Digging around in the Xbox Live Indie Game section for a good game is a lot like digging around a bin of medical waste hoping to find a quarter. Also you’re blindfolded and you’re digging around with your tongue. The quality of games tends to range between “average” and “sexually transmitted disease” and most games aren’t even worth the dollar they charge for them. Still, occasionally you will find a hidden gem, and I’ve always had the hardest time stopping myself from digging around this particular vat of medical waste from time to time just to satiate my curiosity. It was during one of my recent dumpster dives that I came across a game titled Blood & Bacon, a name so amazing that I purchased it on the spot.
This is a wave based shooter where you fight hordes of demented zombie pigs as they try to gore you to death. If I constructed a Mad Libs based on the line “fighting hordes of (adjective) (adjective) (plural noun)” and shook paranoid farmers until words spilled from their mouths, the combination of demented zombie pigs would still never appear. This is a game that boasts about being the bloodiest game on all of Xbox Live, and that is still underselling the amount of blood in this game. There is a button that I at first thought was a “wave your arms in the air like you just don’t care” button in case you were approached by rappers from the 1980s, but which I later found out is a “wipe the blood away from your face so you can see again” button. There is so much blood in this game that a button is dedicated solely to clearing the excess of it away from your character’s face because otherwise you can’t see. For the sake of comparison, there is no aim button and you just shoot in the direction you are facing. This means between the options of aiming and wiping blood away from your face, the developers sat down and decided that the latter would be more important. That’s how bloody this game is.
Even better than being bloody, this game is certifiably insane. Not run of the mill quirky, but full out, mouth-frothing, nonsense-yelling, shoes on hands bonkers. It starts out merely strange, as you play as a cop dispatched to a farm to solve some farm related shenanigans, and for once it involves little to no cow tipping. You find the farmer impaled upon the side of the barn wall with his own pitchfork. His guttural grunting serves as the only guidance you have in the game, and he claims he was put there by the zombie pigs that have taken over his farm. I tried to help him down, but I’m not positive the hands in this game were made to hold anything other than guns. I wave my hands like I just don’t care near the pitchfork hoping to dislodge it, but it doesn’t seem to have any effect. Eventually I gave up, and he set me out with nothing but a pistol and a deep and profound confusion as to what the hell is going on.
The game is divided into individual days where you must defeat a specific amount of pigs before progressing on to the next day and next wave. Waves get bigger and tougher as the gamer progresses, eventually unlocking bigger and more powerful firepower to combat the threat. The game controls roughly like a poorly made version of the Left 4 Dead series or any of the other numerous wave shooters you can find on XBLIG. There is a shoot button and some other less important “I couldn’t care less what these buttons do” buttons. You’ll still be spending a lot of time running backwards, shoving enemies back with your gun, and firing every bullet ever made. The first few days basically introduce you to the controls and have you slowly dip your toe into the pool of crazy before drowning you in the tidal wave of insanity waiting for you around day 6 or so. The first pig I shot literally exploded in a geyser of blood, and his head flew off to the other side of the screen. The second one I shot just tipped over. I haven’t yet deduced what the difference was or how to trigger the explosion geysers, but I suspect some pigs just have a flair for the dramatic.
After a couple of in-game days, the farmer let me in on a little secret. He informed me of the “The Meat Grinder,” which is probably that enormous machine I noticed off to the side of the farm. I had investigated these whirly blades of death on the first day, but couldn’t figure out how to get it to work. After slaughtering the final pig this day, I decide to give the meat grinder a closer inspection, which proved to be a terrible mistake. It didn’t seem to be doing much of anything until I accidentally kicked a pig torso in the thing and it turned on in a spray of blood. Unfortunately, most of the pig torso and heads were on the opposite side of the farm because I didn’t know I had to plan my slaughter nearby. I spend the next ten minutes kicking pig heads across the farm and trying to aim them into the meat grinder and I eventually heard a pop as a part of me died inside.
After shooting my last pig head goal, I go to the side of the machine and see what kind of goodies I can get. I shoot the one available button and out comes…a little bit of ammo. Of anything the game could have shot out at this point, a little bit of ammo was literally the least useful or interesting thing it could’ve been. There is nothing left to shoot and ammo automatically reloads after each day. WHY DID YOU DO THIS TO ME BLOOD & BACON? I just kicked a bunch of pig heads around for ten minutes to satisfy the blood lust of the meat grinder for absolutely no reason. Psychopaths would look at what I just did and whisper to each other that they need to convince me to get therapy after they finish painting every cat in the city blue.
As I don’t think anything I do will be able to erase the psychological trauma of the last ten minutes, I decide to jump right back into it and go to talk to the farmer again, but before he says anything I hear gunfire. I turn and see another man with a shotgun shooting at both me and the farmer, and for a second I am legitimately frightened. Either this game doesn’t bother to announce when someone joins in multiplayer or kicking all those pig parts around for half an hour has awakened some angry god. Both are equally likely at this point. I try to talk to the farmer, but whatever he is trying to tell me is drowned out by the incessant shotgun fire coming from possibly evil second guy.
I leave to see what new horrors await me this day, and possibly evil second guy wanders out as well, still shooting at whatever demons are haunting him that only he can see. This day is filled with these little pigs that are incredibly fast and deal tons of damage in a short time. Twirling wildly in a circle and yelling “WHERE ARE YOU” is having almost no effect, and possibly evil second guy is too busy trying to shoot his way back into the barn to help. I’m soon overwhelmed by the little pigs, and I can only watch helplessly as they gore me to death after I collapse. I almost instantly become a skeleton, but oddly enough I can still reload my gun. I can’t fire it, but the game will show the reload animation. Possibly evil second guy wanders over to shoot me in the face, and all I can do is passively aggressively reload my gun another time. At least this whole awful experience is over and I can —
Oh, wait, the game resurrects you back in the barn and has you restart the day. All is quiet for a second, but the shotgun blasts start ringing out behind me again, and I turn to see possibly evil second guy leaping and shooting at the still closed barn door.
I know I’m being punished for something now.
Somehow the game ramps up the crazy from here. On the tenth day you fight your first boss and he is a floating disembodied pig head clamoring for your soul. Huge, multiform boss fights are not uncommon, and it seems like once every ten days you fight some sort of boss pig. There are also the “revenge” days which are the reason why the wipe the blood away from your face is absolutely necessary. There are a huge number of pigs, your gun, and what I would classify as way too much pig blood. You also have unlimited ammo, and huge numbers of pigs just explode in violent streams of blood and body parts. Some part of me feels like O Fortuna or the finale of the 1812 Overture should be playing in the background during these segments.
The most insane thing about Blood and Bacon, however, is that it is actually half way decent. You can tell it is made for XBLIG and the game suffers from its fair share of glitches. Pigs run through walls, occasionally when you are knocked down the game starts vibrating for no reason, and the knock back and stun seems to work too slowly to be really useful. The difficulty is also all over the place, and if I have to fight through one more level with those lightning fast little rat pigs I was afraid some sort of vein in my head would burst. You sort of need multiplayer for some of these levels, and getting through one sort of depends on if you can find another person that isn’t completely useless and just follows you around trying to shoot you in the face. There are 100 days of blood, bacon, and insanity, even though the game really starts getting fairly repetitive around day 20 or so. It is, however, bloody, mindless fun and for $3 you could certainly do a lot worse.