Beat-em-ups in the vein of Streets of Rage and Final Fight are a rarity these days, with arcade flavours being phased out for broader palates of genres. There’s still a fondness for these types of games, with many recent Capcom and SNK re-releases salvaging coin-op machine boards for multiplayer co-op at home. Mother Russia Bleeds is a throwback to those classic titles, adopting legacy mechanics with a hyper-violent style.
Your Stereotypical Russian mob
Playing as one of four street tough Romani characters in the late stages of the Soviet Union, you take on waves of mutated enemies, mafia, and police trying to prevent you from taking on the government. A new drug called ‘Nekro’ has been spread and instilled in the community, allowing your character to gain superhuman levels of strength, at the cost of their bodies.
There are elements of body horror throughout the game design, as you syringe pulsing corpses to gain health and activate your superpowers. A bloody, scum encrusted art style makes you feel little remorse for any of the damage you’re dealing on the freaks and monsters thrown at you, a stark contrast to the colourful streets of Final Fight.
Published by Devolver Digital, it’s hard not to draw comparisons to their tribute to the 1980’s Hotline Miami. A plot with the Russian mob, violent encounters and a synthwave soundtrack tearing through the background, it feels very much like a little brother to an ultraviolent sister. That game did something fresh with its old school mechanics, taking top down shooters into a new era with freedom to go about eliminating targets in different ways. While Mother Russia Bleeds does have the same level of dedication to crafting a game with that aesthetic, it doesn’t really do a lot to innovate in terms of gameplay. Some boss fights can be fun in figuring out how to take them down, and you eventually do get into a thrilling pattern of kicking down waves of enemies. It’s just that the fighting is pretty standard, with the only notable innovation being the Nekro system, which at times can be annoying and accidentally activated while in a button mash situation.
Fighting with Friends
Aside from the main story mode, there is a survival mode – an arena where you can fight enemies endlessly to unlock bonuses for the main game. The main element of replayability for this title lies in couch co-op, one of the game’s strongest points. It’s funny how most game experiences are enhanced by adding more players, and this is no exception.
Sure you can add computer player characters to assist you, but if you have a couple friends around it heightens the experience. Shame to say there’s no online co-op, something that it could have used for players in tight spots. Some of the stages are tough as nails, and if you’ve not got anyone to back you up it can be challenging.
System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: A review code for Mother Russia Bleeds was provided by Tinsley-PR.