Bite the Bullet Review
Eating on the run
Running, gunning, and eating. All things we do every day in our busy, apocalyptic lived, right? Mega Cat Studios clearly understands these simple joys and thus, Bite the Bullet was born. This homage to the run n’ legends of the 16-bit era mixes things by adding fast food to the mix.
By fast food, we mean your enemies. Blast food? Smashed food? Something. Whatever they are, you hurt them then eat them to gain energy, health, perks, and upgrade points. Bite the Bullet has one joke basically, and it really runs (and guns) with it. Set in some distant post-apocalyptic time, when a great part of the population of Earth and other locales is now ravenous mutants, you are a super-soldier with a steel gut sent in to clean things up for your corporate sponsor.
There’s a lot more story here, but we’ll spare you. In fact, there’s too much story, especially between missions when you have to go back and forth from one room to another talk to one person or another just to get to the next assignment. When your game is largely centred around eating your opponents alive across a goofy gory retro landscape, it’s probably best not to delve so far into the underlying messages.
Time to eat and run
Aside from your basic barebones rifle, you’ll be able to pick up dropped weapons and upgrade them to greater effect. You can only hold two guns, and one uses ammo, but the upgrade system is a slightly confusing affair and could have been a lot more streamlined.
Mission objectives, in general, are in sore need of streamlining. Each mission has a specific main goal (or goals), but then a ton of lesser ones usually for completionists. Whenever any goal is completed, the game just tells you an objective was achieved, but you’ll largely have to guess which one. This isn’t a huge problem except that it can be incredibly hard to make headway in Bite the Bullet.
Any upgrades or progress made seems to evaporate upon death, which is certainly an authentic, if largely unwanted holdover from olden times. In actual practice, the whole run, gun, and eat gameplay is fun though. You can’t eat dead (or destroyed) enemies. They have to be stunned (again, don’t let your mind wander on this too much, because… ugh).
So, there’s a damaged economy in place for firearms. One shot of an upgraded shotgun might totally blow away a lesser zombie-like mutant, but not quite stun a tougher one. That second shot, however, might kill the creature outright, so do you go for the easy kill or switch to the base gun and get a meal?
It’s not exactly a tactical-level of combat prowess here, but still an interesting quirk. The upgrade tree lets you increase the effect foods have, toughen, earn new abilities, and all the things we’ve come to expect of such mechanisms. There’s the decidedly unique element that soon into the tree you can opt to pick a particular food trail.
Choose Your Own Appetites
Become a vegetarian and stick to eating plant matter for big perks. Go for all meat or even metal, and each path has distinct trade-offs. Can’t decide? Just go for the full-featured omnivore, but what this middle path gains in the diversity of food, it loses in more powerful, specialized traits. Amusingly enough, if you eat too much without running it off and you’ll get fat and sluggish before vomiting, thus losing any perks your food provided.
Since each enemy has specific nutritional values and ingredients (used for crafting upgrades) and can actually be rotten or spoiled, there’s an odd reading element here. Enemies have food “labels” that appear over them when close, and you’ll have to quickly decide whether to eat them or just blow them away. It’s definitely an amusing addition to the gameplay, but, in action, can hurt the pacing.
Controls are, as the kids would’ve said back in the day, tight. The twin-stick controls are default, but you can opt for true old school hardcore by not using the analogue stick to aim, which is a great way to experience how far control schemes have come over the years. Eat enough food and your foodie warrior can hulk out into Zombro mode, where smashing is the way.
Bite the Bullet certainly looks the part of a 16-bit game. It’s not a stretch to imagine playing it on the SNES or Sega Megadrive. The pixelated cartoonish graphics of the 50-odd levels keep the potentially traumatizing cannibal gameplay strictly in the joke zone, and the soundtrack is just as retro-perfect.
While Bite the Bullet didn’t blow us away, it’s still a fun diversion for fans of old school run n’ gun action. Unfortunately, it came out a scant two weeks after Carrion, another much better side-scrolling retro pixel game largely also centred around eating people. If you only play one game this year about chomping on people, go that route. If you have room for two though, this Bullet is worth a taste.
[Reviewed on Xbox One]