PEGBRJE: Bleed 2 and Voyageur

Save the day as the greatest hero, and getting lost in space because you ran out of supplies.

The world is being destroyed by everything, but Wryn is TOO COOL FOR THAT.

Bleed 2 is the rooting tooting shooting sequel to Bleed 1 with both games done by BootdiskRevolution, pseudonym of solo dev Ian Campbell featuring award winning composer Jukio Kallio and sound designer Joonas Turner. Fun fact, both of those audio legends have already been heard on a few titles in the bundle already, such as Nuclear Throne. Players reprise their role as Wryn as the ‘Greatest Hero of All Time™’, minding her own business when disaster strikes her city. Not one to let her title go to waste, she immediately races into the fray to stop the invasion of bad guys, making her way to the mothership and battling dozens of enemies and bosses along the way. Shoot bullets, swing a katana and slowdown time to prove to them all that Wryn’s title isn’t for show.

While it is a sequel, Bleed 2 is a fantastic standalone title that brings all of its fun with very little worry about context, and this is coming from someone who hasn’t played the original. There are a lot of nostalgic factors for those that were able to play arcade machines, starting with how quickly Bleed 2 throws players in .It doesn’t waste time introducing players to the action, setting the stage of ‘she is the hero, go save the world’ by simply having enemies just instantly attack the city. The combat is all centred on a single button to avoid confusion and streamline the learning process. I would like to point out, however, that because the gamepad is utilizing twin-stick shooting controls, the jump button is not on A/X, which may cause the learning curve to be a bit wonky at first. Once that has been overcome, the rest of the game is straight speed, with triple jumps abound and bullets flying everywhere.

What gives Bleed 2 an edge in the replayability factor is the speed in which it can be played mixed with the amount of customization. The campaign itself took less than an hour to complete, but upon doing so unlocked dozens of new perks, a few new characters to play as, some guns and mutators to alter different aspects of the game from removal of cutscenes to removal of gravity. It has hints of current roguelike titles such as Hades, Dead Cells and even Nuclear Throne with its rapid fire gameplay focusing on speed and agility to get players back into the fray just as fast as they entered. Granted, there is an Endless mode which is advertised as random levels, adding even more incentive to try out new characters and see how far one can go. Or two, as this game can also be played with local co-op to increase the insanity of bullets and fun one can have, giving Bleed 2 the ultimate arcade feeling.

Bleed 2 is a fantastic sequel to a game I never played, and actively makes me curious as to what I may have been missing. It has all of the elements of older arcade-style games updated for a modern audience, keeping the charm while adding in more customization and more bullets. I would also like to point out that Jukio’s soundtrack is an absolute energy filled blast to listen to throughout the entirety of my playtime, so even if you are not interested in the game I’d recommend giving the OST a listen. If you are fans of games such as Broforce, where bullets are the only solution and high-octane action is abundant, give Bleed 2 a shot and see how fast you can shoot everything. Either on your own or with a friend, it will definitely get you pumped.

Voyageur is a narrative decision-making roguelike space simulation made by Bruno Dias, a solo indie dev with assistance by Failbetter Games. You take control of a Voyageur, the aptly named space captain of a spaceship with a single goal in mind: fall into the centre of the universe with the ‘Descent Device’, that which gives your ship the ability to exceed the speed of light. Along the way down, the Voyageur stops at planets with their own unique societies, markets and stories that one can indulge in, purchasing goods and selling them for wealth or smuggling goods for thieves in secret stashes. There are infinite possibilities during the descent, just as the universe is as infinitely scaling, so one might never know what they might find out in the vast openness.

The easiest descriptor for how Voyageur feels to play would be to utilize other space roguelike titles that deal with exploration, such as FTL or Failbetter’s Sunless Skies. The titular Voyageur must keep their supply count high enough to keep exploring the stars to reach the centre, which requires generating revenue of some kind. Purchasing market goods is the simplest solution, but unreliable if the next planet buys them for a loss. Smuggling generates the big bucks, but could easily get you arrested for, well, smuggling. There are some alternatives to the sale of goods, which are in the form of exploration and planet specific events, namely research centres paying for lifeform samples and mining expeditions that require crewmembers. These require patience and luck, but can pay of spectacularly through acquiring rare goods for the samples or just straight cash injected into the ship.

Where Voyageur stands out in this environment is in its worldbuilding — universe building? — and simplicity. From a simple description, each planet in your departing choices feels different and gives players a solid understanding of what they can expect when they arrive. Each planet, while falling under a dozen similar structures, radiate with a unique atmosphere and opportunity. Visiting a mining planet may score the chance to go on a mining expedition, or accidentally get you into a heated debate about hierarchical structures due to the locals not appreciating their overseer’s handling of the mines. Different clusters are run by different governments, and one might find themselves accidentally harboring a fugitive of the state if they are not careful. There’s also the risk of running into pirates, and since your ship isn’t naturally equip with guns the possibility of losing the cargo is quite real. All decisions either on planet surfaces or on the ship itself can also effect the crewmembers that are brought onboard as well, for they are individuals with their own goals and personalities. Since the Voyageur starts without any crewmembers, finding talent that can assist in your one way trip can be extremely useful in numerous ways, but do cost a pretty penny and are not to be assumed as drones. Upset a few of them too many times, and mutiny may be inevitable as they decide that they are better off without their captain to make it to the centre.

Voyageur embraces its ‘lack of gameplay’ as many may attempt to call it out on by doubling down on its encounter building and world generation, making each decision have multiple layers that are not explicitly stated to the player and instead forcing them to deduce the implications themselves. Players will have to make dozens of hard choices with the money and supplies that they have, and all of their decisions will be documented on their player sheet as a reminder of how they arrived in their current state. It blends together well, and is a really fun experience to see how far one can get before your cargo is jettisoned and your life is forfeit, starting the entire game over again. While I do wish for less RNG-based decision making in a few checks and some cohesion between the narrative and your crew, Voyageur serves as a gateway for narrative roguelikes, and a fantastic example that procedural limitations aren’t so limiting.

If you are curious about the narrative development, I’d recommend reading Bruno’s article on Voyageur dealing with procedural meaning, where he details much of the fun going into a procedural narrative experience. It’s a dive into how one creates a system that isn’t too common for its time (2016) and can be found below with the link to Voyageur. Happy space trails.

Links Below as usual

Game Dev who decided to take on the monumental task of giving an overview of all 59 pages in the bundle for Racial Justice and Equality. We keep going.