Gamer dad who loves the classics, indies, racers and the occasional shooter. Have been in the industry for well over a decade and am as enthusiastic as ever! #4theplayers
Le Cartel takes us on this uneasy, violent, psychedelic, beat ’em up adventure, and we are ready to overdose. Last August we were already sold when we played Mother Russia Bleeds at the Devolver Digital booth at GamesCom 2016. The setting, the music, the pixelated visuals and the absurd violence; just lovely in a twisted way.
Story & Gameplay
Set in an alternate Russia in 1986, Mother Russia Bleeds tells the tale of four Ruska Roma (Russian Gypsy) street brawlers. They are kidnapped and suffer forced addiction to Nekro, an experimental drug, at the hands of a shadowy criminal organization working with the Russian government. Breaking free of their captors, the four find themselves on a path for revenge, one crushed skull at a time. Fans of the beat em up genre will recognize the character types almost immediately. There is Sergei who is average at everything and makes for a good beginner character. Ivan is the heavy, and Natasha is the quickest and weakest of the fighters. Then there is Boris, who is essentially the same as Sergei with some stats switched.
Combat is relatively simple with your basic punch, kick, grapple, jump and dodge set up. The punch can be charged up to do a haymaker and grapples have different moves depending on which direction you press. You can also follow up your dodge with an attack that will knock down most enemies. This is a great way to get out when you are trapped in a corner. The twist in combat comes from your addiction to Nekro as the drug acts as your your health and how you access berserk mode.
Determining how and when to use the drug is key to survival as the game isn’t hesitant about throwing in as many enemies as possible who can and will overpower you. You replenish your precious supply via syringe from enemies who are still twitching on the floor. This can be difficult to pull off in the middle of the fight when a mob is bearing down on you, so crowd control is key to staying alive.
Audio & Visuals
Mother Russia Bleeds strongest element is its style. It is dripping on your screen, literally. The blood and gore can be measured in oceans, with enemies becoming more blooded and ragged after every attack. This was especially useful during boss fights as we knew when to go all out with berserk mode. The eight levels which make up the story are filled with personality that shines through with many little details.
The soundtrack is full of those pumping velvety synth beats that will get you right in the mood for splattering your enemies all over the place. It’s great to hear that many indie titles choose this style as it’s a perfect fit for the genre and feeds the nostalgia for my generation. Hotline Miami and Fury are some more soundtracks that you should pick up on Spotify or vinyl if you have the setup at home.
The pixelated style of the game lends itself well to the overall gritty feel of the world, with a less cartoonish take than Hotline Miami and a comparatively muted visual style. It almost feels reserved but it works well in giving the action weight and adding a sense of realism. The animation is smooth with some nice blur effects accentuating each head butt, dodge and haymaker.
Not only does it take some time to play through the story, but after completion you really need to call in some friends and play it co-op on your couch. There also is the challenge of completing it several times to give each character a try and see different endings, something Le Cartel have cleverly implemented into Mother Russia Bleeds. I’m convinced that after not playing this game for a while, you will once again have a blast in this absurd psychedelic nightmare world.