[This is the first post to use WordPress’ new Anchor thing that makes easy audio versions of posts. If it doesn’t work, please let me know, because I’m still new to this! I’m just testing this out, but I hope to make an updated version with Bleed 2 background music when I have the time!]
Wryn’s done it. She killed all the former greatest heroes of the world, blamed their deaths on her Rival, and beat him to become the number 1 hero. However, what is a hero without a villain? And so, the world is suddenly besieged by a villainous league led by Valentine, who wishes to become the world’s greatest villain. Can Wryn actually live up to the title she “earned” and stop her?
Bleed 2 is, of course, the sequel to Bleed. The original Bleed was a nice and punchy action-platformer, though for this game, the platformer aspect feels very de-emphasized. Instead, there is a much stronger focus on boss encounters and considering that they were the strongest aspect of the original Bleed, it’s a welcome change in direction.
The biggest mechanic change Bleed 2 introduces is a bigger focus on bullet deflection. In the first game, deflecting bullets was kind of a niche skill since you need to switch to the katana to do so – and why bother switching to the katana when the default dual pistols and the gun that powers up the better your style is can do everything? However, bullet reflection is a pretty useful thing to have, which is emphasized by the fact that the default weapon for Wryn is dual-wielding a pistol and a katana, allowing her to easily slash away threats without compromising on her ranged power. Anything colored purple can be deflected or cancelled out, and given how Bleed 2 seems to be much more bullet helly (especially on harder difficulties), it’s a skill that you really have to rely on (besides the time slowdown, of course).
There are seven stages in the game, taking you on Wryn’s journey to defeat Valentine and the Rival’s journey to… redemption? He’s kinda easily forgiven, but also, it extremely reads as a “past anime villain teams up with protagonist and they’re friends now” type thing, so it’s cool, actually. In terms of story, I actually think the fight with Valentine is pretty cool because it’s presented as a 1-on-1 death match in front of a live audience, which is always hype.
You can either play these stages through the story mode or through the arcade mode, where it challenges you to go through all the levels in one go on one life. While the bosses take the stage (especially for the last two levels, which are just boss fights), the levels themselves are fun to zip around with a lot of different setpieces to make each one feel fresh. I especially like the Warship for having this anti-gravity segment that lets you make the most of the game’s air dash and zoom around.
Bosses are all fun and varied. You got a basic fight against an advanced tank. You got a fight against a truck that you’re forced to ride on top of that will slam itself against the tunnel ceiling while firing a constant barrage at you. You got a boss that shoots missiles that you have to use as platforms that also explodes on top of the normal bullet spam he shoots. You got remixed versions of a lot the bosses from the first game that makes them faster and gives them new tricks, so really, Bleed 2 improves on the first in every way. And there’s not just one, but TWO rival battles, and rival battles are always my shit.
Besides the challenge of getting faster times or better scores, Bleed 2 has some more playable stuff with its extra modes. The Challenge mode where you can fight any boss in any configuration returns and it’s joined by an all new Endless mode. In Endless mode, you go through randomly generated levels that ends with a random boss. You only have one life, but like arcade mode, you get health pick-ups at the start of each level. I actually think this mode is kinda fun, especially for playing around with the other characters who aren’t as optimal as Wryn in the main modes.
So speaking of which, there’s unlockable characters alongside the assortment of weapons you can equip Wryn and The Rival with (which… are still as situational as they were in the first game). The Rival is kinda the same as Wryn but he reflects yellow attacks instead, though the other characters have more noteworthy differences.
The Clawed Girl, the protagonist of They Bleed Pixels, shows up as the game’s melee option. I never played that, so I guess I’m a fake indie gamer. Her dash is initially not as good as Wryn’s or the Rival’s and as a melee character, the lack of range could be a hinderance; however, to make up for the lack of range, she can sacrifice energy to heal herself. Her energy goes not fill up over time, but instead only fills up when dealing damage or reflecting projectiles – and unlike those other two characters, she can deflect them all. Additionally, when she does that, her air dash is replenished, which can effectively turn her into a fast character if you combo a bunch of hits and reflections with her dashes.
White is weak as shit… if you’re bad at the game. White is a challenge character in that his strength increases based on your style ranking, so let’s talk about ranking. Your style increases if you can sustain attacks without getting hit, do risky melee attacks, or use the taunt button after every few kills. Yes, there’s a built-in button for flexing. By S rank, White’s gun can shred through enemies. The initial blast of White’s gun also cancels bullets, which heals him, balancing out his ability of sacrificing HP to do super dashes. …Though you can unlock White’s gun independent from him for Wryn and the Rival to use, so if you just care about the gun part, just get that gun.
Valentine’s super slow, so she’ll hardly see use in the speedrunning scene, but she’s still kinda fun. She floats around by default, allowing her to leisurely rampage through levels – though she won’t be dashing around them. She has a shield that passively absorbs bullets and you can alternate what colors she can absorb. Like the Clawed Girl, she does not regenerate energy normally and instead gains it through absorption. Valentine’s clearly prioritized power over speed, because her dash is replaced by a huge laser attack that just eviscerates enemies that costs a huge chunk of energy. She’s powerful, but I honestly don’t recommend using her on the harder difficulties. Besides her slow speed, she can’t deflect attacks and she can’t slow down time like the other characters, and given how essential those skills wind up being, she’ll wind up being deadweight.
And finally, we have the GOAT, the Control Devil, the people’s hero: Plucky, the newscaster in the between level segments in story mode. Plucky is a weird character in that he moves like a normal platformer character with a plain double jump – no dashing or flying shenanigans here. He attacks like that guy from Inuyashiki, which is doing finger guns and shooting people with invisible bullets (or sometimes deadly explosives). Bang, bang, bang, dadadadadadadada…. His taunt is turned into a unique ability that lets him reflect any bullet, though it takes a second to go off, so it requires timing to use. Honestly? I think he looks inefficient for higher level play, but he’s goofy fun, especially since he makes Banjo-Kazooie noises while you’re shooting.
In terms of aesthetics, I feel that Bleed 2 has a stronger presentation. It has a much cleaner look to it, while putting the effort to put more details to make the world more lively. Like in the first stage, it does a good job at conveying the crisis by putting unnecessary background NPCs freaking out while the ominous background warship fires on the city. As for the soundtrack, it switches out the chiptune stylings of the first game (mostly made by Ian Campbell) for a soundtrack created by Jukio Kallio, who’s most known for his work on Nuclear Throne, Minit and Fall Guys. His soundtrack leans toward using a lot of synths and guitars to make the game feel more intense and I do like what he brings to the table. And like, the final boss theme is a reprise of the main menu theme – you can never go wrong with that.
Bleed 2 is a fun time, especially if you want to try playing the game fast. I tried doing some individual level speedruns for fun (because man, there’s no way I’m winning a normal arcade run), and I think it’s something worth dabbling in. The speedrun community for the game is small, but passionate. I’d actually like to give a shout out to the mod Jakuts for taking a look at my run attempts and sending me resources if I ever want to get more serious with it.
So yeah, Bleed 2! It’s a dang good action game that’s an excellent follow-up to its predecessor. If you’re into action games, this is one to check out.