Hammer and Syringe
My brother is a big fan of what I consider “B Tier” action movies. The kind that take themselves so seriously and tell a ham-fisted story with narrative gaps galore. But that’s not what you’re there for. You rented it to watch a badass mowing down an army’s worth of people while being overtly crass and performing disgustingly violent acts. Also there’s usually a healthy dose of nudity to boot.
Mother Russia Bleeds, the latest from developer Devolver Digital, is made of the same cloth. You’re the dredges of Russia who gets kidnapped and dragged underground to be a test lab for the powerful with a psychoactive and highly addictive drug Necro. Upon your escape, you climb the ladder of corruption and aid in a revolt against the powerful who assaulted your community while coping with drug addiction they inflicted. I’m not generally prudish, but this experience is soaked in blood, gore, nudity, and dialogue that would make you blush because of how vulgar and juvenile it can be at times.
That violence is accented in just how well all of it is rendered. The art has a strange dichotomy in how so much of the world and characters are outright ugly but done so beautifully. The first half takes place in labs, sewers, and dank streets that muddies the look, and it’s not until later where you can see just how well done the art is when there’s a setting sun in the background or neon signs that are not just beautiful in their own right but also cast light on characters and items in the landscape under it. Characters are detailed and mostly unique from level to level, often but not entirely gruesome looking.
It’s all married to a well-defined but uncomplicated beat-em-up. Selectable characters have different attributes that make them feel unique in play, but all have punches, kicks, grabs/throws, and jumps. To regain health you use Necro or alternatively you can use it as a boost to speed and damage. Up to four can play at a time, but even if you’re alone, an option to have AI partners is offered. Each level has various weapons that also mix things up, and bosses have patterns to exploit rather than requiring a war of attrition. Levels are replayable individually and scores are determined based on creativity and combos. The lone critique I’d have on is that alternate Necro modifiers are gated behind a survival mode that perfunctory at best.
Mother Russia Bleeds is an unapologetically offensive but well-executed brawler that on its face, only a mother could love. If you enjoy the violent or obscene, aren’t squeamish, and are looking to bust skulls with reckless abandon, it’s one of the better playing and looking offerings on Switch today.