Blood Alloy: Reborn Review Impressions

March 3, 2016 by James Murff

Communication and control issues slash a piece of the fun right out of Blood Alloy.

An excellent arcade game is three things: simple, easy to control, and exciting. Even the most difficult arcade games, like DoDonPachi, follow this rigid formula. If your game is too complicated, then learning it becomes a chore. If your game has rough controls, players will struggle more with them than with the game's mechanics. And if your game isn't exciting it won't hold people's attention.

Blood Alloy: Reborn wants to be an excellent arcade game, and certainly has the presentation of one, but comes up short precisely because it doesn't stick to these three maxims.

When you start a level in Blood Alloy: Reborn, you are thrown into an open arena where roving gangs of robots are constantly chasing you down. You have an array of tools available to you - a gun that can charge up, a sword that allows you to dash, a boost that attaches you to surfaces, and a simple dodge - and your goal is to get a high score while saving people trapped by the marauding bots.

The problems begin when you try to reconcile all these different mechanics with the controls. Despite offering both keyboard and controller support, Blood Alloy's controls are abysmal no matter the setup. Keyboard offers decent shooting control, but moving around and using your sword is unwieldy. Conversely, the controller is fine for moving around, but terrible for shooting. Both make dodging annoyingly difficult.

However, the controls aren't the worst part of Blood Alloy: Reborn. The camera is. Whenever you move around the level, the screen doesn't actually stay centered on you. Rather, you move to the edge of the screen, and then it moves along with you without recentering. You can never see where you are going, and it's annoyingly common to simply run into enemies you couldn't see.

When you boost the camera is actually perfect - zoomed out so you can see the whole field, relatively centered compared to the close-up camera - but boosting is finicky and awkward, as you can get caught on edges or accidentally disconnect from a surface. Blood Alloy: Reborn also has issues with communication. It's difficult to tell when you are taking damage, the meters at the top right go unexplained, and your goal is never really stated to you. This wouldn't be a problem if Blood Alloy: Reborn's core mechanics were simpler and more refined, but instead you must try to figure out what to do while fighting with the controls.

At least the visuals are pleasing. Blood Alloy: Reborn ‘s pixel art style lends itself well to the sort of game it wants to be, and there are a lot of fine details that show off the artists’ prowess. For example, one of the enemies you can fight has a flailing electrical wire that arcs electricity off of a frayed end as it wiggles around. Unfortunately, the high quality of the art only seems to draw attention to how poorly conceived the rest of the game is.

Blood Alloy: Reborn is not a good game, but it is a fantastic example of how feature creep can ruin an otherwise excellent idea. Each individual mechanic looks good on the surface, but they interact poorly when you combine them all into a single game. If Blood Alloy: Reborn had focused solely on shooting or slashing, and gave more attention to the tenets that can make or break an arcade game, it would stand alongside some of the best action games on PC. But it doesn't have this focus, and the result is a thoroughly miserable experience.