It’s not often that a beat ‘em up game can pay homage to the classics, have an intriguing premise and also be able to stand on its own as a unique title. Mother Russia Bleeds, in all of its bloody glory, seems to walk this line with ease.

Set in an alternate, dystopian 1980’s U.S.S.R, Mother Russia Bleeds sees you imprisoned and under the influence of “Nekro”, a drug distributed by the Russian mafia, who also happen to be working with the government. Unlike many brawler-type games, Mother Russia Bleeds puts a lot of work into the story and – although the dialogue itself leaves much to be desired – it manages creates a much more immersive experience than other titles in the genre.Mother-Russia-Bleeds-1Part of why the story is so successful is because it’s an integral part of the gameplay. Not only are you trying to uncover the secret behind Nekro and how far the mafia’s influence reaches through the story, but also during gameplay, as you constantly have to inject yourself with more of the drug in order to stay alive. Nekro can be harvested from the twitching bodies of some of enemies you kill, and as well as replenishing health, it can also be used to go into berserk mode, which will see your strength and speed boosted for a short period of time

The game deals with some mature themes, and apart from the obvious drug usage, you’ll also venture into a pretty disturbing BDSM club among other things. It is this disturbingly over the top violence and gore that makes Mother Russia Bleeds so enjoyable. The game can get away with churning out violent deaths and bucket loads of blood thanks to its pixel art style. Highly influenced by old school games, the graphics fit in well with the 80’s storyline, and the lack of realism makes it easy to sit back and enjoy the carnage. The soundtrack plays like a cross between an 80’s sci-fi film and a Combichrist album, which – surprisingly enough – really lends itself to the dystopian nature of the game.

As with most good beat ‘em ups, the game allows for local co-op of up to four players. Alternatively, you also have the option to play along with up to three bots in order to make gameplay a little easier. With options for easy, normal and hardcore difficulties, as well as a story and arena mode, the game offers up about 6 hours of gameplay. But don’t be fooled – even with the game on easy, Mother Russia Bleeds takes no prisoners. The game’s difficulty increases quickly, and it’s almost guaranteed that you will face a lot of deaths in boss fights, especially if you’re playing solo.Mother-Russia-Bleeds-2

A problem I’ve often encountered with brawler games is that your hits don’t always register, as you are either too far up or down on the screen. This problem is especially prominent in Mother Russia Bleeds, as it is extremely difficult to see whether or not you are lined up with your enemies. On top of this, most enemies don’t just hit you. They’ll knock you down and gouge away at your health until you manage to get off the ground (often just to be knocked back down again seconds later). It’s already a difficult game; so being unable to land your blows when you’re swamped by a horde of enemies gets frustrating.

There is also a severe lack of variety in gameplay. Whilst you are able to use a multitude of weapons in the game, the lack of real combo moves mean that you’re basically stuck with the same old repetitive grab, throw, punch, kick options throughout the entire game. Unfortunately, the fact that the rest of the gameplay is smooth and responsive doesn’t entirely make up for these shortcomings.

CONCLUSION
Mother Russia Bleeds produces an end result similar to that of a B-grade grindhouse film. It’s so wrong, that it’s right. If you don’t watch grindhouse movies, just think excessive gore and punching of enemies until they turn into red paste and you’’ll have a good idea of what the game is all about. From its offensive themes to its gratuitous ultra-violence, it’s obvious that this game is going to be an absolute hit or miss for most people.

Overall, the game is far from perfect, but if you take it at face value as a standard beat ‘em up game, it will surprise you with its deep story and unique Nekro system. If you’re looking to kill some time, pop some skulls and have a spare $20 AUD, I’d definitely recommend giving it a playthrough.

The PC version of this game was primarily tested for this review.

THE VERDICT
Unique storyline
Gratuitous ultra-violence
Old school pixel art style
Offers local multiplayer
Repetitive gameplay
Hits don’t always register
8