Bloody Good Time: But Is It?

Back in April I had this to say about a brilliant little indie game called The Ship:

It’s a game that I’d probably recommend over all the other games mentioned here but, at the same time, would advise caution against because there’s no guarantee of how easy it will be to find a match.

After the article went up a couple of people expressed interest in getting the game which. Flattering to be sure, but also kind of terrifying due to its somewhat substantial price. Over the months the optimal solution seemed to fall into place: Bloody Good Time, the developer’s spiritual sequel, was to be sold for a meagre £4. Ideal!

Despite the troubled launch of the game – the developer Outerlight was dissolved shortly after finishing it and, on the day of release, it was dropped from sale from distribution site Direct2Drive, who mysteriously claimed “we had to remove the game from sale at the request of the publisher” – it has now been out for a couple of months. Is it the game that fans of The Ship, and those put off by its price, had hoped for? Is it, in fact, a Bloody Good Time?

In short: no.

Is it a worthwhile cheap little game for those not desperate for a Ship surrogate? That one’s a little more complicated.

Just to get everyone up to speed, Bloody Good Time is a multiplayer game based around an assassination-type mode. Players are given a quarry each round which they must hunt and kill. They are also another player’s quarry and simultaneously need to avoid being killed. Hijinks ensue. There are two other modes that revolve around this concept (Revenge makes the last player you kill your hunter while Elimination is a last-man-standing affair) and a deathmatch mode, which… Well, I’ll discuss why the deathmatch mode is a steaming triple-scoop cone of shit later on.

First thing to say is the game has been simplified. It’s quicker, smaller and has less complexity than The Ship. I say ‘less complexity’ rather than ‘dumbed down’ partly because people who go around complaining about games being dumbed down for consoles should be kicked in the teeth, but mostly because this is one element that is actually a welcome change. Specifically, there are less ‘needs’ that require attention. While The Ship asked the player to keep track of every aspect of their character’s well being, from sociability right through to when they last had a shower, Bloody Good Time asks players to look after just three distinct character needs – hunger, tiredness and bladder capacity. These needs also have a more direct relationship to a character’s abilities: don’t eat and attack power is reduced, not sleeping leaves character’s with less of a defensive bonus while too long without taking a shit slows them down – because of all the extra weight being carried in their intestines I assume. Their inclusion keeps the risk element of having a character indisposed while they recharge the bars, but limiting it to three well defined performance aspects reduces the level of annoyance at constant character micro-management.

But along with this positive changes are plenty of negative ones. As I said earlier, the game isn’t just less complex but also smaller and faster, and it’s the speed and size that really let it down. The maps are actually really well designed, using the movie set conceit to let you take shortcuts through the back of the set, past scaffolding and trailers. Unfortunately the maps are simply too small. Players are placed in too confined a space, which inevitably leads to a faster paced game. This is not a good thing because…

Okay, so here’s the point of assassination based games: to be – no – to feel like an assassin. You want to feel professional, exacting but, above all, devious. If your game mode is called The Hunt, you want to feel like you’re hunting. Similarly, if you’re being hunted you need the illusion of safety. In The Ship you could hide. You could go into a bedroom, close the door and restock, tend to your needs and just feel safe. You weren’t safe – at any minute your hunter could open the door and kill you – but the illusion was strong enough that for a split second you could take your mind off the fact that someone was after you. Precisely the moment your hunter could choose to strike, calmly walking away having got the better of the security and, if he was lucky, his own hunter.

In Bloody Good Time you will almost certainly kill your quarry and your hunter will almost certainly kill you. If you’re unlucky you’ll also be spotted by security, which happens a lot and, if they catch up with you, you’ll lose all your points for that round. If your hunter doesn’t kill you, chances are it wasn’t because you’ve been clever enough to avoid them but because they’ve been randomly killed by the players out there that still haven’t got the hang of the game and are just killing everyone. In otherwords, if a quarry isn’t killed it was the hunter’s misfortune not the hunted’s cunning. All of which means the game just isn’t very satisfying.

Another complaint, and this one links in with why the deathmatch is so craptastic, the combat is pretty bad. Guns are unresponsive and inaccurate and melee attacks suffer the usual FPS bugbear of a lack of weight and feedback to attacks. The flamethrower just outright doesn’t work, only setting an enemy alight after prolonged exposure to its flame. When the game asks for a free for all – not just in deathmatch, but in a lot of the bonus scenes that happen in all modes too – it just outright isn’t enjoyable.

Other times, with a group of the right players, there is fun to be had with the game. Looking at the price point, I would almost be tempted to say that, opponents permitting, it would perhaps be worth a look for those not harbouring expectations of The Ship, or even just those interested in a throwaway arcade multiplayer game that tries to be about more than just killing everything in sight. However, all that would depend on being able to find a game in the firstplace.

Only a couple of months after release and the game is virtually dead. A quick check showed 11 people playing the game all on one server, an official Ubisoft one. Forgetting for a second the lack of people playing the game, I personally can’t see Ubisoft keeping the official servers alive long if they go unused. At which point it’s down to the fans to keep the game alive, and I just don’t see Bloody Good Time enjoying that level of cult interest that keeps Steam groups actively trying to keep The Ship going.

And so my advice remains as it always has done – hope The Ship gets put in a sale, and find some people to play that with.


2 Responses to “Bloody Good Time: But Is It?”

  1. 1 Issi
    03/12/2010 at 18:30

    Sounds like a real shame. Still, at £4 you have to try it to find out. I should really have another go with the ship soon, i’m relieved to know there are people still playing it.

    • 2 Phil
      03/12/2010 at 18:57

      Yeah, there are usually a few people on at any one time, but various groups will hold server events every now and again which is really the time to give it a shot.

      Now I just need to find a group dedicated to keeping the brilliant Plain Sight going.

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