Review by kevinski

"Unlearn what Resident Evil taught you in order to truly enjoy this masterpiece."

I must express my disappointment in the vast majority of gamers for overlooking this gem. Yes, like any other game, "Illbleed" contains some flaws. However, most critics seem to exaggerate these flaws to a rather ridiculous degree. I suppose I'll have to set the record straight.

"Illbleed" just oozes with personality. Right from the beginning, the game will treat you to plenty of intentionally B-movie atmosphere, from the dialogue, right down to the game play itself. To appreciate "Illbleed" completely, the gamer must realize that "Illbleed" seeks to reinvent the survival horror genre completely (although I feel that it created a new genre entirely). If you expect to play this game just as you'd play a Resident Evil game, you should seriously consider reading the manual or receiving a full tutorial from an experienced "Illbleed" player before starting.

Why?

Well, I'll admit it: "Illbleed" makes virtually no attempt to educate the player on the game play system in an intuitive manner. Yes, the game contains a tutorial area (the graveyard), but I highly doubt that most players will stumble upon it anytime soon. Most players will even neglect to visit the shop, instead opting to jump right into the first level, which certainly doesn't pull any punches as you attempt to so much as make it through the first couple of areas.

Gameplay/Control - 9.5/10

Recklessly barging into new areas (or even running several feet) often does little more than send you to an early grave. "Illbleed" stresses the importance of patience. You see, "Illbleed" revolves around avoiding threats, not confronting them. While you can avoid many traps by simply paying close attention to your character's senses (as detailed at the top of the screen), you'll eventually come across a threat that you must disarm. For that, you need a little something called a Horror Monitor.

Hidden within a square-shaped (clue) area at the beginning of each level, the Horror Monitor allows the player to view his/her surroundings in a first-person view and mark potential shock events (i.e. traps). For the most part, the traps make a lot of sense. If your sense of smell spikes when you approach a bathroom, you should probably mark the toilet within to avoid a nasty surprise.

But how could something like that kill you? Very good question. Well, while the filth that dwells within a toilet doesn't necessarily cause physical damage, any trap can potentially cause other forms of damage. You see, you actually have several life gauges of sorts. Consequentially, you can die in numerous ways. Shock events range from bursting light bulbs that increase your pulse (possibly causing a heart attack) to hidden monsters that will claw the living **** out of you (possibly causing you to bleed to death or simply run out of hit points).

Even worse, certain health issues can make others even more dangerous. Honestly, a high pulse by itself shouldn't necessarily worry you. After all, standing still will eventually bring that down. However, a high pulse while bleeding profusely could seriously hamper your progress. During such times, you need to make vital decisions. If you have no healing items (which range from bandages to various food items - even injections), risking a mad dash (which will, consequentially, increase your pulse and bleeding even more) might pay off. Or maybe you could play it safe by limping to the goal, confident that your character won't bleed to death before crossing it.

I must say that "Illbleed" makes things even worse by having your character behave accordingly. If you've just received a serious ass-whuppin' courtesy of Dummyman, your character will typically walk with a serious limp, gasping for air as his/her heart beats frantically. Very intense.

Don't get the wrong idea about "Illbleed" just yet, though. If you have a twisted sense of humor, "Illbleed" will entertain you 'til the very end. I'll refrain from posting any potential spoilers, so let me just say that you need to at least complete the first two levels to truly understand what you can expect from "Illbleed" while playing.

Only three things will impede your progress along the way. First off, you'll quickly realize that the default camera view just won't cut it. In fact, of the four available camera views, only one functions properly within the context of this game. Secondly, jumping feels rather clunky, although you'll rarely need to do any precision jumping during the course of the game. Lastly, the analog stick doesn't quite behave as it does in other games. To run, you must push the analog stick all the way up quickly, rather than simply gradually moving the analog stick further to gradually increase your speed. I like the way that "Illbleed" handles this for one reason: If you run very much in this game, you will die. Since you'll spend most of your time walking, it only makes sense to use the entire radius of the analog stick to allow for more precise turning while moving at a slower pace. Trust me.

That said, not much stands in your way from a game play/control standpoint.

Graphics - 8.5/10

"Illbleed" can look anything from outstanding to mediocre, depending upon your surroundings. Although many areas seem to repeat in terms of textures, I believe that the game does this at times to intentionally confuse you. Just looking at the level of detail in certain locations should prove that "Illbleed" doesn't simply reuse textures to compensate for any sort of technical limitations. In fact, the game maintains a pretty solid frame rate much of the time, dropping only whenever massive blood sprays populate the screen.

Massive blood sprays? Oh yes. Wooden plank falls on you from overhead? Massive blood spray. Truck runs you over? Massive blood spray? Evil little girl snags you with her jump rope? Massive blood spray. "Illbleed" certainly doesn't disappoint if you happen to enjoy bloodshed. And while you'll gush gallons of blood along the way, your enemies will do the same. Very fun.

While I love the scenery and special effects, however, I can't ignore the fact that the character models (primarily those that you play as - the enemies look quite nice) simply look unfinished. Generic, even. The bland textures and stiff animations simply can't match the otherwise above-average quality of the other graphical elements.

Sound - 9.5/10

Thankfully, the audio in "Illbleed" really steals the show. Everything (blood sprays, footsteps, screams, etc.) sounds as it should, and a sharp shriek accompanies each shock event (whether marked or not). In addition to offering plenty of immersive sound effects, "Illbleed" also serves up plenty of intentionally B-movie dialogue. Yes, certain lines simply feel out-of-place, but I certainly wouldn't change any of it. Things like that just add to the charm that "Illbleed" has to offer.

While I absolutely love the in-game sound effects and dialogue, I must say that they all take a back seat to the music. Amazingly, much of the music consists of MIDI compositions, and most of them sound absolutely stunning. I particularly love the "Woodpuppets" music. If I had to choose any one element that truly set the mood during gameplay, I would have to give the music that honor.

In conclusion, I feel that "Illbleed" deserves many gamers' full attention. Simply unlearn what you've learned about survival horror games up to this point and give it a try. Once you beat the first level, I guarantee that you'll breeze through the game and come away with a truly rewarding experience under your belt.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 04/17/06


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