John Woo’s Bloodstroke May Be The Bloodiest iOS Game Of All Time [Review]

bloodstroke

Released early in 2014, Bloodstroke marks Face/Off director John Woo’s first venture into the world of mobile gaming. A Flappy Bird clone ultraviolent actioner from developers Chillingo, Tiger Hill Entertainment, Moonshark, and Chimera Entertainment (enough names for you?), this has the potential to be the most stylishly bloody iOS game of the year.

Bloodstroke by Chillingo Ltd.
Category: iOS Games
Works With: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch
Price: $2.99

So how does it measure up?

The first thing to say about Bloodstroke is that it looks beautiful. No matter what other criticism you can aim at John Woo movies, a lack of style isn’t one of them. Fortunately that translates to Woo’s foray into iOS games. Visually Bloodstroke is a graphic novel come to life — with inky black and white etchings, splashed with spurts of ridiculously red blood.

Think Sin City meets Kill Bill’s Showdown at the House of Blue Leaves — or the climax of Woo’s own A Better Tomorrow 2, where hundreds of black and white suits are irreversibly ruined by bloodsplatter. The animation looks fluid, and the comic panel cutscenes complete the look. (As a nice touch, users can fast-forward through cut-scenes by pressing the screen, which speeds up the rate at which dialogue boxes appear.)

You gain extra points during missions for stringing together melee attacks

You gain extra points during missions for stringing together melee attacks

Gameplay goes down as easily as Bloodstroke’s smooth visuals. You play as the red-jacketed female agent Lotus, with your mission being to accompany a doctor through multiple levels filled with bad guys, constantly making sure that your charge makes it alive to the big black X at the end of each map. Gameplay is of the on-rails variety, and you have a range of weapons at your disposal with which to protect him.

These are split into two main types: either longer-range weapons like guns and grenades, or shorter-range melee attacks which involve slicing your enemies up with samurai swords or similar. Both are implemented well, and the amount of splatter you can create is suitably impressive and messy.

While it may not feel like it, there is a method to the Bloodstroke madness. Or at least a strategy to the way the whole thing goes down. Your character can’t die, and so avoiding gunfire isn’t necessary. Since your mission is to protect your charge (who most definitely can die), it’s up to you to decide how best to deal with enemies in a way. Do you stay out ahead and dispatch your enemies with hand-to-hand melee attacks, or do you cling by the doctor’s side and dispose of would-be assailants with a mixture of gunfire and grenades? The choice is up to you.

Bloodstroke is every bit the John Woo creation.

If there’s a criticism I have of Bloodstroke, it’s that there’s a lack of depth. Missions are variations on each other, and very little changes between stages from either a mission or aesthetic perspective. It is, of course, possible to counter this criticism by saying that Bloodstroke isn’t intended to have depth — that it’s designed to be played in the short frantic bursts that mobile best lends itself true. There’s certainly something to be said for that argument, but it would still seem to be possible to retain Bloodstroke’s pick-up-and-play quality while also including a bit more variety.

Ultimately, Bloodstroke is every bit the John Woo creation: faultlessly stylish, ultra-violent, intriguingly plotted, but with actual content and depth sometimes lost beneath the flashy surface.

Oh, and where were the flying doves?

Screen_Shot_2014-02-24_at_20(2)Game Name: Bloodstroke
The Good: Stylish graphics, fun gameplay, loads of blood. What’s not to like?
The Bad: The game can occasionally verge on being too easy, while the lack of variation between levels is a source of frustration.
The Verdict: A fun first outing for a John Woo iOS actioner. The gameplay is well executed, the graphics and animation are smooth, but this could definitely be expanded upon in future sequels.
Buy from: App Store

Cult of Mac rating: 4/5

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About the author

Luke DormehlLuke Dormehl is a UK-based journalist and author, with a background working in documentary film for Channel 4 and the BBC. He is the author of The Apple Revolution, published by Random House, and is currently writing a book about algorithms for Random House/Penguin to be published in 2014. He also covers the digital humanities for Fast Company. He'd like you a lot if you followed him on Twitter.

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