Imagine the lovechild of ‘Contra’ and ‘Duke Nukem 3D,’ and the fruit of your gaming loins be ‘Matt Hazard: Blood Bath and Beyond.’ Ripe with side scrolling sarcasm and retro gaming homage, the second coming of Matt Hazard blasts his way onto the Playstation Network with more up, up, down, down, left right, left right, madness than one could shake $15 at.
Chalk it up the explosion in Generation X and Y gamers, but few things seem to be as chic these days as retro gaming references. Well, that and Uggz boots. Just when I thought it was safe to go back into water – bam! – here comes a revisit to ‘Frogger’ staring at me right in the bullfrog lungs. The Uggz? No longer relevant to this review.
Enter ‘Matt Hazard: Blood, Bath and Beyond,’ the spiritual sequel to ‘Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard.’ This time around, however, our favorite generic ass kicker abandons 3D for more authentic 2D roots, likewise its voice acting prowess from the first go round for more happenstance vocals.
To imagine ‘Blood, Bath and Beyond’ is simply to upgrade ‘Contra’ and give it a bit more attitude. Same disgustingly hard difficulty (even on its normal setting), likewise annoyances (impossible contact with enemies situated on an angle, inconceivable amounts of simultaneous enemy fire, boss battles to nowhere costing oodles of lives). Be prepared for a whole lot of button pounding, last second projectile dodging, and oodles of swearing at the apparent cheat that is enemy AI.
Still, ‘Matt Hazard’ is not without his moments of fun. The subtle references to gaming of not so yesteryear (i.e. ‘Super Mario Bros.’ or ‘Bioshock’-themed level portions) generated a smirk upon first recognition. Ditto the parody of gaming plots and allusions to the usual suspects of mainstream console-based experience.
While clever at times, this reviewer found ‘Matt Hazard’ simply trying too hard in every facet of the game. The humor – often redundant - seemed a by-product of game designers thinking themselves cleverer than they actually were. Continued references to failed sales of the previous Matt Hazard title emerged as insider jokes that failed to translate. Ditto for the Game’s parody of action title synth pop. Sadly, we’re laughing AT you, guys.
Most importantly, these failed attempts unfortunately creeped into to game play. Shifts from side scrolling to isometric 3D shooting were a continuous disaster. Convoluted controls and a penchant to get hit by any/every projectile when shifting between dimensions grew old fast. Yes, the game looks fairly good (for what it is), but dying was too easy and often…especially for levels that went on seemingly forever.
No savior was to be found. Powerups – while constant (ala’ ‘Contra’) were ho-hum and rarely helpful. Combined with limited continues (on anything but the easiest setting), and I too was ready to kick Matt Hazard’s ass.
I did not get a chance to try offline coop mode, a feature that might have leveled the playing the field a bit. Still, unless the buddy in waiting is a diehard ‘Contra’-phile, I could not imagine unleashing Matt Hazard’s frustrations on him/her.
In sum, the above does not combine to ‘Blood, Bath and Beyond’ being a gaming abomination, rather simply not worth the $15 price tag attached to it… even more so for only a couple hours of total playing time. There are oodles of better titles out there for the Playstation Network at this price point.
‘Matt Hazard: Blood, Bath and Beyond’ for the Playstation Network is a sarcastic take on ‘Contra’ that fails to channel the retro gaming feel is sorely craves. Awkward control and humor make the title difficult to justify at its current price point.
Final Score: 5.5