In my previous review, for the Trese Brother’s Heroes of Steel, I stated that one of the things I enjoyed most about the RPG-adventure game was that it aimed for something more than the usual pick-up-and-play feeling that many mobile games contain. Gargula Bloodrush http://www.paranormalgames.com/games.html, however,is at the complete opposite of the spectrum, in a good way. Paranormal Games’ Android, iOS and Windows Phone offering encapsulates all that is short-burst mobile gaming; set in a fast-paced, delightfully retro-gothic atmosphere.
In a similar style to Star Wars, albeit a little grittier, Bloodrush’ narrative crawls across the screen before the game is played. It tells the age-old tale of good vs bad, God vs Lucifer, and explains how the humans of Earth were deceived by Lucifer’s wicked ways – along with a number of less-than-holy angels – and the fate of the world was left in the stony claws of gargoyles, the ‘Protectors of the Realms’. Eventually Gargula, their most formidable gargoyle, turned the tide of battle and the good side was victorious. But, always the weary types, Gargula and a number of gargoyles stayed on Earth, entombed in stone, waiting for the first signs of trouble. That time has come.
The game begins with Gargula breaking from his perch of stone, and launching himself into the air of a perfectly gothic night, with one word sprawled across the screen in blood; KILL. Yep, lean, mean slaughtering machine Gargula is most definitely back. From there, gameplay is as simplistic as it gets. Tapping on the left side of the screen makes Gargula jump, with another tap serving as a double jump, and tapping on the right side of the screen makes him swipe at whatever poor soul happens to be in the way, whether that be fallen angels, or various humans, still under the deception of Lucifer and his brethren. After enough minions have been taken down in succession, ‘Bloodrush’ is activated, making Gargula slightly faster, deadlier, and more invincible than before. This is a welcome sight, and one that I didn’t get to see anywhere near as often as I’d have liked.
These minions are dispatched in a gloriously 2D, retro display of gore, and, along with the soundtrack of the game – a mix between nostalgic chiptune and gothic organ-playing – these two aspects blend together to create an atmosphere which is decidedly perfect for the game. In the free download of the Bloodrush, this covers almost everything, as the only objective is to charge and fly your way through the night as long as possible, seeing how many enemies you can kill along the way. The distance travelled and enemies slain can then be uploaded to Facebook, so that friends can compete against each other to be the top dog – or gargoyle, whichever you prefer.
Unfortunately, after scratching the stony surface of Bloodrush, I found that there was more to be discovered, if I was willing to hand over some money. There are ‘boosters’, which aid in single playthroughs by giving such advantages as increased armour and brief invincibility, and also ‘abilities’ that can be upgraded by the souls gained during mass slaughter, which improve your overall ability to block, combo, endure and generally be a more badass protector of Earth. Also, if you’re on a high-scoring run, and accidentally misjudge a leap from one roof to the next, expect to pay around 50p if you want to revive Gargula and continue where you left off.
While I completely understand Paranormal Games’ desire to earn something from a game that they’ve put many hours into developing – hell, I’d probably charge the price of a console game for something I’d worked on – but paying over £5 to unlock extra abilities seems just a little steep. If extra environments and gargoyles were included in with the price, it might be worth thinking about, but without that, I can’t see the price tag being completely worth it.
What stings even more is that when I first made it to the title screen, I was greeted with a big ‘Press Start’ button, and below that, a flashing ‘Insert coin’ and ‘Credits – 5’ notification. I thought this was a nice touch that further added to the retro feel that Paranormal Games were aiming for, but soon found that it actually served a very practical, disappointing purpose. The five credits were more than just a placeholder to take me back to the days of arcade gaming; No, it actually meant that I could play five times, before I either paid to unlock the complete game, or waited 20 minutes for another credit. After only getting to play the game five times before this point, neither sounded very appealing.
Overall, Gargula Bloodrush has a great concept, and one that immediately drew me to it; a battle between Heaven and Hell, blood, and gargoyles? I’m there. But, despite its fittingly gothic chiptune soundtrack, gritty, retro visuals and fast-paced gameplay, it is held back by just how much it holds back. Maybe if the free tester of Bloodrush included all the extras, showing gamers what they’d be missing, more people would be likely to pay for the full version, but right now, I can’t see gamers wanting to shell out the cash. In fact, their wallets may be just as unlikely to come out of their pockets as a sword from a stone.