Review: Matt Hazard in Blood Bath & Beyond (Xbox 360, PS3)January 17th, 2010 | Written by Filippo Dinolfo | Topic: PlayStation 3, Reviews, Xbox 360
Matt Hazard made his return to the gaming scene last year in the aptly titled Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard that came out on the home consoles. Unfortunately many people missed the point of the game entirely. Eat Lead was a game with a stereotypical video game action hero taking on stereotypical gaming clichés. It was done as both a satire and homage to those games. The bigger problem was that nobody had heard of Matt Hazard, so when Eat Lead came out, most people were confused. It didn’t help that many reviewers panned the game. As a result, Matt Hazard’s last game didn’t do all that well at retail and can now be had for less than $20.
Blood Bath & Beyond (BBB) is a downloadable title that picks up where Eat Lead leaves off. Unlike Eat Lead though, BBB is a downloadable title with a much smaller budget than Eat Lead did. What is interesting about this little change is that the characters in game are aware of the budget change and often make reference to it. BBB retains the same sort of humor that Eat Lead had done so well, and it works it into the medium they have available very well. There is a story to this game, however it is completely and intentionally incomprehensible, just like video game storylines from the 80’s and 90’s were.
When you get down to playing the game though, you won’t really be concerned with the story or the budget cutbacks. You’ll be too focused on the 2D side-scrolling shoot-em-up action. BBB plays a lot like Contra Shattered Soldier on the PS2 did. You have a mix of side scrolling shooting and platforming to do, but you also have enemies that can come at you from the background. Matt is able to shoot into the background to take them out, which you have control over. You’re also able to shoot in any direction, but you need to be standing still to do it.
You’ll play through eight levels all with different themes. There are references to many other popular games scattered throughout the game as well as some cult classic movies like Short Circuit and Back to the Future. Matt will have to take on some pretty huge bosses, most of which are completely insane, like a giant lighthouse. What you’ll notice as you play through the levels are things that just would not be done in games today. There are giant spiky ceilings that go up and down and try to squash you. Unlike today’s games that would try to make the hazards make sense in relation to the environment, this game goes back to the old design philosophy of putting hazards in just for the sake of making the player’s life as difficult as possible.
BBB’s controls work well for the most part. It won’t take you long to master Matt’s moves. What will take some time to master is the floaty jumping controls and Matt’s tendency to fall through the edges of platforms. This is most frustrating when you’re trying to jump up to a higher platform and you don’t quite get the angle right. Matt’s feet will bump the edge of the platform you’re trying to jump up to and then he’ll fall back down. If you’re trying to get to the very edge of a platform to set up a jump you’ll often find yourself falling off and swearing that you just fell through the edge. It would have been really nice if Matt acted more like an 8-bit character and was able to stand on the very edge of a platform by the heel of his boot. Beyond that control quirk, Matt Hazard in Blood Bath & Beyond is a solid action game.
Blood Bath & Beyond is a decent looking and sounding game despite its budgetary cutbacks. The visuals look very similar in style to what Bionic Commando Rearmed brought to the table. It has nicely done albeit slightly rough looking character models and background levels. The same sort of thing holds true with the audio. It’s functional and gets the point across, Matt has some snappy one-liners that he breaks out at every opportunity, but it doesn’t feel too polished. The rough around the edges presentation manages to work when paired with the game’s awareness of its smaller budget.
Matt Hazard in Blood Bath & Beyond is a good example of what a side scrolling action shooter should be. Sure it’s got a few rough edges, but overall it’s a fun game. We hope that this won’t be the last time we see Matt Hazard.