'We going straight to the Wild Wild West'
Sometimes the most old fashioned plotlines are the best. Blood Bros puts you in the dusty boots of a cowboy and indian.. sorry, Native American, duo on the hunt for the baddest outlaw in the West - the, rather blandly monikered, Big Bad John. To track him down and bring him to justice, our heroes are seemingly required to mow down an entire country's population of cowboys, bandits, gunslingers, india.. Native Americans (sorry) and anyone else who is keen to be killed for no good reason.
This, if you hadn't guessed already, is by the same developers who brought you Cabal in 1988. Indeed, Blood Bros is seen as the spiritual sequel to that title, and rightly so as it is practically identical in all but setting and name. As with Cabal, you control your character (or characters should you have a second player handy) by moving them left and right along the bottom of the screen. As you move your crosshair also moves, but holding down fire will cause you to stay rooted to the spot, while you spray gunfire at the enemies. It's a very intuitive system that soon becomes second nature - allowing you to focus on aiming the crosshair and delivering hot lead to the ne're-do-wells attacking you. Luckily our gun-toting duo are also highly agile, with a tap of the second button sending them into a dive in whichever direction you are holding. While performing these acrobatic manoeuvres they are invulnerable to enemy fire, making quick use of this move utterly essential for survival. Lastly, the third button hurls a stick of dynamite, more of which are collectible by shooting the background or special critters and foes that run along the screen.
Not only can you blast seven shades out of the plethora of suicidal adversaries, but you can totally demolish the environment around you too. Buildings crumble, walls disintegrate, barrels and fences splinter, and windows and bottles shatter as you spray gunfire across the screen. Destroying these items and structures award you with collectible points and extra dynamites or special weapons that greatly increase your firepower. Each stage starts with a 'Foe' bar at the bottom which gradually decreases as you obliterate enemies, and once fully depleted the stage ends, complete with a ludicrous victory dance by the protagonist(s) that never fails to raise a smirk.
The graphics are pleasing to the eye, with a large variety of colourful, cartoony characters - from the aforementioned human foes to horse-drawn carriages with mounted turrents, bi-planes, and boats. The background are rich and full of detail. There is always tonnes going on on-screen at any one time, and the explosions and environmental destruction are satisfying to behold. Music is relatively forgettable, but it suits the game and doesn't intrude on the action, neither do the sound effects, which are also decent. The all-important gameplay is top notch, with tight, easy to use controls, and exciting and satisfying shooting action - diving around, avoiding near misses while taking down a wave of bad guys and vehicles is gripping and rewarding. While the game is tough, it is not insanely difficult, resulting in it being more enjoyable to experience. It does get pretty hairy later on though, so don't expect to be able to beat this on 1 credit any time soon (though I am sure there are people out there who can).
Every so often you will face a large boss who will take a shit-load of bullets and dynamites to take down, as well as some serious acrobatics to avoid their punishing amount of projectiles. From a train full of gun turrets that makes it way from the background (top of the screen) right up to touching distance, to a huge angry bird that lays eggs full of evil little bird bastards that attack you, and even a huge snake that slithers around the screen trying to poison you, these boss encounters are a real highlight.
Blood Bros is an intense, high octane action game that will test your reflexes to the max, as well as provide some challenging and rewarding gameplay. I highly recommend you fire it up in MAME and give it a shot. I also recommend the prequel, Cabal, as that is also excellent and, arguably, slightly better - though this depends on your preference of either a wild west or military setting.
Title : Blood Bros
Developer : TAD Corporation
Year : 1990
System : Arcade
Home Ports : none
R.S.G. High Score = 1000590