30 Days of Dreamcast – Day 27: Illbleed

ILLBLEED
Genre: Horror
Developer: Crazy Games
Publisher: SEGA
Release Date: 04/16/2001

As part of our feature that looks back at the games that where on the Dreamcast, it would be almost criminal to ignore one of the worst games that was almost one of the best games available for the system.

Illbleed is a survival horror game, and it’s considered a bad game for two reasons: the amount of money spent on controllers after throwing them at the wall in frustration at the game, and the fact that the game was so close to being a great camp horror game and failed at it. In defense of the game, though, part of the reason for Illbleed‘s failure is because it simply tried to do way too much.

The game was one of few attempts to capture and pay homage to camp horror movies and films (see Obscure, though stay away from Obscure 2). It starts off with four friends graduating Castle Rock High School, and one of the friends has invitations to a horror theme park called Illbleed where all you had to do was survive one night and you would win $100,000,000. One catch: lots of people have died at the park; kind of like a lethal Disneyland. Or like regular Euro-Disney.

But hey, for $100,000,000, I’d cut my own foot off and eat it, then cut your foot off and eat it, and these kids feel the same way. Except one, who stays behind. Three days later her friends haven’t returned, so it’s off to Illbleed to find them. Note to my friends: I would’ve left you there and made new friends.

So our heroine has to search through the various bloody themed attractions. There are several areas, each with its own theme. Sounds okay so far, right? Okay, then you start the game. Illbleed almost plays like the Deception series in reverse; instead of laying out traps, each of the areas you explore are filled with traps for your character to disarm. How can you tell where the traps are?

Well you see, in Illbleed, you have seven meters to keep track of. That’s correct, SEVEN. Four are for the characters senses: sight, smell, hearing, and sixth sense. Taste and touch decided that they wanted no part of the game apparently, and I don’t blame them. Then there are meters for adrenaline, stamina, and pulse. Also, in the levels you’ll find a Horror Meter that will help detect and disarm traps.

As for detecting the traps, the sensory meters are set up EKG style. You get near something that triggers your sixth sense and there will be a blip on the meter, meaning you’re near an item or a trap (probably a trap). The other senses work generally the same… you get near a trap that smells bad, the corresponding sense meter moves. The other meters deal with survival. When using the horror meter, you can try to zoom in and mark where you think a trap might be, which uses a good amount of adrenaline. If you successfully marked the spot, then you get some adrenaline back, though at times this is like marking a needle in a haystack. The stamina meter has a couple uses, like for running, but mostly you’ll be worried about when there’s a red bar above it. If there is, you’re bleeding. If you don’t stop the bleeding before the red line goes down, you’ve bled to death… so good for you. Then there’s the pulse line. Bleeding slows it down. Heart stopping = bad. Get scared by one of the traps or enemies, get knocked down, or hell even dodge, and meter goes up. Heart explosion also = bad. Illbleed gives you many different ways to die… and playing this game means your character will die.

A lot.

One of the problems is that there are traps, well, everywhere. Another problem is that some of the traps will trigger enemies you have to fight, and the combat could suck chrome off of a trailer hitch. Enemies are cheap and your characters are weak, though you always have the option of running… as long as you can put a little distance between the baddies and the character (and can tap the B button like a maniac). But because the traps are everywhere, even if you’re good at spotting and marking the traps and have enough adrenaline power ups to keep it up forever, the game is agonizingly slow. You’ll be fighting for every step you take while hoping your character has enough adrenaline, isn’t bleeding to death, and has a regular pulse while juggling the other meters.

So why bother playing the game at all? Partly because the game is one of the most unique survival horror games you’ll ever encounter. Outside of the screen full of meters, each level is a bizarre experience in itself. My favorite is the one where you get to play as a toy doll named Cork whose owner died and his toy girlfriend “Sexy Doll” (which is a female bending over with a giant booty…we’re talking major junk in the trunk) is buried with his owner.

Cork is depressed because he was planning on getting some, and tries to go to the cemetery to see the grave… only to have their ghosts materialize to tell him goodbye before getting interrupted by an evil force. Even more depressed, he hits up a bar, gets drunk, kills some oversized eggs and goes to jail. There he finds out that he can go see Sexy Doll if he dies and goes to hell. He’s all excited about this and makes his way to the gallows. But this is interrupted by the same person who told him he needed to die. According to the Toy Bible, he needs to go to Toy Hell, not normal Hell, so he needs to be buried with a kid. Armed with that knowledge, he goes off, finds a kid, and then kills him.

You read that right.

Um, then he goes to Toy Hell, where he has to save his Sexy Doll from the entity that runs the joint… none other than Zodick the Hellhog, a giant evil hedgehog that bleeds rings and does a spin attack. Sound similar to another game character?

Never mind. That’s how weird this freakin’ game is. You’ve got to see it to believe it. Throw in a bunch of other horror references and you’ve got Illbleed. Perhaps the most unique horror game ever made, which could’ve been a killer Horror game if the combat had more to it… and if there were less meters cluttering up the screen.

I never really got to play Illbleed. That is to say, I TRIED to play it, but never managed to really do much with it beyond die a lot. The only way I managed to play through the game is with the help of a friend who had managed to beat the game several times, and I think the only reason he managed to do so was because he suffers from severe OCD. I mean he knows every single spot to mark in the game. It’s odd.

Graphically the game has held up about as well as other Dreamcast games. That is to say it doesn’t look very good compared to current HD games, but it looks good compared to something like Blue Stinger. The background music and sound effects are still pretty good, though I’m giving the game the benefit of the doubt and assuming it is meant to sound like cheesy horror movie sound effects instead of just a small budget.

While the game is barely playable to any except for the extremely dedicated, I still have a soft spot for this game. I’d love to see an updated version of the title that manages to sort out the mess that is the HUD for this game while keeping the odd humor and batshit insane plot that makes Illbleed so enjoyable. For me it is one of those games that truly epitomizes the Dreamcast. While functionally it may not have been the best game you will never, ever find another game like it on any other system.

The Scores
Story/Modes: Good
Graphics: Below Average
Audio: Decent
Gameplay: Poor
Replayability: Bad
Balance: Bad
Originality: Classic
Addictiveness: Poor
Appeal Factor: Poor
Miscellaneous: Amazing
Final Score: Below Average Game!

Short Attention Span Summary:
There’s nothing truly like Illbleed out there. In many ways, this is a good thing since a lot of the new things it tried to do it also failed miserably at. However if you are able to look past the glaring flaws, you’ll find one of the weirdest and most memorable gaming experiences of your life.

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