While 2D platformers and shoot-‘em-ups tend to be the indie bread-and-butter on Nintendo Switch, Bleed 2 combines these genres in a way that feels fresh and unique. Despite its main story feeling criminally short and leaving something to be desired, Bleed 2 is a fun, action-packed, arcade-style platformer that makes up for its shortcomings with a bevy of different gameplay modes and mechanics that keep me revisiting Wryn’s adventures.
On its face, Bleed 2 appears to be yet another 2D platformer with shoot-‘em-up elements. Dive deeper, however, and you’ll find that Bleed 2 is far more punishing and complex a game than it would appear. The game starts out easily enough, with enemies lightly peppered along large and open platforms; toward the end of the game’s seven levels, however, you’ll notice greater numbers of enemies occupying smaller and more compact spaces, so quick thinking and use of Wryn’s special abilities become more important than ever.
In addition to an endless supply of bullets and a katana that can bounce certain projectiles back on enemies, Wryn has two special abilities: a quadruple jump or dash that can be used to evade obstacles or projectiles, and the ability to slow time for a short period. The jump or dash mechanic makes it a breeze to fly through each stage, but it also comes in extremely handy when dodging enemies or projectiles, particularly during the game’s frequent mid-level boss encounters. Wryn’s slow time ability makes navigating between numerous projectiles manageable, but you’ll have to manage this ability well, as the ability’s gauge depletes quickly. It refills just as fast, but only being able to slow down time in short bursts makes it so that the player can’t abuse the ability. I found myself not taking the fullest advantage of the slow time ability, as I often was able to bob and weave through most projectiles without incident. However, there are times where the ability is all but integral to defeating certain enemies.
Bleed 2 can be on the difficult side, even on the easier difficulty levels, and some boss battles can be particularly grueling. I never felt like any of my deaths were due to a cheap enemy tactic or a flaw in the game’s design; rather, each death was my fault, and I learned from each one and became more proficient after each respawn.
In terms of controls, Bleed 2 just feels good. While the controls do take some time to master, before long, you’ll be dashing and spraying enemies with bullets in full effect. The act of jumping and dashing through narrow gaps between projectiles feels smooth and responsive, and slowing down time just enough to dash through a group of projectiles and fill your opponent with lead are some of the most gratifying moments Bleed 2 has to offer.
Presentation-wise, Bleed 2 shines. A gorgeous pixel art style accompanied by retro-themed music gives the game a very arcade-y feel. Each of the game’s seven levels is broken up by some light story content that explains why Wryn is running and gunning, but it’s mostly inconsequential. Gameplay is the main focus of Bleed 2, and for good reason. I never found myself caring why Wryn was blasting ninja cats and robots with laser canons, but the narrative does serve as a nice and simple way to tie the game together.
The main issue with Bleed 2 isn’t with the gameplay, but that the game’s story mode felt unconscionably short; it took me about an hour total to get through Bleed 2’s main story on normal difficulty. That may not sound surprising given the original Bleed has the same number of levels, and the shorter play time does factor into the game’s arcade-y feel. That said, ramping up the difficulty does add some extra play time, but that’s only because enemy placement differs between difficulty levels. All that said, Bleed 2 does offer other game modes, including an arcade mode where you’re given a single life to complete the entire game, a challenge mode where you can fight up to three of the game’s bosses simultaneously, and an endless mode where you play through a series of randomly generated levels. Additionally, all modes are playable in two-player co-op. All that, along with the fact that you can unlock new weapons and playable characters after completing the main story, does give the game quite a bit of replayability, but the fact that I’d already seen every enemy and boss type the game has to offer within an hour left me wanting more.
Ultimately, Bleed 2 is a great 2D action platformer that uses deliberately nuanced controls and abilities that give the player complete control. Though the main story feels short-lived, Bleed 2 makes up for it by boasting stellar gameplay, a multitude of game modes, and unlockable content that keeps the game feeling fresh with each playthrough.
Disclaimer: A review code for Bleed 2 was provided by the game’s publisher.