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Indie Corner: Blues and Bullets – episode 1

When something is so beautiful as Blues and Bullets you tend to forgive its mistakes. Sure the game isn’t perfect yet and this first episode still has its flaws but man, what a unique atmosphere! As a fan of Sin City, I loved spending some of my time in Santa Esperanza, a city that’s filled with criminals and mysterious monsters. After an intense opening, I couldn’t wait to start my noir adventure.

The sick opening

One of the best parts of this first episode is by far the mysterious opening featuring two young children, captured by an inhuman monster. You play as the girl; everything is black and white except her red shoes and cute red bow on top of her dress. The child looks innocent and you really want to set her free, but she’s not alone. There’s a little boy as well, fearing for his life since he did something bad. Not long after the first attempt to escape, you hear a chilling scraping sound and face the monster for the first time. The scene ends there, introducing the main character of this first episode but the feeling you just experienced during your first minutes never disappears. You want to know more, you want to play more, you want to rescue the little girl.

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A new Eliot Ness

Eliot Ness is a true legend; he was the head of the so-called ‘Untouchables’ in the fifties. Together with his team of Untouchables, Ness was responsible for the fall of criminal mastermind Al Capone in Chicago. The Eliot Ness you’re playing with, is far from that person however. This Eliot is a darker character who seeks revenge and finds comfort in bottles. Taking down Al Capone wasn’t a political hide and seek in Blues and Bullets, no, Elliot shot down all of Capone’s bodyguards in a drunken fury. When he finally faced the mastermind he didn’t have the nerve to take him down. Years passed by, Eliot retired as cop and became the head of a restaurant with an addiction to booze and the wife of a dead friend. Years of silence led to an invitation by Al Capone, who was paroled, he asked Ness to seek his kidnapped daughter. This particular daughter seems to be kidnapped by a mysterious cult.

A Crowd of Monsters, the creators of this game altered the history to give us this dark but yet convincing new version of the real Eliot Ness. It’s an interesting spin on reality and it’s something that kept us playing.

The actual gameplay

The dark tone is set, time to see what the game really has to offer, right? Blues and Bullets is a story-based adventure that lets you take important decisions. Compare it to games as Until Dawn and Life is Strange. Dialogue is a big thing in this game and it’s actually well written for the most part. Some of the characters say things that really don’t make any sense or hesitate too long between sentences but aside of this, the dialogues are rather good. It also helps that Eliot is voice casted by Geralt of the Witcher, which is pretty bad-ass if you ask me. That being said, Blues and Bullets is a slow game where dialogue really matters. Some might get frustrated by the slow pacing but it actually works for this game.

Aside of the dialogue, the game also takes you to several locations, you can take that literally. The camera always follows a certain path, revealing where you need to go. There’s no room for side exploration since the camera always forces you where to go. It’s a good concept but it blocked important views from time to time so this certainly needs to get better in the second episode.

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The last part of the gameplay is the shoot-outs that remind us of on-rail arcade shooters. Ness will find cover automatically, it’s your task to get out of cover at the right time and take down the enemies. It’s an easy system that works well but gets boring after a while.

Of course you’ll also need to take important decisions that will lead to alternative endings and consequences, which is always nice to have.

Great atmosphere

The best part of the game is the atmosphere and the way everything looks. The game is set in a black and white world where the color red is the only variation and marks important characters or objects. It’s a great atmosphere and the visuals really pop out of the screen. The best part was by far the segment where we were taking down enemies while huge letters appeared on our screen. Taking down enemies while a giant ‘hell’ is written on your screen, accompanied by fire, is just unforgettable. The visuals are great but the engine sometimes has trouble to run those visuals, leading to short pauses in cut scenes. It doesn’t kill the atmosphere but it should be fixed in other episodes.
Bluescerdict

The good: The bad:
+ Great atmosphere – Slow pacing
+ Voice acting – Performance issues
+ Interesting story

This first episode of Blues and Bullets introduced us to a dark and interesting world filled with mysteries and supernatural creatures. We were triggered to play the second episode thanks to the great ending but we do hope the second episode picks up the speed. This was a great first introduction but some of the dialogues felt unnecessary and the general pacing was rather slow. If you’re looking for a narrative driven game with a great theme and gorgeous world, you definitely need to give this one a shot.

4 out of 5:

4sterren

Got interested in games since I could read. Started with Nintendo but evolved into an all-round gamer. I love all kind of games; triple A games to Indie. If the vibe is right, I'll enjoy playing it.