By Eric Pankoke on Tue, 12/22/2009
Besides the usual flood of “help Santa deliver the packages” games, there’s been another interesting selection of Christmas themed games this year. Apparently Santa is taking the “no more Mr. Nice Guy” attitude as he cleanses the Workshop and all points north of everything from rogue elves to vicious zombies (how they lumber through the snow I’ll never know) to – in the case of Blood Xmas – demonic attackers. Now I realize that I should have known by title and description alone what I was getting into, but even at that it’s hard to judge how “over the top” something will end up being until you try it. Personally, Bloody Xmas went above and beyond my tastes. I could live with that if the game was enjoyable, but in the end it gets too difficult and frustrating too fast for me.
Santa has been having a rough time keeping the presents safe this year. In Bloody Xmas you’ve got 5 presents left, and you must guard them with your life. To do this you must make use of all the weapons in your arsenal, which include a cleaver, a giant mallet and a chainsaw. There may be others not revealed on the web site, but if there are I haven’t encountered them in the game yet either. The cleaver is your basic weapon, and is really only useful on the demonic girl, which is the first creature you encounter. You’ll always have this weapon when you special weapons fade away, so if you get ahold of a special, use it on the tougher monsters first. As you are busy hacking away at the bad guys other ones will be stealing presents, so it’s in your best interest to keep the more difficult monsters away from the gifts at all costs. There are five presents to start with, and if a bad guy manages to escape with a gift it is gone for good. Once all the gifts have been stolen the game is over.
To move Santa around the screen you simply drag your finger and he will follow. Special weapons can be found in big green packages that randomly appear on the screen, and as long as Santa walks over the package he’ll pick up the weapon. To actually attack a bad guy, however, you must click on them. Since these are non-projectile weapons, I suppose it makes sense that Santa would actually have to stop in order to use them. However, it would be nice if you could at least have the option to have Santa stop and attack a bad guy if he passes one. Maybe I’m just too used to the common dual stick shooter, but comparatively the action in Bloody Xmas seems choppy and disruptive.
The bigger problem, however, is that as the screen gets more crowded, it becomes almost impossible to get a special weapon without something walking away with a present. The presents are in the middle of the playing area, which is 360 degrees in nature. The special weapons appear around the outer parts of the board, so getting one means walking away from the gifts. On the other hand, as you get more creatures that require multiple swipes with the cleaver, you really almost need the specials to complete a level. If a present is gone from the center there are always visual cues as to where it is headed, but often by the time you can get back to it you know you’re going to be too late. Add to that the clutter that many dead bodies leave on higher levels, and it really gets to be a chore keeping track of the presents. I personally much preferred how Trigger Happy Christmas handled the same type of game play better from a 2D, side view perspective. It was still challenging, but seemed a lot fairer.
Graphically I’m really torn with this game. It really does look good visually. I find the buff, stubble-strewn Santa an interesting change from what you normally expect to see. The “inner sanctum” looks good, complete with a stocking-hung fireplace. Even the creatures look good in their cell shaded renderings. However, when the brains and eyeballs start flying it tends to lose its appeal to me. By the time a round is finished the floor is soaked with blood and the remainders of the last few victims you’ve slain are still lying about. Not exactly a picture to put on your next Christmas card. I’m wondering if maybe they should have called the game Mortal Ksanta?
The sound effects really make the job of slaying these creatures difficult. Sure the cackles and groans of living, thieving demons make you want to take these guys down, but in their dying shrieks you almost feel sorry for them. Especially the old man in the wheel chair, who sounds really pathetic as he’s toppling over. The voice for Santa sounds really good, but he probably needs a few more things to say. As for the music, it certainly fits the bill for the overall theme of the game, but can’t anyone use a song other than Jingle Bells as the basis for their twisted Christmas music?
Conceptually I like the game. I think it has a lot of promise. However, the game just gets too difficult real quick. More hardcore gamers will probably find the pacing just fine, but I thought it was too demanding. Add on top of that the brutal slayings of all these creatures, and there really isn’t a whole lot of Christmas spirit to be had here. I know this isn’t supposed to be a Christmas game for kids, but at least in Trigger Happy Christmas Santa had some remorse about killing his elves. Bloody Xmas is more about playing a Terminator in a red suit. It just wasn’t for me.
Overall Score: 5/10
App Store Link