Final Fight. On crack.

Title: Mother Russia Bleeds
Platform: Linux, PC, PS4, Switch (reviewed)
Developer: Le Cartel Studio
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Release date: Now available
tl;dr: Ultra violence in pixel form
Price: $15/£14 (across all platforms)
Family Focus: Click here for more information.

Mother Russia Bleeds is set in an alternate universe 1980s, where the Soviet Union is ruling over Russia. In order to survive, four Romanians who work for a man named Mikhail, and take up street fighting for a living. During one of the scuffles, the government decides to step in and put an end to the shenanigans by kidnapping our four protagonists. They wake up in an underground laboratory under a prison, where prisoners are used as guinea pigs for a new drug called Nekro. The four fighters must battle their way out in order to escape and get to the bottom of this mess.

Mother Russia Bleeds is a 16-bit inspired 2D beat’em up where players need to go through a handful (sometimes waves) of cronies in order to make their to the level’s end boss, and then proFinal Fight. On crack.gress forward. Players can choose between four different characters, all of which have their strength and weaknesses. Unlike some beat’em ups where where controls are restrained to a simple attack and jump button, Mother Russia Bleeds makes use of most, if not all, the buttons on a controller with a punch, kick, jump and grab option; holding the punch button for a few seconds will allow players to unleash a stronger punch, for example. You don’t only fend for yourself thanks to punches and kicks, though – there are a handful of weapons that can be used throughout the game, such as baseball bats, firearms, and bar stools, just to name a few. Shoulder buttons are used to dash and use Nekro (a bit more on that shortly) to either heal or send your character into Berserk mode.

Considering one of the game’s storylines revolves around the mysterious drug called Nekro, it’s only fitting that players can use it to their advantage. Players will start a level with a syringe full of the hallucinogenic drug; it can be used in difficult situations in order to refill your health or have the character jump into Berserk mode where move, speed, and attack power are both increased for a limited period of time. The syringe only holds up to three shots, so use them wisely. However, players are able to refill it through the levels. After beating an enemy to a bloody pulp, if you find them convulsing on the floor, you can stab your needle in them and suck some Nekro out of the bodies. Beware, however, considering you can beat enemies while they’re laying on the ground, if you hit with a strong attack and explode their brains, you won’t be able to drain some Nekro.

Considering players can choose between four different characters, the game can either be played solo or in local multiplayer co-op for up to four players. If you’re struggling on your own and can’t find reliable players, thankfully Le Cartel Studio has included the possibility to play with up to three A.I. controlled players. It can be of great help, especially against bosses or large crowds of enemies, as your A.I. controlled buddies will attract the attention of your enemies while you can focus on a smaller crowd or attack a boss when he’s distracted. Added bonus? It will revive you with some Nekro if you get downed. As far as the story goes, it’s decent throughout, but your actions in the final boss fight will determine if you obtain the good or bad ending.

One of the game’s most interesting features is definitely the boss design. While some only require players to hit and run, others will have players to use a different approach by avoiding additional obstacles such as a sniper or a modified harvester looking vehicle. Once you’re done with the game’s story mode, players can jump into Survival mode. Every time players finish a level, it unlocks a new area. Not only can you practice your skills but the better you do, the better the rewards, as players can unlock a handful of diverse enhancing drugs which can in turn be used in story mode.

Mother Russia Bleeds is a good looking and well-drawn beat’em up. While obviously not to the visual levels of AAA games, it looks colorful despite its dark tone. And while enemies have different color patterns, you’ll never lose track of your characters as their design always stands out from the crowd. On the audio side of things, the score represents the game’s aforementioned tone very well and it stands out from the in-game noise.

With the recent revival of the old-school beat’em up genre, Mother Russia Bleeds stands out very well from the bunch and is easily one of the most enjoyable experiences on the Switch. The game’s diverse combat, unique boss design and intense story makes for a fun and addictive experience. Despite some bosses being a bit rough around the edges, it won’t damper this unique experience. It was one of my favorite title from 2016 and it’s one of my favorite experiences on Switch in 2018.

The Good

  • Fun combat
  • A.I. controlled buddy
  • Interesting boss designs….

The Bad

  • … but the final boss will make you rage

Family Focus

Mother Russia Bleeds is rated M for Mature and PEGI 18 due to the presence of blood, drug use, gore, and violence. This is definitely not one for everyone and it could possibly be the bloodiest 16-bit inspired beat’em up.

Disclaimer: This review is based on a review code provided by the developer for the purposes of this review.