In a follow up to the full retail release of its predecessor, Matt Hazard Blood Bath and Beyond follows Matt Hazard once again as he attempts to save the world. If you like side scrolling shooters in the vein of Contra then you will probably enjoy this title, despite some of the problems. As one would expect, since this is now a XBLA title, the production values went down a notch and the game even references that with its own self depracating humor as you progress through the adventure. The original title was voiced whereas this title just had text on the screen that you would read, as one example. The game will also reference things such as the bad reviews the original title received and it is nice to see the developers turn a negative like that into a positive thing in this newest title.
The basic premise of this title has a very Back To The Future feel to it. You have to stop someone from killing off your past self or the Matt Hazard of the present will cease to exist. As you go through the game you will see the games and series that the developers of this title are fans of with nods to some of the great aspects that these titles brought to the table. There is one level where part of it is from the original Super Mario Bros and if you shoot certain blocks coins will pop out like they do when Mario jumps up and hits the block with his head. There are also Portal references, a Pokemon reference and more that I don’t want to spoil here. It is a great homage to these titles and to how influential they have really been.
The game play itself is pretty simplistic. As I said above this is a side scrolling shooter, however, you can also shoot into the background similar to how Shadow Complex did it last year. As you take out enemies different power ups will appear allowing you to have a machine gun, shotgun, flamethrower and more. You will pick up special gold pachinko coins which will add to your overall score in the game. Once you beat an area you get to use these coins in a game of pachinko to determine what your bonus will be. There is an achievement for getting a certain score as well as collecting all of these coins and other items so you will want to be sure to try and collect everything you can. Much like games of this bygone era, once you leave an area you can not go back. Be sure not to advance until you have collected and done everything that you need to do in your current spot. You will come across a variety of different environments, however, the gameplay will remain largely the same. The level of difficulty in this game could potentially affect your enjoyment as well. If you put the game on easy mode you will have infinite continues and you can just relax and enjoy the story. If you have it on the harder difficulties though you will have a finite number of continues and if you exceed that it is game over.
Overall Matt Hazard Blood Bath and Beyond is a pretty fun title. Whether you like this game or not will depend on whether you enjoyed similar titles like this back in the day. There is some co op in this title, however, it is only local co op which is a real missed opportunity here. If you go through and beat the game be sure to hang around after the credits for a surprise. With this title being priced at $15 it is hard to reccommend it unless you are a really big fan of these types of titles. I had fun going through the story, however, that is a pretty steep price for something that doesn’t have a whole lot of replayability and not being able to play with your friends over XBox Live. Be sure to download the demo and play it for yourself to see if this is the title for you.