Most movie buffs will admit to taking guilty pleasure in a delightfully terrible B-movie. It's easy to overlook, or even enjoy, bad camera work, a ludicrous plot, and poorly directed action when you know what you're watching is, technically speaking, rubbish. Crazy Game's Illbleed attempts to bring the thrills, gore, and camp of a low-budget horror flick to the Dreamcast. And while the developer certainly nailed the B-movie feel with the game's over-the-top horrors, a host of technical problems drag the game down to the same sub-par level as its source material.

   The premise is so simple it's surprising no past game has used it. In the world of the Illbleed, Michael Reynolds, a wealthy and mysterious producer of schlock horror movies, has constructed a 'virtual horror park.' Dubbed Illbleed, the theme park is comprised of six separate attractions, each based on one of Reynolds' cult movies. Anyone who can survive all six attractions will be rewarded with a cash prize of $100,000,000.

   The game begins when tickets to Illbleed are inexplicably delivered to a local High School horror club. Three students head off to take Reynolds' challenge and never return. Players take control of the club's president, Eriko Christy, as she attempts to face the horrors of Illbleed, find her friends, and survive.

  Killer Deparment Store
Illbleed taps into our primal fears of killer bread.

   The game's main thrills come in the form of a huge number of life-threatening traps that await players in each of the attractions. Most of these are of the "things jumping through windows" variety and would grow tiresome quickly if it weren't for the fact that you're encouraged to avoid them altogether. The game constantly displays meters for Eriko's senses: sight, hearing, smell, and a catchall sixth sense. When Eriko, or later one of her rescued friends, draws near a trap, one of the sense meters at the top of the screens will activate. The only way to defuse the trap is to trigger the first-person horror monitor and mark the danger with a beacon. If this is done at the right location, you'll be rewarded with a slight recharge to Eriko's adrenaline, which then can be used to mark further traps.

   The problem with this mechanic should be immediately obvious. Not only does it slow the game to a crawl, but the better one gets at avoiding the park's dangers, the less actually happens. By the second or third level, careful players will inch their way through empty hallways as they progress between the story sequences.

Which is no small feat.
More blood than Vandal Hearts

   This tedium is broken up by frequent combat, which, like the trap system, is so flawed as to ruin any sense of excitement it might have brought. Most of Illbleed's monsters are hidden away just like the traps, but are largely unavoidable -- marking the encounters with a beacon will only keep your character from falling down at the beginning of a battle. Once a fight begins, the player is confined to a small area of the map and escape can only be accomplished by repeatedly calling for a helicopter to come to the rescue.

   The control may be adequate for the exploration segments, but during combat its stiffness makes avoiding blows and lining up attacks a chore. The developers seem to have realized this and added overly powerful dodge function, which makes the player invulnerable for a short time. Most of the combat, including boss encounters, comes down to a simple pattern of dodge and attack.

   Illbleed is riddled with these sorts of basic gameplay problems: a dizzying, awkward camera system, frequent slowdown, awkward platforming segments. But while technical flaws may be amusing when they occur in a low-budget movie, they only frustrate in the context of a videogame.

  Oh yeah, everything.
What's wrong with this picture?

   These basic problems are especially disappointing because the game itself often displays a great deal of creativity. The real draw lies in the variety of locations and stories offered in the park attractions. The six scenarios are of varying quality; some stick a little too close to a pat horror formula, but others display a sly self-referentiality not usually seen in videogames and show the developers having some fun with the outlandish premise of the game. One ends with your character arriving at the end of the level only to be greeted by park workers hurriedly trying to get the end boss up and running. Another takes place almost exclusively behind the scenes, in Illbleed's "back lot," and has the player wandering through warehouses full of unused enemies and props from the other levels. Illbleed's slasher flick aesthetics may not appeal to everyone, however; beyond the buckets of blood and gore in each level, the game is occasionally in very, very bad taste. .

   Crazy Games obviously put a lot of effort into the atmosphere and style of Illbleed, but not nearly enough into the gameplay side. The end result is something close to a videogame equivalent of the "so bad its good" movies the game tries to emulate. It is possible to find an odd sort of enjoyment in the game, but for all the wrong reasons. Illbleed may attain a small following someday but, like a marvelously bad low-budget cult film, it won't be because of the title's quality.

Review by Zak McClendon, GIA.
Developer Crazy Games
Publisher AIA
Genre Adventure
Medium GD-ROM
Platform Dreamcast
Release Date  03.29.01
Illbleed gets another new publisher
137 screenshots
4 character portraits
Limited edition Eriko action figure