Giallo films are a very acquired taste when it comes to genre cinema. Basically, these Italian-made mystery slashers serve as the jumping-off point for modern-day exploitation and slasher films, filled with enough blood-soaked delights to satisfy any gorehound out there. Bloodwash, an indie game by Henry Hoare and Jordan King, attempts to replicate this niche with their own Giallo-style throwback.
Bloodwash is certainly an acquired taste when it comes to horror games. Less like a Giallo and more like a video nasty, Bloodwash is the type of horror game that folks looking for something obscure to play will certainly enjoy, especially considering the premise and style of game it recreates perfectly captures the low-budget horror film feel.
A Dirty Scene Indeed
The plot is simple. Sara is a pregnant college student who lives with her deadbeat husband and needs to do laundry late at night after work. Sadly, the machine in their apartment is out of order, so she needs to travel across town in their run-down neighborhood to a 24-hour laundromat. The big problem is that a killer, known as the Womb Ripper, is on the loose, murdering pregnant women and stealing their unborn fetuses.
Yeah, the Womb Ripper is a bit misogynistic. In fact, a lot of insular dialogue follows this trend as well, though it is definitely on purpose for effect. Much of the setting, presented in purposefully blocky PlayStation 1-styled graphics enhanced by VHS and CRT camera filter that you can toggle on and off for extra griminess. All of this showcases a sense of pure urban decay in ways most games tend to ignore, giving the setting a sickly character in its own right.
Most horror games are in isolation somewhere, but Bloodwash is right in the open, at any run-down strip plaza in any major city or town, making the setting even more uneasy. Even with a brightly lit laundromat and a few late-night patrons around, there is a palpable sense of tension that never goes away.
The Slow Burn to Horror
This section of the game is the best of what Bloodwash offers. As Sara you must go through the mundane task of doing her laundry, you simply have to wait about 20-30 minutes before the real horror begins to start. In the meantime, players are given a bit of freedom to do what they please in the shopping plaza. You can speak to the folks still with open shops, browse store shelves for neat little visual gags, play in-universe microgames, or even read well-drawn comic books by real artists. Heck, you can even watch cult movie trailers on TV; any game that references Sorority Babes in the Slimeball-o-Rama knows exactly what type of audience it is appealing to.
The best part about this section is that it can also service the plot if you choose to let it. Finding photographs, police reports, and missing person fliers to show to each living person in the plaza is just one avenue you can take to really try and understand the plot and motivations of the killer. Bloodwash goes for a ‘whodunit’ kind of mystery, and like most Giallo films, takes pleasure in the slow burn until it ramps up the scares and gore.
Too Many Jumpscares
The pacing of Bloodwash does have a major drawback, and it’s simply the fact that all the scares that could happen in-game are annoying jump scares. Jump scares that are enhanced by shooting the volume up real high with creepy-sounding music and sound effects. Jump scares that force the camera to linger for a moment to look at exactly what is scaring you. Jump scares that don’t even involve the killer at times, but instead random shopkeepers and hobos hiding out in basements.
Some of the jumpscares are so cliche it’s not even scary, even with the sound effects. Placing a mannequin in your pathway to frighten the player is just unnecessary padding, and tarnishes the waiting game before the action begins. I guess the idea is to showcase that Sara is in danger at all times to highlight the tension, but the subtle clues and waiting game in an already tense location already do that job well.
There is also one section of the game that just feels tacked on to justify some extra gore and a plot hole. I won’t spoil it here, but it is the only section of the game where you don’t play as Sara. It is also the moment the horror really ramps up to a rather unsatisfying conclusion.
The true climax is Sara discovering the identity of the killer and fighting them off in a darkened, abandoned laundromat. This section of the game is a maze-like, claustrophobic rush of gruesome set pieces and moments of pure terror. The environment once again does the heavy lifting here, more so than the grotesque bits of blood and guts that are meant to be more disturbing than scary. The true climax of the game is also the only moment where it got really scary, though this is then deflated by an epilogue that hints at a sequel.
When it is all said and done though, Bloodwash is a short game that doesn’t overstay its welcome, and pretty much succeeds in what it sets out to do. It is the perfect facsimile of a low-budget Giallo film, with all of the trappings you would expect from the genre on full display to see. I wouldn’t necessarily call it a ‘good’ game in the sense of it having deep mechanics, but for what it tries to emulate, Bloodwash offers the best form of horror entertainment this side of a video nasty VHS.
TechRaptor reviewed Bloodwash on PC with a code provided by the publisher.
- Slow Burn to the Horror Events
- Good Use of Graphics, Tone, and Video Filters
- Tons of Little Goodies to Discover on Your Own
- Doesn't Overstay its Welcome
- Too Many Cheap Jump Scares Ruin the Pacing
- Over the Top Sound Effects