I remember the year being 1998 and my step dad and I decided to take on Streets of Rage together. I remember it taking us a hell of a long time to do so, mostly because I was terrible at these sorts of games, and because school and work was a thing, so leaving the console on was a must, because back then there were no save points.

I can’t honestly remember if we ever completed the game, I believe we did, but I also remember how much my mother enjoyed switching every plug off in the house, so there’s a high chance our three-day gaming session was cut short.

Here we are 18 years later, with nothing but fond memories and a review copy of Mother Russia Bleeds on our Steam account. Having played the game briefly at Gamescom, I knew what I was in for and I thought I could certainly go it alone, but I soon realised something…

I was never good at fighting games.

Back in the nineties, Streets of Rage became a game my step dad and I played exclusively, I remember never jumping into the game by myself, and rather opted to play something else, like Sonic the Hedgehog or by 150th attempt at Golden Axe. For some reason, up until this past week, I had it in my head that I was good at side scrolling brawlers. I mean, we managed to mash through Streets of Rage in a couple of days.

Then it hit me. I was carried through the entirety of that game and it’s taken me over 18 years to actually realise this. So while my childhood memories remain in tatters, I continued to mash through Mother Russia Bleeds, though it was difficult to see through the tears at some points.

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For those unfamiliar, Mother Russia Bleeds is essentially a soviet Streets of Rage. Players take the role of one of four characters, who some how find themselves part of a cruel chemical-fuelled experiment. And once they awaken in the basement of some sort of corrupt Prison building, must punch, kick, and smash their way out leaving blankets of bodies in their wake.

Those familiar with these types of brawlers will instantly feel right at home, however, for newbies to the game there’s a nice little tutorial level and prologue which allows you to get comfortable with the game’s various move sets.

Once you’re in the meat of the game however, there are a few more features which get introduced, namely one that allows you to heal. While healing was a feature of classic brawlers, it heavily relied on items being dropped for players to pick up. In Mother Russia Bleeds, players have a better control of when and where they heal, allowing them to both save them up for boss fights, or use them for the game’s second mechanic, which is a sort of fury/frenzy system. This throws the player character into a drug fuelled rage where they can unleash devastating attacks for a short period of time.

Speaking of devastating attacks, Mother Russia Bleeds takes the classic and fairly tame brawler from the nineties, and ramps the shock factor upto 11. Not only do the game’s colourful cast of opponents become noticeably bloody after a few smacks to the face, the ability to pummel their heads into the ground until their a bloody mess is also present. This is just made worse with the game’s charge attacks which can be executed by pressing and holding the punch button. If timed correctly, you can send an entire group of bad guys hurtling across the room, and if you’ve got them in a head lock, you can smash their faces into your knee. Lovely.

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Mother Russia Bleeds kind of takes everything you know and love about side-scrolling brawlers and has brought it to a more accepting 21st century. It also shows how much we’ve become tolerant of more violent games, as I imagine titles such as this wouldn’t really last too long back in the more PC late-19th century.

In the game, players take the role of one of four down-and-out characters making it by through a series of street fights. However, something goes wrong and the government get involved. Thus, you and your four friends awake in what appears to be a lab where chemical-based experiments are being performed on you. Now, you’re reliant on this chemical both to heal and unleash the aforementioned rage.

This chemical needs to be consumed in order to heal, and can be replenished through the various convulsing bodies left behind in your wake, however not every vibrating body has enough of this chemical to keep you going, so you need to micro manage fights. Do you beat the living daylights out of this thug? Or risk taking a beating in order to replenish your syringe before it fades away?

Mother Russia Bleeds pays homage to classic side-scrolling brawlers and instantly I felt at home in the run-down world of the game. I knew what I had to do and I knew how to do it. It’s just my terrible grasp of the controls which made it difficult for me, but that’s something that’s been present in almost all side-scrolling brawlers and remains to be a problem even today. Lining up attacks can at times become a little too difficult and frustrating as you think you’re in the correct place, only to be punching the air just to the side of the thugs face.

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Aside from the game’s eight-stage campaign mode, there’s also an Arena mode which you and three other friends can jump into. This really puts you to the test as you’re faced with endless waves of thugs intent on taking you down. This is more of the same, in terms of gameplay, but it gives players an added challenge of seeing how long they can last.

While the game is certainly enjoyable, I feel that nostalgia for these sort of games come into play, and after a while of punching, kicking, and sliding my way through heaps of enemies, there’s a certain tedium in among the later levels, even after you’ve fought through a fairly complex boss battle. What’s more, the game’s gratuitous violence becomes a little muted and less shocking as time goes on and at some points just becomes a little too over done.

All in all though, Mother Russia Bleeds is a great homage to a once bustling genre back in the nineties. If you remember games like Streets of Rage as a kid, then you’ll definitely get some enjoyment out of the game. However, you’ll likely also remember the frustration found when taking on the same boss battle over and over and over again.

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