Fans of tough as nails arcade gameplay in the vein of Contra or Metal Slug will get the most out of Matt Hazard: Blood Bath and Beyond while those looking for the next great 2.5D side-scrolling adventure will be disappointed by linear, uninspired level designs.

Matt Hazard is an out of work old-school video game character whose best days are behind him. Things get worse when his arch nemesis General Neutronov escapes into the Marathon Megasoft game server and kidnaps a past version of Matt Hazard with the intention of deleting it and thus ending his existence entirely.

Matt Hazard’s sidekick has the ability to teleport him into any of the games on the Marathon Megasoft server that General Neutronov escapes to. These fictional video games often parody the look of real-life titles like Mirror’s EdgeBioshock and Elevator Action, though the gameplay of Matt Hazard: Blood Bath and Beyond remains almost exclusively rooted in run-and-gun territory.

Much like the 2009 critical and commercial failure Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard, this follow-up features juvinile, self-referential humour that plays on a number of video game clichés and highlights Hazard’s own real-world shortcomings. Hazard himself is reminiscent of Duke Nukem or Serious Sam and comes complete with a number of spoken puns and one-liners.

The story in Matt Hazard: Blood Bath and Beyond is pretty much nonexistent, but there are text-based cut scenes that precede the game’s eight levels to set up the premise of each one and crack a few jokes. The game is not particularly well-written or funny, but it is constant with its humour and I will admit to laughing once or twice at the dialogue of General Neutronov.

Each level will take about 15-20 minutes to complete during your first run through the game and each culminates with a boss fight, most of which are rather well done. Despite the levels being intricately detailed, they are also extremely linear except for a couple towards the end that feature branching paths. You are unable to backtrack through levels, so obtaining all of the collectibles in Matt Hazard: Blood Bath and Beyond will require multiple playthroughs of some levels though a Quick Play mode that is unlocked after beating the game.

In between levels, you get to play Ragdoll Pachinko using coins that you collect by killing certain enemies. This fun game of chance would make a great iPhone/iPod Touch App and determines the bonus score you receive at the end of each level, which will likely drive some of those with aspirations of climbing the leaderboards crazy. There are also colleciable Game Boxes to obtain for each level, which do little but provide a bit of extra personality to the game.

Fans of side-scrolling shooting games will be pleased to know that Matt Hazard: Blood Bath and Beyond is a rather difficult entry in the genre. It was not uncommon for me to experience 20-30 deaths in a level my first time through the game, especially while trying to figure out boss patterns or falling victim to platforming sections that are made frustrating by floaty controls.

The three levels of difficulty do nothing to the game itself, but rather they adjust the amount of lives and continues that you start the game with. The lowest difficulty affords you with unlimited continues while the most difficult allows none. Leaderboards can be sorted by difficulty, so it’s easy to know exactly where you stand.

Matt Hazard: Blood Bath and Beyond can best be described as a blood-soaked mashup of Metal Slug and Contra and generally sees you running left to right while destroying everything in your path, though action does take place on a third dimension occasionally. When you see enemies in the background, you can focus on them by holding the left trigger.

You can also make Hazard stand in place and aim using either of the bumpers or toss grenades with the right trigger. Shooting and jumping are mapped to face buttons, as is Hazard Time; a short burst of power and invulnerability. Movement is mapped to both the left analog stick and d-pad

Though functional, the control scheme can be cumbersome and it lacks the fluidity of a title like Shadow Complex. The right analog stick is not used, but one-handed gamers may have difficulty with Matt Hazard: Blood Bath and Beyond because it uses both triggers or bumpers and face buttons in tandem.

One area where this game shines is in its graphical presentation. Every level is extremely detailed and the lighting and shadows are among the best I’ve seen on Xbox LIVE Arcade. Even during heavy action and boss fights Matt Hazard: Blood Bath and Beyond runs at a smooth 60 frames per second with no screen tearing. One fault that did annoy me was the tendency of enemy bullets to be obscured by lighting effects or bright spots in the background.

Aside from Matt Hazard’s in-game speech clips, there is little about the audio design that stands out. Weapon and explosion sound effects are adequate, but on the thin side and the soundtrack was completely forgettable, if not well-themed.

I did enjoy the few hours it took to complete Matt Hazard: Blood Bath and Beyond once I got used to the controls, however there was very little to draw me back when I was done and I can’t help but feel it would have been a much better value at a $10 price point.  High score chasers will get the most out of this game while casual players may wonder exactly what they paid a premium price for.

As long as you know what you are getting into and not expecting a sprawling adventure like Shadow ComplexTrine or Bionic Commando: Rearmed, there certainly is some fun to be had with Matt Hazard: Blood Bath and Beyond and you can even play co-op with a buddy on your couch or via Xbox LIVE.


+ Excellent Graphics and Performance
+ Humourous Story and Parodies
+ Lots of Personality


– Linear Level Design
– Floaty Platforming Controls
– Somewhat Cumbersome Control Scheme