other weapons instead of refilling the ammo and even after dropping an item a ways away, he would snap jump to a weapon I didn’t want. However, pulling off a string of bow and arrow kills, it’s extremely satisfying. Being able to pull the arrows out of the air and seamlessly fire into the next enemy feels great. 

On top of the action, Bloodroots’ Beasts all wear different animal hats, which reminds me a lot of Hotline Miami’s animal masks. You can also unlock new hats as you progress through the game, which give you a slight power boost like a dash punch or starting an area with a gun. However, the hat powers are only available when replaying a previous level, so the game sets itself apart a bit here. 

I didn’t get a lot of “S” rankings, but I’ll take Top 5 in the world for one stage.

Bloodroots’ offers a lot of replayability since you earn points for every stage based on a set of factors including the variety of weapons you used, how mobile you were, and how well you maintained your combo of kills. I don’t think I’ll go back to replay too many of the stages, but it sets up completionists with a tangible target: hitting an S ranking on every stage. There are also collectible hidden wolves to pet and additional animal hats to earn, giving you something more to chase once the story is finished. 

I had a blast with Bloodroots, and if what I have described sounds interesting, it’s absolutely worth the $20. You don’t have to be a good impromptu speaker to excel at Bloodroots, but trusting your instincts will help you improvise your way through a challenging and fun game.  

Note: I was provided a review code of Bloodroots for PC.

The Tricky Difficulty in Wargroove

Wargroove Logo
Credit: Chucklefish

Like so many games that I get excited about, I bought Wargroove as soon as it released on the Switch. I played five or six missions and then it sat collecting digital dust on the shelf. I do this a lot, buy a game, taste test it, but then inevitably get distracted by something newer or simply something different.

Wargroove is a great strategy game that calls back to the likes of Advance Wars, a Gameboy Advance game I obsessed over back in high school. Complete with pixellated graphics and charming characters, Wargroove was absolutely a game I could get behind, especially with its price at $20. I started playing the game recently as one I’d like to finish as part of my Four in February, and right now is a great time to start playing – they just released a free co-op campaign!

An Emberwing roasting Greenfinger.
Combat animations are colorful and even skippable. (Credit: Chucklefish)

In Wargroove, each map has you leading a commander character to victory. Manuever your units around the battlefield, capture villages to earn more money each turn, and then spend that money on fresh units to bolster your army. Each soldier has strengths and weaknesses when matched up with an enemy, and you can set up unique conditions to have your soldiers land a critical hit when they attack. For example, your basic Swordsman will land a critical blow when positioned next to your Commander, or the Knight hits theirs when charging six spaces and then attacking. Your commander is “unit” in more ways than one, tanking a lot of fire and dishing out the pain every time they swing.

When released a year ago, Wargroove had a static difficulty setting, but also included individual sliders for three key components of the battle: Damage Received, Income, and Groove Charge (your commander’s special ability). Early players found the game pretty damn tough, and I felt the same way when I picked the game back up recently. However, a month after release, Chucklefish released their first major update that added shorter combat animations and five preset difficulty options: Story, Easy, Medium, Hard, and Custom). If you bump the difficulty down a notch to Medium you can still earn 3 stars per mission, but the highest rank you can attain is A, rather than S.

Wargroove's Difficulty Screen
Adjusting the difficulty is easy and great for small tweaks.

Thankfully, Wargroove’s custom sliding difficulty still honors stars based on the Medium/Hard benchmarks. So for example, once I got the hang of things again and found Medium to be a little easy, I was able to start ticking up the “Damage Received” from 80% to 90% without sacrificing the number of stars earned per mission. As the campaign progresses, I’ll likely keep bumping this up until I get back to 100%, the Hard setting.

I won’t be a completionist in any sense for this game, but I love the ability to individually slide pieces of the difficulty around to find that sweet spot: challenging, but not frustrating. The level of control offered in Wargroove is certainly a great step for a strategy game like this.

Emeric achieving victory
The best I can get at my current difficulty, I’ll take it!