New Zelda-Like Is A Fun ’90s Cartoon Take On Killing Vampires

New Zelda-Like Is A Fun ’90s Cartoon Take On Killing Vampires

Sometimes all it takes to grab my attention is one trailer. One good teaser. And that’s exactly how I discovered Blud, a newly released 2D Zelda-like action game about vampires, evil tech bros, and high school. I saw its release trailer on Twitter, thought “Wow that looks cool!” and started playing it. The game, with its bold colors, thick lines, and odd shapes, looks like a cartoon from the ‘90s or early 2000s. But while its impressive style caught my eye and got me playing Blud, I’m happy to report the rest of this playable cartoon is also pretty dang awesome, too.

Blud started life as a pitch for an animated series from studio Exit 73 about a young girl who, after being trained by a mystical master, fights evil vampires and other nasty demonic critters while balancing high school, friends, social media, and the rest of her life in a small town. But, according to the studio, not many were interested in the Blud show and it was shelved. In 2018, the small studio of animators decided to create a video game and retooled Blud—with the same story, characters, and world—as a Zelda-like hack’n’slash that would look like a late ‘90s cartoon.


Humble Games / Exit 73

Now, all these years later, the game is finally here and the very first thing that will stand out about this vampire-killing adventure is that, yeah, a group of talented 2D animators worked on this thing!

I don’t mean that as a negative, to be clear. I think one of Blud’s strongest features is its distinct and eye-catching art style. Levels look like hand-painted backgrounds from shows like Dexter’s Lab and The Powerpuff Girls. Characters and enemies are designed using weird shapes and exaggerated proportions, almost like they fell out of an episode of The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy. And all of these characters and baddies animate like cartoon characters, with their legs and feet stretching or changing shape to emphasize movement and impact.

In motion, Blud is one of the coolest-looking games I’ve ever played, perfectly recreating (and modernizing) that old late ‘90s animated look and feel in a way I’ve never seen before in a video game.

It’s not reanimating the wheel

As for the rest of the game, it’s not quite as perfect as Blud’s visuals, but it’s still enjoyable. Playing as the vampire slayer Becky, you run to various locations around town—your high school, a spooky cemetery, a large hospital, and the local mall—completing small quests which usually involve fighting different types of vampires and demonic creatures.

At first, the game’s combat is very simple. But quickly, as you get more options and a badass field hockey stick, Blud’s combat becomes more interesting, forcing you to block some attacks while dodging others. You also have to use objects like a shovel and an umbrella to solve simple puzzles or defeat challenging bosses, each with a gimmick to solve.

If you’ve played video games in the last decade or so, nothing here will seem revolutionary or incredibly innovative. It plays a lot like a top-down Zelda-like action game, complete with walls that use cracks to indicate where you can drop a bomb (in this case a firework) to blow open a hole and find a secret. It’s not bad, it’s just a bit by the numbers. However, the art style and visuals—including some gorgeously animated cutscenes—help elevate Blud and make it something special.

Cartoony jank

One word of warning: Some of the boss fights in this game are a bit annoying and might cause you to stop playing. This is often due to the game’s awesome animations, which while cool to look at, can sometimes make it hard to know exactly what to do or where to stand to avoid an attack.

This can also be a problem during combat outside of boss fights, where I sometimes took damage because an extended animation left me a sitting duck for an enemy. After a bit of time with Blud, I acclimated to its combat flow and peculiarities, but it does sometimes feel like Blud cares more about looking awesome than playing perfectly, which can be annoying.

Screenshot: Exit 73

Still, to the game’s credit, it does look really cool, and it’s not a very punishing game, even when you die. So I didn’t mind kicking the bucket because a fire vampire burned me alive as I was grabbing something or a tiny vampire creature could get me with its spear tongue through a wall. It all looked so nice!

Blud may not play perfectly, but this seven-hour vampire-killing adventure is such a visual treat that I rarely cared when a boss crushed me or the menu bugged out and I had to reload it. If you can put up with a bit of jank, Blud is worth playing on a big TV screen with some friends, preferably folks who grew up loving late ‘90s animated cartoons. Just be prepared for people going “Oh wow!” a lot as you run around town and save the world with a pink field hockey stick.

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