Bleed is a vibrant, pixel art 2D run and gun platformer that comes from one man team Ian Campbell/ Bootdisk Revolution. For our spunky protagonist Wryn, winning the coveted title of the best hero in video games (trademark) is her one and only objective, and a hand written checklist of competitors are all that stand in her way in order to prove what a true hero looks like. This Scott Pilgrim-esque setup is split into a handful of distinct, decently designed stages, each consisting of a mix of platforming, gunplay and a mini boss before it's time to take down one of Wryn's seven rivals.
At the beginning of each stage, you have the choice of four difficulty settings, and there's a witty mission briefing that sets up the impending duel. As well as the standard (and upgradable) health, the other items on the HUD are integral to your progress and, if used properly, will earn you valuable points. Holding 'ZL' will deplete your orange meter and slow down time, enabling you to take out multiple enemies in a single, arcing move, dodge a rapidly incoming attack or steal precious seconds in order to evade oncoming obstacles.
In addition, there's an ever changing alphabetical ranking system, so if you want that elusive S rank you'll need to show ability to string together kills in a short time frame as well as avoiding damage. The controls will initially take a bit of getting used to, especially at the paced required to advance on the more challenging settings. Using the left stick to move and pushing the right in any direction will automatically shoot your weapon of choice, and load outs can be selected before a stage and switched on fly with 'R'. Using movement and weapons in tandem is incredibly important during the course of the game. 'ZR' is your jump, and it's possible to combine three jumps with directional dashes to replicate some Smash Bros-esque acrobatics, snatching survival from a gap of demise. There's an interesting degree of verticality in some stages, a nice homage to a Mission: Impossible set-piece and even a venture into a living creature.
What the environments and enemies lack in detail, they try to make up for in variety. Whether biological or mechanical, hazards will always keep you on your toes and in the air. Although the overall presentation could do with more polish in some areas, one thing Bleed does do is nail the thrill that comes with fluidly refining a set of moves that require skill, dexterity and speed. It is incredibly satisfying to link jumping, dashing, dodging and shooting in the blink of an eye, but seeing the whole sequence play out in slow motion is even more accomplished.
From the beginning to it's premature end, Bleed is constantly and consistently lighthearted and fun, complementing the intense action well. There's plenty of self aware banter, especially after a failed attempt, and there are plenty of humorous exchanges between Wryn and her septet of wacky competitors. You'll be greeted with a stats screen upon each successful run, breaking down your time, style and number of deaths, Your score is then converted into points that can be carried over between levels, and you can shop for different weapons that have various balance between range, damage and firing speed. More exotic and expensive upgrades include mines and a laser sword, but there's no ammo management to worry about.
Overall, Bleed does a great job of providing a balance between brains and brawn, finesse and firepower. Initially jarring to get to grips with, practice and persistence will reap reward. Being able to nimbly navigate platforms as well as take out groups of enemies darting around the screen without as much as a scratch is both a mountain to climb and a gratifying sight to behold. There are new characters to unlock and even an arcade/challenge mode for high score hunters determined to achieve that perfect run. Bleed might be light on content and rough around the edges, but when the gameplay is this tight - and there are this many neat ideas and varied, cool set-pieces - but it's still a sassy, funny ride that thoroughly respects your time and deserves your attention.