Remember the good old days of Contra and Metal slug? The classic side-scrolling action games that brought you intense action, brutal challenges and were you and friend can enjoy playing them on the couch. Good old days. Seems like a lifetime since I’ve played something like that, but maybe I won’t have to wait much longer.

Bleed is a quirky, retro inspired side scrolling shooter filled with action, platforming and super awesome looking slow-motion manoeuvres. You take the role of a plucky young art as she embarks on a dangerous mission to kill off 6 former heroes who’ve turned into villains. Bleed compels players with a neat idea and one that doesn’t depend on a heavy reliance on pop cult or references to other games, movies and media. What we get is homage to classic 90’s gaming, the era of side-scrolling shooters and a look at how well the genre could be implemented in current gen.

Now Bleed is not entirely a new title and this is a re-release of the title. I hadn’t even heard of the game on its original release but it gained a big enough cult following for the publishers to bring it back. It’s great news for people like me who’ve not played the game. You’ll experience the best aspects of the genre with some neat new twists in the mix. You’ll shoot; upgrade weapons and perks, while venturing through a campaign that mashes together classic set ups of the genre, from monster invested caves to shootouts on a high speed train.

However, while Bleed has its charm the whole game suffers from being unoriginal and rather bland in many aspects. There's little distinctive personality to the story, characters and the lead herself is a little boring. Enemies, locations, level designs and the core gameplay just resemble a solid game that's a little thin on imagination and creativity. Having to kill generic robots in a lab or giant worms in a cave while just firing weapons you’ve seen a million times before is just a little underwhelming.

There’s nothing in Bleed that truly places this in a high standard of the genre. Games like Time Force have dynamic mechanics to create intelligent and intense gameplay elements while Metal Slug is beautifully grand, ensuring you’re blown away at the immense creative scale. Bleed does phase into something more appealing towards the end with the last couple of missions bringing in more interesting enemies, compelling level design and engaging boss battles that will energise the experience.

Bleed does introduce a trial and error format to its gameplay which is one of the few interesting factors. Players will often have to push forward, die plenty of times and partake in a rather steep learning curve, which player skills will adapt over time. For an action game, the trial and error method is a delicate subject and it can work but often it can be tedious and repetitive for new comers. The most dynamic mechanic here is the ability of slow down time for a brief period, thus allowing you to avoid any of the quicker enemies and ranged attacks fired at you. This will help in developing your skills and acts as the main anchor for the trial and error gameplay. You may find yourself using this ability a little too often as the attack speed of the enemies are pretty relentless and your health won't last long as there are no first aid pickups. However the game is forgiving on the standard difficulties with plenty of check points.

The one main issue I encountered was lack of information on gaining experience. There was no clear explanation on how XP was gained and by going through the traditional method of killing, getting a high score and holding it at an S rank was the only way points rack up slowly. Playing on the harder difficulties did increase the amount gained but only slightly. Otherwise it felt like a struggle to gain points without knowing full well how too and this held me back from upgrading and buying more weapons.

Overall the main campaign can be finished in around 3 hours and on harder difficulties it'll be a little more time. The story is short with each of the stages lasting around 30 minutes with some trial and error factors to take into consideration. Once you gain the hang of the game then its straight shooting. There are a few extras to enjoy after completing the game and content worth playing the game again to unlock. So there is decent replay value along with being able to enjoy the game with a friend.

Bleed is a solid title with some great set pieces, action and playing this with a friend on the hard difficulties is a lot of fun. It’s a shame that there’s little to push it part from other titles in the genre or that many other titles, as for mentioned Time Force, Bro-Force or Axiom Verge have interesting dynamics or a grand scale to make them impressive experiences. Bleed is fun, quirky and charming in many respects but lacks that edge or creative flare to make it truly great.

+ Solid and entertaining action gameplay
+ Great co-op campaign
+ Good replay value
- Lacks original ideas for enemies or gameplay
- Short campaign length

An Xbox One copy of Bleed was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review