Saturday Night Live has been entertaining us since its debut in 1975. It has the unique title of being the show that virtually everyone has seen, at one time or another. Many have tried to replicate this ?formula for success?, but there is only one reason SNL has remained popular (hit and miss popularity still counts)?we in North America like to make fun of ourselves (and we really get a kick out of making fun of others).
So begins the tale of Matt Hazard. The group at Vicious Cycle Software are not new to the gaming scene, they?ve had success with titles from Dora the Explorer and Curious George, but they are also the group that brought us, the forgettable, Robotech: Invasion. For the Matt Hazard series, Vicious Cycle Software has gone to great lengths to create an entire back story for our tough as nails hero. Our heroes back story, and the latest Xbox Live Arcade offering, goes to extremes in lampooning as many popular culture references as it possibly can. Even the title: Matt Hazard: Blood, Bath and Beyond is a play on the Bed, Bath and Beyond chain (although the Simpson?s did it first with a Gun store named Bloodbath and Beyond way back in season 9).
The story continues the back story references and makes fun of itself at every turn. I actually found the story itself entertaining although not very compelling (I don?t think anyone needs to save an 8 bit version of themselves, regardless of the consequences) but the way the games story jabs holes in its own premise is quite funny. The level designs poke fun at popular games like BioShock, Mario Brothers and Mirror?s Edge and I especially enjoyed the Canadian themed level.
Game play is very much a hit and miss process. The Contra style play is overshadowed by subtle issues. The, tried and true, left to right shooter does add some unique qualities like shooting enemies in the background The enemies come at you at a fast and furious pace (which makes the ragdoll deaths and copious amount of blood even more satisfying). There is a tremendous amount of variety in the minions and bosses (a Lighthouse as a boss battle baddie?it?s like Christmas all over). The, between level, bonus rounds and the in game collectables certainly add more fodder to the ?back story? of the Matt Hazard games (all over the top, all fictional but very funny). I wish I could go on about the great things about this game; unfortunately this is where the interest ends.
The game is short, a couple of hours on ?Damn this is hard? difficulty, a little less on ?Wussy? and a little more on ?F#%* this Sh*t? difficulty levels (essentially the difficulties just determine the number of continues you have available to you and how many shots it takes to kill our hero). The game play does not offer enough to the genre to make the already short game unique, it?s the same formula?run left and right, keep shooting until you reach the boss, beat him and move to the next level. The game does include co-op but only local co-op there is no online offering which would have extended the playability.
To those new to this style of game or to those who have played all of the other 2D shooters perhaps you could enjoy the antics in this game; however as an entry point, the 1200 Microsoft points? fee will discourage most from giving the title an opportunity. If you see this title being offered around the 400 Microsoft point range, give it a try; if only to battle the exploding penguins and evil Lighthouse.