Matt Hazard: Blood Bath and Beyond PreviewBy Patrick Klepek - Posted Nov 11, 2009
There's not enough satire in video games. It's not a lost art, it's just a missing art because no one really tries. Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard could have been something really interesting. In some respects, it was a success -- there were some legitimately funny lampooning of video game cliches -- but the developers forgot about making a good game, too. With Matt Hazard: Blood Bath and Beyond, an Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network-targeted spin-off, D3 Publisher is scaling back its gameplay ambitions, while retaining its goal to riff on gaming stereotypes.
Matt Hazard's closest comparison is a tough game to follow: Shadow Complex, one of this year's favorites. The co-op, side-scrolling experience is mapped to a 2D plane with enemies also coming from the background. But Matt Hazard does try to tackle one of the criticisms levied against Shadow Complex: the inability to fully control your background shots. A tap of the shoulder button points your character toward the background, rather than relying on some unreliable auto-aiming mechanic. In practice, it's hard to say whether the additional control will prove too much to deal with at once, given how simplistic the rest of the gameplay is, but during my few minutes with the game, it's an appreciated added touch.
It's hard to say whether the humor succeeds as it doesn't come across well in a demo with 10 people in the room, and the bits I were shown were immature at best (i.e. the difficulty levels -- and, yes, I'm serious -- were listed as "Wussy," "Damn This is Hard" and "F***k That S**t"). There's no elaborate voice acting this time around, only text bubbles, so it appears Matt Hazard's laughs are meant to be generated by its takes on different gameplay we played a million times throughout our youth. The stage I played through was very Contra-esque, even including a power-up that split my current weapon into a screen-destroying triple shot.
I did laugh at Matt Hazard's approach to death. You have a set number of lives and continues doled out in varying amounts based on the difficulty setting, but even if you run out of lives, you don't have to wait until your friend dies to continue. You can actually leech his lives away from him. A friend probably wouldn't do that, but I had no issues -- I happily leeched away.
The more modest approach looks to be a better one for the new Matt Hazard. Humor in games can only carry a game so far; you have to have a good game, too. So far, Matt Hazard seems to have the game part down more so than in the past. Hopefully, the laughs follow suit.