It has been quite some time since we last saw a new installment in A Crowd of Monsters’ Blues and Bullets. The episodic adventure game, which stars Eliot Ness and Al Capone working together to face a greater threat, saw a promising debut in September of last year. Finally, seven months later, episode two has dropped, and it looks to reignite the interest that it was initially able to drum up.
Over half a year is a lot of time for an episode to be brewing, and it ultimately ends up being one of Blues and Bullets‘ biggest issues. One of the advantages to releasing a game episodically is that developers can use the format to build momentum and tension that ultimately reaches its peak by the time the final episode releases. Blues and Bullets Episode Two just simply took too much time to be released. The momentum has halted to a stop instead of ascending, and a lot of interest was lost.
Thankfully, Blues and Bullets does a decent job of reminding players where the first episode left off. I was able to quickly remember who the characters were, and the gist of the plot even if some of the finer details had escaped my memory. I at least knew that Eliot Ness was continuing his work to find Al Capone’s kidnapped niece while dealing with some seemingly supernatural enemies. It’s still a very interesting premise, and one I was excited to learn more about.
If you’re looking for a ton of plot progression then you’ll probably walk away disappointed after the two or so hours it takes to complete the episode. The game ends up jumping between Ness’ troubled past while also picking up exactly where the first episode ended. These pieces of backstory do a great job of reaffirming that Ness is far from your stereotypical video game hero. Instead, he’s a man who has ruined almost every relationship he’s had. That said, the pacing seems awkward, as these jumps to the past aren’t really framed in-game as they seemingly happen at random.
Since about half of Episode Two takes place in the past, that means not much really happens in the present. You’ll have one section where you’ll have to use your detective chops and examine evidence to discover what exactly occurred in your bloody surroundings, and it plays similar to Frogwares’ Sherlock Holmes series. After discovering enough clues, you’ll then have to fill out a logic board where your deductions will then cause the story to progress. It’s linear puzzle solving, but it works well and moves the story forward.
Sadly, the weaker gameplay half from Blues and Bullets also returns and actually is focused on more this episode than the detective work. This is of course the strange on-rails shooter portion of the game. The aiming feels just as awkward seven months later, and the on-screen action kills any suspension of disbelief. After all, you’re seeing Ness, aimed with a simple revolver, take out dozens of enemies with better weaponry. This simply just isn’t the game’s strong suit, and hopefully future episodes will focus more on the detective side.
The action scenes are also so easy that you never feel like you’re in any danger. It’s funny to see Ness as a killing machine during these shooting segments, yet get easily thrown about by enemies in cutscenes. There’s a disconnect, and the developer needs to decide if Ness is an action hero (he shouldn’t be) or a former cop who is in over his head, but is getting things done.
One area of the game that continues to impress is its visuals. A Crowd of Monsters have been able to mask any technical shortcomings by using a great art style that is reminiscent to PlatinumGames’ MadWorld. The majority of the world is presented in black and white, with important objects being painted in red. It’s a great look, and it makes gruesome details such as blood splatterings really stand out.
The main disappointment about Blues and Bullets Episode Two is that it didn’t improve upon its debut episode. In fact, the first episode offered up a more interesting narrative, and this felt more like an appetizer than a full course meal. That said, I’m once again interested in seeing where this story goes. I just hope that A Crowd of Monsters can capitalize on it by releasing episodes on a more regular basis.
Episode Two of Blues and Bullets isn’t bad, but it sure is underwhelming. While it’s understandable that players are left with more questions than answers after the second act, it’s still disappointing to wait all this time for what was a pretty unspectacular episode. It might ultimately be setting up the game for a bigger payoff down the road, but episodes will have to be released on a more regular basis in order to keep gamer’s attentions.
An Xbox One copy of Blues and Bullets was provided by the developer. To learn more about our score, read our review policy.