Thursday, November 15

Review: Mother Russia Bleeds [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Though beat-em-ups have continued to survive and even thrive a bit on the Switch it’s a genre that hasn’t generally evolved much over time. Punch, kick, jump, grapple, pick up objects to hit people with, and then grab the random food or pack to heal up. You can count on a fair amount of repetition but new enemies will tend to be introduced as you go, with new patterns, and then you’ll face off against tough bosses where you’ll need to understand their attack patterns to survive. Mother Russia Bleeds adheres to many of these staples, and throws in some bloody violence, vulgarity, and creative sequences to boot, but what sets it apart are your characters’ syringes that not only represent your means of healing but also of temporarily going into overdrive.

Starting out as a bare-knuckled brawler in a rundown camp in an alternative 80s Russia you’ll quickly get pulled into a fight with great scope and challenges. There’s a plot on the part of the government to use a drug called Nekkro to help control the masses, keeping them addicted and under their control. As you fight with a variety of street thugs, junkies, government troops of various kinds, dogs, and more when you see them convulsing on the ground that’s your cue to try to extract some from their body before they bleed out. Your control of your supply of Nekkro becomes a serious strategic component to consider at almost all times. Do you need to heal? Should you boost up to get through a fight? Do you risk getting hit in order to immediately try to extract some from a body? Should you pull back from smashing the heads of your enemies since doing so will guarantee you’ll have no chance of getting Nekkro from them?

You’ll need to decide quickly as your enemies and the general scenarios you’ll encounter in the game are relentless. Even on Easy the first time through some of these sequences you’ll be hard-pressed to survive as you try to figure out the strategy you’ll need to deal with superior forces and enemies with some lethal weapons. Of course playing with some friends can help things greatly, if nothing else spreading out who is being targeted but when your teammates fall it then makes you start to consider whether you should use your last drop of Nekkro to revive them or try to gut it out on your own.

Aside from the level of mature content and often excessive violence in Mother Russia Bleeds its biggest problem is likely the often uneven nature of its challenge. There are spots in the game that can be brutal to get through and at times it can feel like it’s bordering on cheap. Straight-up fighting tends to be pretty fair, but some of the unexpected situations you find yourself in can feel pretty random when it comes to what you need to do to survive. With no discernable pattern in some cases to what’s coming at you your best bet is to simply keep moving and try your best to survive. Another smaller frustration is that while boss enemies will often take visible damage, consistent with all enemies, no gauge to know how far you still need to go before they’ll go down can be aggravating since it makes planning your best options for Nekkro use difficult. I suppose that’s by design but the game’s already plenty tough without piling more on.

All in all I’d say that Mother Russia Bleeds is likely a game best left to genre fans due to its level of violence and difficulty. In general just about anything else will be a milder experience, or at least not as excessive. That said, if you’re someone who loves a tough beat-em-up experience I’d say this is pretty well a must-buy for doing the genre proud with challenging gameplay and quite a number of surprises along the way. If you’ve been bemoaning the same old same old in brawlers get ready for a kick in the teeth with Mother Russia Bleeds, it’s hardly ordinary.

Score: 8

  • Solid and violent beat-em-up goodness
  • Nekkro use plays a major strategic role in the game on a nearly-constant basis
  • Multiple scenarios that present new and unexpected challenges beyond basic brawling

  • The level of mature content beyond just its violence may be a bit much for some gamers
  • Even on Easy the game is no cakewalk and its challenge can spike wildly in places