Continuing the preservation of my own Netjak reviews, which I started doing this year on Epinions...
Everyone knows the old saying about how war is hell. If that's true, then in Bloody Wolf, hell is a whole lot of fun! Bloody Wolf is a straight-through, action-packed gun war in which you control one of two commandoes who fight soldiers with rifles, machine guns, electrified hovering buoys, and bosses with names like Shotgun Man, Knife Killer, Big Sniper, and Rolling Thunder. To fight an army of this magnitude, the game gives you some of the biggest, baddest arms of the modern era: A knife, machine gun, shotgun, grenades, bazooka, and everyone's favorite, the always-useful, eternally popular flamethrower! Rambo just pissed his pants.
Bloody Wolf even gives us a patriotic objective to work with. Air Force One has crashed right in the middle of a South American jungle which is run by a powerful drug cartel. The reigning lord of the cartel beat all of America's rescue squads to find the President and kidnap him. It's up to an elite combat team called Bloody Wolf to go into the jungle, rescue the President, rescue a bunch of other hostages, and take out as many of the cartel's troops as they can. Bloody Wolf actually proves to be a little bit ahead of its time by giving us two endings, and even a little, unexpected plot twist right in the middle of the game. In between levels, the two commandoes you control (their default names are Eagle and Snake) even give you monologues about why they're going where they're going next. Not only do you have a plot in Bloody Wolf, you have a plot that tries to give you as much sense for existing as it possibly can.
Bloody Wolf is often compared to Contra, the classic action game for the NES. But I think a better comparison for Bloody Wolf would be another old NES game which was also a fairly popular arcade game: Heavy Barrel. Both of those games use 3/4 overhead views and both allow you to use sub-weapons. While Bloody Wolf doesn't provide you with the ability to swivel your waist so you can walk in one direction while firing in another, it does provide you with an essential jump button. While the levels of both games are given the same basic type of layout, Bloody Wolf contains a lot more terrain obstacles – barbed wire, water, gaps, pretty much anything which can be used as a way to hinder your movement – than Heavy Barrel.
The enemies being sent after you, like most bad guys from the 16-bit era, lack imagination. But what they lack in imagination, they make up for with sheer number and relentlessness. There are soldiers who have somehow come up with the idea that just charging straight at you is a good idea. While the kamikaze trooper will always be a textbook video game attack, there are troops in Bloody Wolf who actually have a rationale for doing it. One kind of soldier flashes as it charges at you and simply blows up upon being hit with anything heavier than the average feather. The other type is another exploding soldier, but one which simply doesn't go down no matter what you throw at it. It takes two grenades to destroy them, or a LOT of shots from whatever gun you're holding at the time. They get to be a lot of trouble as you march down the final corridor in the eighth level, where the final boss waits.
Those two types of soldiers don't pop up that often, though. The vast (Vast, VAST) majority of your foes will be regular, everyday flesh-and-blood humans with guns. These guys will sometimes charge at you, stopping at intervals to fire at you. Others will just stand in one spot shooting away with their rifles and machine guns. (The manual says the red soldiers use bayonets as their main weapons, but this just isn't true. They carry rifles and they do use them.) Some are protected with body armor and you'll have to get close to them to pick them off with your knife, or just lob a grenade or two at them. Some drop in from above wearing parachutes. Some ride motorcycles. Again, none of them are particularly smart – a lot of the guys who stand there will stay in place no matter where you go or what you do – but there are a lot of them and they all want you dead. Bloody Wolf never lets you forget its classification as an action game, and you'll find plenty of things to shoot.
And the weapons you get to shoot things with! For some reason, you come equipped with a knife. While this is useful to bringing down the armored soldiers, it can also be indicative of how you're doing: If you're getting so close to enemies that you have to actually use the knife, things probably aren't going the way you planned. The game also equips you with the standard unlimited-ammo machine gun. It's the most basic gun in the game but it is still a lead-spitting assembly line of death with the rapid fire turbo switch going full blast. In your travels, your itchy trigger finger will also be scratched by a shotgun, which sends bullets in seven directions; a bazooka, which sends rockets at whatever unlucky thing you point them at; magnum grenades, which blow up everything within a dangerously large blast radius; flash bombs, which blind enemies so they don't move; and a flamethrower, the most useful and fun sub-weapon ever seen in a video game! Furthermore, when you shoot a motorcycle soldier, you get to hop onto his chopper and run your attackers down! These fun weapons even things out nicely, don't you think?
Sadly, Bloody Wolf's only major flaw is that the items you pick up are neither useful nor fun. The only consistently useful item is the key, which allows you to open locked crates. It certainly saves time, but even if you don't pick the key up, the locked crates only need some extra whacks with your knife. Body armor is supposed to protect you, but it's used automatically and only in the last level. The fins help you swim faster, but swimming isn't a major part of any level for them to become a factor. The infra-red scope is only needed for the last level, and the Rosary doesn't really do anything. It should also be noted that the manual says you can store your weapons, which means that if you're using the shotgun and pick up a bazooka, you can still use the remaining ammo in the shotgun once you use up the bazooka. But I have not found this to be the case. What actually happens is that if you're using the shotgun and pick up the bazooka, the game ditches the shotgun and makes you use the machine gun once the bazooka is used up.
There are eight levels and most of them are have the everyday go-from-the-left-side-of-the-screen-to-the-right-side-of-the-screen objective. But there are some very creative features in a few of them. In one level, when you get to the President, you then have to escort him out of the base with only your knife. (I know you're cringing at the word "escort" there, but don't worry. The President stays RIGHT behind you the whole time and the game doesn't let him get hurt.) Another level makes you find twelve hostages. Still another level sends you down a river on a raft. There are no attempts to get you to solve puzzles, but bosses are plentiful. Some levels even make you fight more than one boss. The boss battles run the gamut from the standard run-around-all-the-little-bullets routine to being masterworks of boss art. There are three bosses you have to fight using only your knife. One boss tries to distract you with ghost images. Another is assisted by rubble which falls from the ceiling every time it launches a rocket at you. Still another tries to stop you using a blockade of armored soldiers. All of the bosses have six-piece life bars, but these are misleading because the bosses all take an exorbitant amount of punishment before losing a single piece of their life bars.
With all the things that can be going on onscreen at once, there are some parts of Bloody Wolf which suffer enormous slowdown. But in an odd twist, the slowdown can actually help you out. Once you get beyond the slowdown, the sprites are small but extremely detailed. The animation is just fine, but there isn't a whole lot of it. Every character in the game is immobile above the waist. But this is okay because the sprites are so small that trying to put movements into minute detail wouldn't have made any difference – you really don't need to see anything of the characters except the moving legs and firing guns. While water looks like paper, the rest of the scenery is lush and painstakingly detailed. A nice touch is that the scenery turns white whenever a boss vehicle explodes. Human bosses, however, don't get this courtesy. Not often, anyway.
You won't remember anything about the sounds of Bloody Wolf except for the spectacular explosions. But outside of generic tracks used in the first, third, and first leg of the eighth levels, the soundtrack is an unheralded masterpiece of funk which would make George Clinton proud. The second half of the eighth level provides you with an ominous track which would fit in the soundtrack of a bleak science fiction movie. It's generally great all across the board.
The controls are very tight. Your shots are short-ranged and your weapons don't make it halfway across the screen – except when you fight a vehicular boss or hop on a motorcycle, when they suddenly travel the length of the screen. This is fine, though, because your enemies' shots don't travel far either. When you jump, you have just enough control to switch your direction should you suddenly change your mind. You can't fire when jumping either, and this is sure to cause problems. But overall, the controls are very responsive, and a good thing too because you'll be dodging and weaving a lot.
Bloody Wolf should be a classic. It probably would be if it weren't on an unpopular console. If you download it on a Wii, Bloody Wolf will pay you back ten times the five bucks you paid for the privilege of downloading it. If you own a TurboGrafx-16, Bloody Wolf is just a great way to let off steam.