LOOKING FOR A GAME THAT WILL CRAMP YOUR HANDS, MELT YOUR FACE, AND KEEP YOU COMING BACK FOR MORE?
Then Blood Alloy: Reborn is the game for you. This arcade style score-chasing action platformer delivers nonstop high speed combat fit to satisfy even the most die-hard gamer’s need for carnage. Well, “carnage” may not be the best word here. It implies flesh, but everything in Blood Alloy: Reborn is mechanical, robotic. Even the player character, Nia Rhys, is a cyborg, though a quick look at her character design reveals her to be far more machine than organism. This isn’t just for the sake of the game’s sleek cyberpunk aesthetic. Each of Nia’s moves capitalizes on her robotic body, making for a thoroughly superhuman experience. This is both the greatest joy and frustration of playing Blood Alloy: Reborn. Nia’s hyper speed and agility are as delightful to experiment with as they are difficult to master.
Nia’s basic move set is pretty straightforward. You can run, jump, dodge, do a melee attack with a sword, and do a ranged attack with a gun that can be charged up Mega Man style for additional range and damage. Things start to get interesting when you throw the “BLade Assisted Surface Traversal (BLAST)” system into the mix. This feature allows Nia to slide at breakneck speeds over floors, up walls, and across ceilings. It also allows her to release homing missiles and slash her way through the air with the help of her jetpack and sword. While the energy resource that powers these moves is limited, it refills rapidly when not being used. As such, a skilled player can attack and move without ceasing, all while remaining airborne, if desired.
But not only is it possible to keep Nia continuously zipping around the stage, firing off plasma beams and shock waves from her sword, it’s required to stay alive. Blood Alloy: Reborn doesn’t pull any punches—its enemies are numerous, relentless, and together make standing still not only prohibitive but lethal. This makes for one steep learning curve, and chances are your first run will be over in about a minute (if that). This is by design, however, and Blood Alloy: Reborn rewards the dedicated player who keeps at it, practicing and improving.
AND BELIEVE ME, THERE’S PLENTY TO KEEP COMING BACK FOR.
Each run offers the possibility of topping the charts with a new high score, but even low scoring runs earn you points toward leveling up. Each new level unlocks an equipment upgrade, a new stage, or a bumping new track of the spectacular synthwave soundtrack. These combine to keep Blood Alloy: Reborn feeling fresh and interesting. In particular, the new equipment, coupled with your steadily increasing skill, add to a sense of progression and accomplishment as you inch your score higher and higher. And damn does it feel good when you make it to the first boss!
All of this isn’t to say that Blood Alloy: Reborn doesn’t have its flaws, however (though honestly there really aren’t that many to mention). My biggest gripe is with the damage feedback system. Enemy units don’t have health bars, so there’s no way to assess whether or not you’ve already dealt damage to a particular unit and, if you have, how much damage it’s taken. Aside from the obvious drawback of not knowing how close units are to dying, this also makes it difficult to gauge how much damage each attack does and which attacks are best suited for use against each enemy type. This is frustrating enough when battling regular enemy units, but I found it particularly so when going up against the first boss. A health bar serves as a crucial barometer for how well a boss battle is going. Shooting and slashing away without one left me feeling more than a bit uncertain.
When it comes to monitoring your own health, things aren’t much better. Though Nia’s health bar is prominently displayed at the upper-left corner of the screen, it’s hard to keep track of when she takes damage. This is because most attacks against Nia do not trigger anything more than a single flicker of her sprite. Her health bar doesn’t flash unless she’s taken a massive amount of damage in one blow, and it’s not until her health drops below about 20% that the game alerts you to the danger by muffling the background music and displaying a red message telling you how to recover health. Again, there is the obvious drawback of not knowing how close you are to death until it’s nearly too late, but this also makes it difficult to strategize when your health is high since it’s not always clear which actions are safe to take.
My only other complaint—and I know this is going to sound cheesy—is that there isn’t more content. As much as I love all this high octane combat, I’m a story guy, and I’m desperate to know more about Nia Rhys and the futuristic conflict she and her allies are engaged in. Suppressive Fire Games had originally intended Blood Alloy to be a fully-fledged Metroidvania type platformer, but the studio was forced to truncate it after their Kickstarter campaign failed to provide sufficient funding. The studio has pledged, however, to devote all revenue from Blood Alloy: Reborn to finishing development of the full game. As someone who has quickly become obsessed with this gorgeously animated 2D scifi world, I’m crossing my fingers that Suppressive Fire Games makes a lot of money with this gem that they’ve produced.