The Ship lives on. Outerlight's 2007 cult hit for the PC now has a spiritual sequel in Bloody Good Time, a multiplayer-only Xbox Live Arcade game that lives up to its moniker, despite a few flaws. Unusual gameplay based on stalking and murdering foes while taking the time out to satisfy needs for things like sleep and food makes it an intriguing shooter diversion--just like its nautical predecessor. All of this murderous mayhem is a bit skimpy, however, with just a trio of maps and a limited number of modes of play, although the price is certainly right at just 400 points.
Bloody Good Time takes place on three Hollywood sets that resemble a beach front, a haunted house, and a Vegas casino. A sadistic movie director is the driving force behind the brutal escapades, constructing elaborate scenarios that allow for a smattering of goofy deaths. A cartoon vibe is conveyed through bright graphics; eight generic movie-character protagonists, ranging from Baywatch-styled bimbos to psycho clowns; and a director who makes lots of goofy comments like "Cleanup on aisle three!" or "Jeeves, draw me a blood bath!" The game goes completely over into pure slapstick, which results in more laughs and a lighthearted atmosphere, even in scenes where beach babes are taking butcher knives in the face.
There are four methods to this murderous madness in Hunt, Deathmatch, Elimination, and Revenge game modes. All are limited to multiplayer-only, with support for up to eight players, although you can play solo with bot support as long as you're not too picky about dealing with rudimentary AI that does little but hone in on you and attack. The primary mode of play is Hunt, where you are assigned to stalk and kill another player known only to yourself at the beginning of each round. Of course, your assassination duties are complicated by the fact that another player has you on his or her private hit list. Two of the three other game modes adjust this theme slightly, with the goal of Elimination mode being the slaughter of the entire cast of enemies and Revenge mode designating victims based on who just killed whom. Deathmatch is just a total free-for-all, of course, and doesn't quite fit the style of play here.
Rampaging around as you would in a traditional first-person shooter is impossible no matter how you play Bloody Good Time. You have to do a fair bit of careful stalking here and move into kill mode only when you're given a good opportunity. This makes the game something of an acquired taste because you need to have a lot of patience and spend some time learning map layouts. Security guards patrol the maps and will use a Taser on anyone spotted committing an act of violence, holding a weapon, or even humiliating a corpse with a victory dance. When these patrolling enforcers catch you committing an inappropriate act, you have to dash away and stay out of their sight until they forget about what you've done. In some ways, they hamper the fun because there are just too many of them wandering around. An option to get rid of the guards completely would be very welcome.
Weapons are limited, and it's not always easy to come by the good ones. You start off totally defenseless and need to scrounge deadly implements that range from frying pans and Dexter-like syringes to machine guns and flamethrowers. None of these weapons is overpowered, though, as the most destructive projectile guns come with limited rounds. You've generally got three bullets max, so it's often best to stick with melee weapons, such as katanas and knives, unless you're a great shot. Various murder aids are also scattered around levels, such as disguise kits and trap lures, which give you additional reasons to plan kills instead of just running around like Jason Voorhees. There is a great balance here between engaging in pure shooter havoc and cleverly stalking victims, which can lead to a ton of satisfying kills.
Needs must be met, too. Dials indicate hunger, rest, and waste demands, so you occasionally have to wolf down a burger, grab 40 winks, or hit the potty to maintain speed and strength. This, of course, leaves you vulnerable to attack and adds in a strategic angle where you have to make tough choices about when to take a break. Taking five can easily lead to absurd moments, like being flushed down the toilet. Matches are also mixed up with special bonus rounds that have different objectives like killing everyone, hunting the current point leader, and earning points for toting around a movie-award statue. These limitations and varied goals are really needed, too, because the core game is too basic to be enjoyable for that long. The fact that there are only three maps is a real problem, even though each is pretty big and smartly decked out with interesting scenery. This includes a big pool in the teen-flick beach pad and glowing pumpkins at the horror house, along with kooky acid traps and collapsing floors. But still, there just isn't enough level variety to keep you going for long.
An even bigger issue is the lack of players. The quirky aspects of the design haven't seemed to have caught on with console shooter fans; thus, the end result is that matches are sparsely populated. Even the matches that you can get into tend to be populated by players who aren't interested in playing by the rules, so you can easily wind up with player-killers doing nothing but slaughtering everyone they see until they get booted from the game for friendly murders. Lag can be a problem, too. Matches occasionally turn into slideshows, with the frame rate jittering so much in spots that the game is all but unplayable.
Bloody Good Time is one of the most eccentric first-person shooters available over XBL, and it certainly offers a refreshing change of pace. Sadly, you get what you pay for on this occasion. The 400 Microsoft points price tag might look like a bloody good bargain, but as you would a sadistic surfer disguised as a showgirl, you should approach with caution.