As if we needed another reason to love Xbox Game Pass. It’s already home to not only the best first party goodies that Xbox has to offer, but a bevy of exceptional, curated indies. One such indie that has been added is Bloodroots. Not only is this one of the best games added to Xbox Game Pass this year, but it’s one of the year’s best games, period.
The game’s creators at the studio Paper Cult actually have the best description for Bloodroots: A “one-hit kill die-retry murder ballet.” If you play even a fraction of the game, that description makes perfect sense, trust me. As a mysterious, grunting man known only as Mr. Wolf, you must track down the individual members of your former wild west gang which left you for dead. On your quest for revenge, you will utilize anything you can get your hands on in order to kill every single human being foolish enough to get in your way.
When I say anything, I mean just about anything. Axes, barrels, carrots, squirrels, swords, skulls, cacti, muskets, grappling hooks, fence posts, ladders, and so much more are all viable tools for dispatching your opponents. Enemies go down in a single hit, but so do you. This means you’ll have to use a combination of quick reflexes, astute observation, and thinking on your toes in order to become the most vicious maelstrom of death that the wild west has ever seen.
Luckily, learning the ropes of the game’s unique combat system is also fun as hell. No matter what weapon you use, eliminating your foes is incredibly satisfying. Whether it’s a thwump, smack, boom, or pow, Mr. Wolf has such an incredible sense of weight, speed, and movement that it automatically feels like a game you’ve been playing for years while offering a completely unique experience at the same time.
If you’re in the mood for a John Wick video game, this is simply the best thing you’ll ever play. Grabbing a rock to break it over one enemy’s head, picking up a musket to fire into two others, and jumping onto a barrel in order to trample two more before sending the barrel hurtling into a pile of explosives is a frenetic, whirlwind of fun that simply can’t be found anywhere else. In other games, pulling off something even half as cool as the stunts in Bloodroots would take hours of practice. Here, however, over the top action can be achieved by anyone who can hold a controller.
In the beginning levels, that is. As the game continues, enemies gain new advantages, weapons, and defenses that you’ll have to constantly be aware of. However, these are introduced at perfect intervals. In fact, if I were a professor of game design, Bloodroots would be one of my go-to examples for an exceptionally crafted difficulty curve. New challenges are introduced often enough to keep things fresh, but the player is never overwhelmed with too much information or gameplay twists at once. Those final levels where all you have learned comes together into enormous combat puzzles are an absolute blast to tackle.
What makes those final levels even more exciting is the game’s story. Distinct characters, an intriguing mystery, and genuinely well-written dialogue combine to make one of the most compelling video game stories I’ve seen for a while. What’s crazy is that Bloodroots breaks the rules. In the same game that has you killing people with carrots, one would not expect a dark, contemplative tone. It works, however, and the blending of both goofy action and serious developments work to great effect as the story progresses.
Both the ludicrous gameplay and gritty story are carried to even greater heights by the game’s exceptional soundtrack. Finding a fitting musical accompaniment for lightning-quick, bloody, arcadey gameplay in a western setting couldn’t have been easy, but the score created by Vibe Avenue is one that will be remembered long after you’ve put the game down. It accentuates the personalities of the game’s cast, but it also pushes the player to fight through each level just as much as the intense combat system itself.
The music can even draw attention to the beauty of Bloodroots. Again, it feels as if the game is breaking the rules. How can something so wacky, hilarious, violent, and grim have moments of beauty? Well, at just the right moments, you’ll witness some of the year’s greatest examples of video game art. Gorgeous, scenic landscapes exist between the piles of bodies you’ll create, and even some of the combat encounters themselves are a visual treat.
So if the combat is infectiously fun, the characters and story are memorable, the music is nothing short of phenomenal, and the visuals are to die for, what are you still doing here reading this review? You’re an insane person if you don’t give this game a go. Even long after completing the game, you’ll continue to enjoy playing through every level again and again because it is just that much fun. Bloodroots is a triumph and hopefully a sign of more things to come from a wickedly talented studio.
Indulge in the bloody madness that is Bloodroots on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One