It’s hard to really describe Mother Russia Bleeds. As a 2D side-scrolling beat ’em up, it is already a part of a genre that hasn’t change for a few decades now, but it actually manages to be more than your average brawler. It gets the core mechanics of walking, punching and kicking quite well, and it goes to great lengths to recreate the old 8-bit experience we all grew up on to provide a fresh and bloody new experience disguised as an old-school title.
Before I go on, I should probably point out that Mother Russia Bleeds is very much an adult-themed game in every aspect. At the very least, the graphic violence and enemy design are already enough to put it in 18+ territory. This is before the crude dialog, drug use and the overall nastiness that makes you want to take a shower after playing. It’s not a game for the easily-offended or those looking for a cute and light beat ’em up to teach their kids about their favorite genre growing up in the 80s.
I had a chance to put my hands on Mother Russia Bleeds during Gamescom 2015. I played cooperatively with two other players – we cleared two levels and had some fun with it, but it’s obviously not a game designed for single player. The enemy design on the first level was… interesting to say the least. It consisted of mobsters in pink suits and pig-face masks, naked women in leather thongs and pig masks, and a few soldiers with no pig masks this time. The enemy didn’t have much AI or strategy, which is on par with the genre: enemies swarm in, get beat up to a bloody pulp, the game lets you advance to the next screen. Repeat as needed. A few enemies had weapons like knives or bar stools, but overall it was pretty much the same. None of them had any special abilities, either.
The plot revolves around heavy drug use – the characters are addicted to some mystery drug which, when injected, has beneficial health effects or may induce a berserk state and improve combat performance. The drug plays a key role in gameplay as it is the only way to regain health or clear certain encounters which would be near impossible without its effects. I wish I could say more about the plot but I honestly don’t know – the hands on experience did not include any story or cutscenes.
As I said before, Mother Russia Bleeds is a classical 2D beat ’em up. You can attack, you can charge your attacks, you can jump and dash around – all pretty standard. When under the effect of the syringe you walk faster and get a special finishing move to instantly kill grabbed enemies but that’s all – bit of a letdown for me, I was really hoping for flashier moves to justify the game’s title.
What I would like to finish on is fun. Mother Russia Bleeds is really a case of a picture being worth a thousand words – it sounds fairly usual and derivative until you actually play it. It might be the nostalgia or it might be just breaking skulls with fellow reporters, but I thoroughly enjoyed my play time. I can easily picture myself and a group of friends sitting in front of the TV and passing controllers around whenever someone dies. It could also be the fact that I killed a man using a roll of toilet paper; whichever. Bottom line is that Mother Russia Bleeds is a fun game. If you don’t mind it being crass and filled to the brim with drugs and filth, and if couch co-op is your thing, give it a go. You might end up liking it, or at least realize just how much you’ve missed a good beat ’em up.