The key word in the title of this game is “Reborn”. Back in the Summer of 2013 Boston Massachusetts developer Suppressive Fire Games had an idea for a full-fledged Metroidvania game titled Blood Alloy, but after a failed Kickstarter (seems to be a trend nowadays) they had to regroup and figure out what to do with their game. They knew they had something special, so they headed back to the workshop with all the feedback and initial momentum garnered by the Kickstarter campaign and it was decided that the game would be resurrected as Blood Alloy: Reborn.
The Suppressive Fire Games team which consists of former Harmonix Music Systems employees, students, and fellow independent game developers had used the last two years to focus mainly on the combat system they had in place for Blood Alloy. They wanted to perfect it and make sure the game was non-stop action from the very press of the start button. While in the process of perfecting the combat it was decided that the game would drop the Metroidvania term and replace it with “score chaser”. The team wants Blood Alloy: Reborn to introduce the gamers to the world and expose players to the combat mechanics all while gathering feedback about every aspect of gameplay they could. In turn, any revenue that’s accrued from Blood Alloy: Reborn will be funneled directly into development of the Metroidvania game they first set out to make.
When you first boot up the game, you may immediately notice the menu screen seems off. In my case my current level is 32,562 even though the last time I played I achieved level 5. Also, my high score quadrupled since the last time I played. Furthermore, when pressing up or down to skim through highlighted fields, my controller would scroll way too fast and I had to cautiously press up or down to highlight my desired option. These issues also have made their way to the equipment screen. While choosing my equipment, I wasn’t fully aware which pistols, seekers, or central cores I had set. I had hoped that once I made my way into the game itself these problems would go away and I could get to slicing up some bots.
The tutorial for Blood Alloy is pretty bare and basic. I believe this was intended as the developer wanted the gamer to learn the intricacies of the gameplay on their own. In this reviewer’s opinion, this was a good choice for this type of game. My only issue is that what the bare bones tutorial tries to teach you; it doesn’t do it too well. For instance, a part of the tutorial wants the player to get to a high point by continually slicing upwards. The onscreen prompt of the Xbox controller shows the analogue stick moving back and forth but not up. There is nothing indicating that a switch is far above you and you must get up there to trigger it. It was pretty confusing but eventually I happened to press up, instead of right or left, so I was able to travel to the next area. Once you near the end of the tutorial you are put into your first combat situation. Again, you are given the basics but one key gameplay component is left out. During the game you will be rewarded score multipliers based on how well you are doing. The tutorial goes over this but it forgets to inform the player that if you get a 10X multiplier you are able to regain health. Eventually, you will be given this information during the actual game, but it would have been nice to see this in a tutorial as the game is very quick paced and you will not have time to read any prompts on the screen.
After the tutorial, you’ll be shown an animated cut scene that seems to be missing audio and dropped into the first level. Everything looks pretty amazing if you’re into pixel art. The first area is called “Factory”. It looks like a post-apocalyptic city where buildings are in rubble and mostly everything is destroyed. All the sprite work looks amazing, as do the explosions and gun fire that are littered throughout the stage. The character you control is cyborg soldier Nia Rhys whose sprite work is reminiscent of Samus from the Metroid series. The background of the level is full of smoke and portrays a very large industrial setting. Graphically, the game looks good if you’re into 16-bit style sprite work.
The combat itself is very fluid. Fast-paced action mixed along with very smooth controls made me feel like I was playing Strider with the wall jumping precision of Super Meat Boy. You’ll be shooting and slicing up the bad guys in no time, since the combat has been tweaked and polished. You can tell the combat mechanics have been the main focus in the last two years of development. The two weapons at your disposal are your pistol and also a blade which is used to slash dash. You can take out the enemies with both your weapons in mid-air and then immediately transition to sliding across the floor while shooting homing missiles. It’s all very stylized and quick as hell. Speaking of style, the game rewards the player depending on how he/she performs. You’ll be able to multiply your score in two ways: Kill as many enemies as fast as you can to increase one multiplier and do it as stylistic as possible for the 2nd multiplier. Since the main focus of the game is point chasing you’ll want to experiment and find out which strategy works best for your score.
One thing you will notice immediately is that the music in Blood Alloy: Reborn is amazing. It blends nicely with the frantic gameplay. One of the best aspects of the game is flying through the air while blasting away robots, all while the music is thumping makes you want to just go faster. The more you play the game and increase your level, the more music tracks you will unlock. This definitely had me wanting to play more just to hear what other tunes the game featured. Sadly, as you’re near death the music gets muted, and you can barely hear any of it. This was disappointing for all the wrong reasons. I was more disappointed that I couldn’t hear the music than losing my life. I understood what they were doing here though, since the game’s pace is so quick that you don’t want to waste a second looking at your health meter.
Once you start getting comfortable with killing everything in sight, you’ll notice that more and more enemies start to respawn. At this point I wasn’t sure what to do. Should I just continue to kill everything or look for an exit? During the levels, a small arrow will point you to an enemy that is holding someone hostage (much like SEGA’s arcade classic, Shinobi). Following the arrows and destroying the foe will grant you a little bit of health, but the level will still not end. The game doesn’t inform you of what you should be doing. There really is no objective before or during the combat. I looked all over the stage for an exit that just wasn’t there, but while doing so managed to get a score of 10,000. This triggered Japanese text to fill the screen but the level still did not end. Eventually, I found a large ship but died while trying to access it. At this point the game didn’t give me the usual game over screen you’d expect after biting the dust. Instead, the game just kept going along as if it didn’t know I was dead. I couldn’t pause or escape. Nothing I did seem to let me exit. My only option was to end the game via the Windows taskbar. While starting the game over I also noticed that I was not able to start a new game or choose any options. It was just stuck. My only fix to this was to delete the my save file & start the game over again. I was able to play after this, but only up until I reached level 5 again. Once this happened I had to once again go through the same process of deleting the game and reinstalling Blood Alloy: Reborn. This is a crying shame too, as there are still two other areas titled Jungle & City that I’d be interested in seeing, but this game breaking bug is holding me back.
Unfortunately, Blood Alloy: Reborn just isn’t quite ready for a release. I did have an extremely fun time playing what I could before the bugs decide to show their heads. I kept rolling up my score and finding out new ways to increase it with each play. Hopefully Suppressive Fire Games can iron out all the bugs and tweak the menu a bit before gamer’s take the plunge into their world. In its current state, Blood Alloy: Reborn comes across more like a demo for the game they wished to make than a full retail release.
Final Verdict: 2.5 / 5
Available on: PC (reviewed), ; Publisher: Nkidu Games Inc. ; Developer: Suppressive Fire Games ; Players: 1; Released: March 2, 2016 ; Genre: Action ; MSRP: $12.99
Full disclosure: This review was written based on review code supplied by the game’s publisher, Nkidu Games.