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Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Humble Games
Developer: Exit 73
Release Date: June 18, 2024


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PC Review - '#Blud'

by Cody Medellin on June 19, 2024 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

#BLUD is a delightfully zany dungeon crawler that blends the line between video game and cartoon.

No matter the medium, teenagers fighting against the supernatural are a perfect combo. It is a concept that has worked with multiple generations and different genres, whether it's a thrilling adventure, lingering frights, or even laughs. #Blud is just the latest game to take this concept and put it into game form. Unlike some of its predecessors, it works quite well in several different areas.

You play the role of Becky Brewster, who moved to the town of Carpentersville at the beginning of the summer due to her dad's job. While she's become friends with her next-door neighbor, she still has to face the trials of being a freshman at a brand-new high school. That doesn't seem like a big deal when she discovers that the town is home to an ancient vampire that has released his minions and is planning on taking over the world. Luckily for her, she also discovers that she's part of a long line of vampire hunters and it now falls on her to use her newfound skills to clean up the mess.

The story feels like a pretty good riff of the TV version of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" that's been both modernized and aged down a bit. It has a great deal of action to lean on, and it isn't afraid of showing off the right amount of gore, but it also leans away from the typical teen angst that would accompany something like this. The story also doesn't produce a teenage antagonist, which is pretty fresh for a story like this where you always come to expect one present to act as the hero's foil. The game replaces teen drama with witty dialogue that doesn't sound out of place but also doesn't try to fill every sentence with slang or pop culture references. It's genuinely humorous stuff and will give you a reason to seek out the dialogue to see what'll make you laugh next.

Sitting alongside the solid writing are the graphics, which immediately grab your attention. Much like Cuphead or Pizza Tower, #Blud mimics cartoons hard enough that it could fool anyone into thinking that you're watching a TV show — at least until they see the game running at 60fps or higher. The graphics specifically aim for a kinetic style that falls in line with shows from the Cartoon Network's Cartoon Cartoon era, like "Dexter's Lab" or "Johnny Bravo" or, for those more in tune with something more modern, Nickelodeon's "The Loud House." Eyes are large, and some things get exaggerated for comic effect, especially when you land a killing blow and see spiked boots appear on your feet that are twice your size or rats that immediately transform into a puddle of blood and a skull when they die. This is even more apparent during dialogue sequences, where the characters are relatively huge and their emotions are over the top, such as comically large tears when crying or curling into the fetal position when embarrassed. The only knock against the graphics is that the character sizes and animations during the dialogue sequences can sometimes cover up some of the content in the text box.

That last bit is somewhat important, since #Blud features no voices. There's general gibberish akin to what you'd hear in a cartoon when someone is talking through a phone and serves its basic purpose when it comes to conveying emotion. It's novel, and at least some of the characters have different pitches to their gibberish to stop the game from sounding monotonous. The music does a good job of conveying the needed spooky vibe, while the sound effects perform the same kind of job while also adding in typical goofy cartoon sounds for good measure.

Steam Deck owners will find that the game works perfectly for the device despite only having a "Playable" rating. On initial boot, the game runs at the device's native 1280x800, but just like with ultrawide monitors, the game is stretched until you go into the settings and get the correct 1280x720 resolution. Except for loading screens, the game runs at a solid 60fps at all times, and the color choices look great on the small screen. Steam Deck LCD owners will get an average of a little over five hours of playtime from a full charge, but oddly, the game seems to use up more power in menus versus actual gameplay. With cloud save support available, there are really no complaints for those who love switching between machines.

The game is presented from a top-down perspective akin to a classic title from The Legend of Zelda series, a vibe that you get more of when you can start throwing bombs and pencils instead of stakes. The game borrows one element from the later titles in the series, and that's a dodge roll, which is useful when you are crowded by foes. You get a field hockey stick instead of a sword, and it later becomes a multi-functional tool. You can turn it into an umbrella shield, a shovel, and even a grappling hook. The tools are useful in traversal and in fighting enemies; you can use the grappling hook to cross chasms, and you can use the shovel to dig up enemies. Speaking of which, the enemies run the gamut from simple fodder to foes that require strategies, such as stunning them with a shield or waiting for them to attack until they're tired. Boss fights are similarly smart and enjoyable, with a few of them breaking from convention to change up the gameplay. It's nothing new in terms of battle mechanics, but the solid execution is always welcome.

The title is somewhat open world in nature, but it does feature several different biomes separated by distinct pathways. Each place is fairly sizable and holds a decent number of secrets involving hidden collectibles and crystal-related puzzles if you're willing to look for them. They're fun to go through, but you have to deal with respawning monsters when revisiting a space after some time. For those who want to traverse the town quicker, there is a sewer system for fast-travel, but you have to reach the place you want first, like the hospital or the Perch headquarters, find the manhole, and then fight your way to the exit to unlock that route for fast travel. It's helpful when you want to avoid the same enemy groups after multiple encounters.

#Blud runs about 10 hours for the main quest, but it never feels that long due to the presence of title cards that make the quest feel episodic and make the game feel shorter than it is. There are plenty of side-quests to take on, such as finding all of the power-ups for your hockey stick, hanging posters at certain spots in town, and destroying infected trees. Other side-quests are much longer, such as finding tokens for a collectible game, but one of the more enjoyable ones is taking selfies all over town. Taking selfies for monsters ends up being helpful for finding strategies to defeat them or other tidbits, but you'll end up taking selfies with regular people, too. This is where the bulk of the humor comes from, and it is the perfect excuse to snap every picture to see the resulting quips.

Despite all of that, there are some noticeable issues. In some cases, animations take precedence over control, and that can lead to situations where you'll get hurt through no fault of your own. Try taking a selfie of a monster, and there's a good chance that you'll get hit because the enemies don't pause, forcing you to try the action again and hope the animation finishes and moves to the actual picture before you get hit again. The same thing occurs when opening chests or picking up items like pencils, which force you to be selective in refilling your weapon stash. There are also issues targeting which enemies or people to involve in a selfie, so you might be standing next to one person but get the person above them in the picture instead.

Another issue you'll run into is the fact that you can't really complete the game at 100% if you aren't diligent about finishing side-quests as soon as you get them. The game gives you the opportunity before the final boss fight to take care of side-quests, but depending on what you have left to do, you'll either find that some characters aren't in their expected spots or that some areas will be rendered inaccessible. It isn't necessarily a game-breaking thing, but it is something to be aware of if you're a completionist or achievement hunter, especially since you can only have one save state per instance.

#Blud is a delightful adventure game that oozes charm. The story is good, and it's helped by the absolutely hilarious dialogue. The gameplay is excellent, and the overall gameplay length is just right, even with the various side-quests. Despite the aforementioned issues, the title is highly recommended for anyone who's looking for a solid, under-the-radar title.

Score: 8.0/10

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