When it comes to concepts like Bite the Bullet which comes to us from Mega Cat Studios, I’m left in this awful, ridiculous discomfort. It’s not because I find the idea unnerving or inappropriate, far from it. When I heard about this game, I was all over it, and was super excited to dive in and see what could be in store for the future of gaming. After all, here was a truly bizarre game idea that married two cornerstones of gameplay (roguelite and metrovania) with some out of the box mechanics (eating your enemies and bullets) and even threw in an important cause at the core (The Feed America Charity). It ticks all the right boxes in all the right places, which leads to an even greater frustration when the game simply does not engage me or keep me interested in any way whatsoever.
Again, conceptually, the setup for Bite the Bullet is brilliant. In a future that’s gone totally off the rails, humanity has needed to flee into space due to a solution to world hunger accidentally creating cannibal zombies. This sort of artificial, GMO-idealized food source suddenly made everything and everyone food, and that, in turn, lead to some pretty awful setbacks. DarwinCorp is this very benevolent and not-at-all secretly evil organization that’s dedicated to archiving samples of all life that has existed, whether or not it wants to be archived. You play either Chewie or Chewella, both mercenaries hired by DarwinCorp to help collect specimens, which is done by eating them, and also protecting the personal interest of DarwinCorp. With a ton of weapons, a host of unlockable abilities and a seriously insatiable appetite, the future looks like a disgusting buffet, and you’ve brought your own fork and knife from home.
With Bite the Bullet, the dedication to the ideology within the game is amazing. If you really wanted to, it’s possible to play this game as a straight run and gun a la Metal Slug and have it be that, though it would be both infinitely more difficult and less interesting. As you move through the game, if you pull your punches and manage to only blast an enemy until they get dazed, you then have the opportunity to eat them. Eating an enemy can restore some HP and also build up a secondary gauge that will allow you to transform into Zombro, a zombie/Hulk sort of persona that uses fists instead of guns and is mostly invulnerable. Eating enemies also contributes to other stats, though, with ideas like calories, fat and protein being important to realise. As laid out in the tutorial, eating too much fat slows you down, but also buffs your defence (because you’re getting fatter), and eating more protein makes you faster and stronger but also requires you to eat more frequently because you’re a resource hog. Don’t worry: besides enemies, there’s also plenty of oddly modified meat and fruit around that you can chow down, and get passive stat boosts and actual bonuses, like magically being surrounded by a flock of birds that can block some bullets.
The best and worst thing about Bite the Bullet is definitely the massive attention to detail that went into adding an enormous number of extra plates to keep spinning within the game. There are four character classes that you can move into through the skill tree, and each has their own set of interesting abilities that go along with it, as well as caveats. Investing in the Omnivore path means you can ingest everything and have it work out in your favour, but some extra skills you can attain aren’t as spectacular as, say, if you decided to be strictly a Robovore (only eating the different robots you encounter). With four save slots, you can figure out for yourself which you like best, though I stuck with Carnivore because of the better damage buffs and because it’s easy to just keep eating enemies and avoiding plants and vegetables. Sure, the Herbivore might have a better long-term plan, but I was in this for the mayhem, not the future. Getting stat points to add to your skill tree and unlock new things are contingent on EXP and levelling up, so you need to balance when you’ll be killing and eating enemies, lest you wind up with a full stomach and nowhere to go, or a ton of EXP and utter deterioration from hunger.
That would already be enough, but Bite the Bullet goes further, then introducing the one-two punch of metrovania exploration and weapons crafting. My thoughts on crafting have always trended towards the negative, so I wasn’t totally surprised that I got bored with the weapon design motif pretty early on, especially considering how often you run into crafting stations and have nothing to add to your weapons. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of weapons to be found, both random drops from enemies and from prizes waiting inside teleporters that bring you to off-the-main-path rooms and hallways. That’s why I brought up metrovania in the same breath: the two elements are intrinsically connected, and exploration is what’ll help you out the most in terms of finding the best new gear, the extra booster items to be consumed to shift your stats one way or another (items that are pure fat or pure protein exist, as well as an emetic item to “purge” your food stats), and potentially finding extra enemies that fit into your diet. Eventually, you will discover the way to the next area, which you need to activate by vomiting all over a set of scales to show how many “specimens” you could find (I can’t think of a single time where I didn’t have enough) and then move on. There’re labyrinthian areas, there are huge, ridiculous bosses, and there are plenty of opportunities to fine-tune your character over a long, long course of trial and error.
Visually and aurally, Bite the Bullet is spot on for something truly attention grabbing. And I loved every moment of that. Much like our old friends of Double Kick Heroes and Coffee Crisis, Bite the Bullet has an appropriately rocking, driving, very metal soundtrack to underscore both the chaos of what’s happening in this future as well as the hardcore action of the game itself. It’s so freaking crazy that the world has become overrun with zombies and evil robots, and your solution is to eat them, and that all somehow makes total sense. It’s very cool and ballistic in the concept and presentation, and I think the choice of pixel art really makes sense for the grittiness and dismal effects of it all. While you move from a dilapidated bullet train to the darkened sewers, from an abandoned city full of Burton-esque houses to a nightmarish treetop village, the whole thing sings together well and paints an appropriate picture of what this world could look like after the end has come. Oh, and the bosses are a frigging sight to behold, especially considering, yes, you need to eat them after successfully blasting through phase after phase of mutated meat and metal trying to murder you.
What keeps me from loving it, however, is the gameplay itself. Bite the Bullet is, sadly, an incredibly floaty game: Chewie and Chewetta are not tight in their controls, and it’s a goddamn problem from the very beginning. In a game that’s essentially Metroid, and Contra but with Lunchables, being on top of things is so important, and it just never really gets better. You’ve got a double jump and a dash attack in order to get anywhere, and it’s a nightmare trying to navigate walls and tunnels to really explore and get from point A to point B. You need to wall jump, but you often end up flying in a strange, broken arc that leaves you slamming into the ceiling or missing your target platform entirely. You need to shoot constantly, but there’s no solid way to keep your aim on the enemies, resulting in return fire knocking you out or, worse, overshooting your target and losing an opportunity for a meal. When you become Zombro, you’re not even a little scared of standard firepower and bullets, but God help you if you need to jump over any gaps, because you’ll probably fall down the hole and lose both a life and your Zombro state.
Plus, and maybe this is just me, but the game just feels so incredibly busy for something that boils down to a very simple concept. If Bite the Bullet had been a normal side-scroller with all the other options still active (crafting, eating, skill tree), I think I would have enjoyed myself a bit more. Later on in the game, it seems like maybe the devs got the same note, because the stages do become a tad more linear, but it feels like it comes after I spent all my frustration in the first three missions. Or if they had kept the metrovania but did away with the crafting, opting instead of just weapon discovery to make everything come together. But no, you gotta keep eating, keep aware of your diet, really analyse the stats of your guns, find if there’s other things to eat before you can move on to some place, and memorizing stats about protein, calories and fat about enemies is about as much fun as memorizing those same stats about my lunch. But if you don’t memorize them, you’ll probably get shot or bitten a bunch of times while trying to read the information as it appears in a floating bubble above the enemy you may or may not eat. It’s aggravating, and it sucks away the novel aspect of the gameplay mechanic.
When all is said and done, there’s no other way to put it: Bite the Bullet bit off more than it could chew. The concept and presentation are sincerely so good, and I think that the execution of the eating and skill tree are great, except for the aforementioned stat issue. The controls are a killer for me, and I just couldn’t bear continually bouncing around in circles because the maps weren’t totally clear and Chewie wouldn’t jump cleanly. This is something where I’ll monitor the game for the future because I think it could still turn into something great, but, for now, it’s just too much garnish on a very bland meal.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Bite the Bullet Review
Gameplay - 6/10
Graphics - 6/10
Sound - 6/10
Replay Value - 6/10
User Review( votes)
The dish looks amazing and sounds exquisite, but the taste just doesn’t jive with my palette.