iPhone App Video Review: Bloodstroke

Jan 31, 2014

Not since 2007 have we seen acclaimed action director John Woo step into the polygonal worlds of gaming, with John Woo’s Stranglehold, a surprisingly excellent third person shooter. Well the man is back in gaming with his mobile debut, Bloodstroke, an over the top action game from developer MoonShark. These are the same guys who brought us Stan Lee’s Verticus. That’s quite the celebrity pedigree for any developer to have. But how does Bloodstroke hold up? Let’s cut into it, shall we?

I don’t mean to put anyone off of the game with the following statement, as it’s quite enjoyable. But this is essentially Escort Quest: The Game. The entire plot and game design revolve around protecting a very important scientist name Dr. Koorse. You, however, play as Mai Lee, a veritable super human and security agent codenamed Lotus working for a group called Phalanx. And when I say super human, I’m not kidding. Lotus is completely invincible. The only health bar you have to worry about is the good doctor’s.

She’s also got some otherworldly cardio going on, as she constantly sprints around the levels, shooting and slicing her way through Triads and other criminals on a grand tour of some of China’s biggest cities, including Hong Kong and Beijing. Each level has Dr. Koorse moving along a pre-set course, with enemies littering the streets. As long as he survives, you win, but if you want to get three lotuses, or stars, per level, you’ll need to keep that score up. You do this through melee kills, which earn you three times as many points, but have you scrambling around much more, making it harder to clear enemies (especially when they’re surrounded by formations of cars or boxes), whereas the auto targeting makes shooting your way through levels a breeze.

For killing enemies and earning achievements, you’ll get cash to spend on upgrades. Your melee and firearms can be upgraded, and there are better guns to unlock, though you’ll unlock them naturally through beating levels. You can upgrade your explosives, which start off as grenades, which you earn freely for beating levels, though you can also purchase more. And, you can upgrade Dr. Koorse, who’s something of a superhuman himself. He’s already quite the bullet sponge, but through upgrades, you can add health, armor, and even Wolverine level health regeneration.

Despite this being a paid app, there are some questionable freemium design decisions pushing you towards in-app purchases. However, compared to most games, it really isn’t bad at all, and if you spend intelligently, you won’t need to grind much at all. Aside from standard story missions, there are arena levels with rotating mission objectives to complete, in which Dr. Koorse stops having a course, and stands in the middle of the screen with enemies pouring in from all sides. There are many achievements tied to the arena, so spend some time there to earn cash. For a challenge, you can take on the difficult and optional Zhao mission in each chapter.

Also, again, be smart about things. If a mission objective is to revive the doctor, and it costs 500 dollars to do so, but only 160 dollars to skip that mission objective, do whatever is cheaper. Also, don’t upgrade your weapons until you have to. You won’t need a fully upgraded weapon to unlock the next tier of weapons, so don’t waste any money.

All that being said, this game has some other blemishes to address. You can argue that this is part of the challenge, but you really have to fight the camera sometimes. Lotus will automatically move with the camera, even when you’re moving her, so you’re always being pulled in a certain direction ever so slightly. This can lead to you getting caught on boxes quite often.

Stylistically, this game knocks it out of the park. The game’s title is a reference to the paintbrush and splatter art style, present in both the menus and gameplay. Everything that isn’t red is black and white, adding a Sin City meets Kill Bill vibe to the game. The soundtrack was actually done by Asian-American Hip Hop Quartet, Far East Movement. You know… the G6 dudes. That hip hop influence is subtle, but combined with the buckets of blood in the game, I also think of Afro Samurai. These are all wonderful things to make me think of MoonShark. Good job.

When all is said and done, this is a solid game, and a great time killer. Unlike many similar games, I actually want to grind out for the upgrades sometimes. The upgrades really make you feel empowered, which they rarely do in true freemium games. Yes, it is still grindy, and you still need to keep your upgrades up to progress, but darn it, you’ll have some fun along the way. Bloodstroke is available for three dollars at the time of this review.

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Andrew Koziara

Andrew Koziara is a lifelong gamer and metal head. When he isn’t playing or reviewing games, he’s making them at Tribeca Flashpoint Academy. Check out his Twitter page here.

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