The 2D beat-'em-up has been given curiously little attention by indie developers over the years, so it's refreshing to see a team tackling this decidedly out-of-favour genre, even if they're doing so while borrowing Hotline Miami's seamy 1980s setting and focus on extreme pixel violence. Mother Russia Bleeds (opens in new tab) is that (fantastically named) game, a sidescrolling beat-'em-up set in the U.S.S.R. in an alternate 1986. You'll play an "imprisoned antihero with a crippling drug addiction" named Sergei, who "breaks free and barrels down a journey of hate-filled vengeance", much like I did after the 08.51 to Bath was delayed yet again . You can see a trailer that lives up to this premise below.
In the event that there weren't quite enough mask-wearing gimps in that video for you, there are a load more in these images (opens in new tab) on the official site. Mother Russia Bleeds will boast four-player co-op when it launches sometime in 2015, with the other three players assuming the role of fellow prisoners who have escaped alongside Sergei. There is apparently a crowdfunding campaign on the way, according to Destructoid (opens in new tab) . (Thanks, Destructoid!)
In a devblog update (opens in new tab) a couple of months ago, developers Le Cartel outlined their intentions for the game, words that will ring true if (like me) you've been disappointed with pretty much every 2D beat-em'up since Streets of Rage 2 and 3:
"Games like Streets of Rage and Final Fight were not cartoonish worlds to play in; they were serious business, the real deal, the holy grail of that time period.
"Lately, we haven't quite been able to scratch the same itch. We don't mean to say that recent Brawlers haven't been good, but rather, the ones in recent memory don't seem to have the same spirit as the ones that occupied so much of our time during our personal Golden Ages of gaming.
"Whether it's because the graphics are too cartoonish, or too 'NES-inspired', or the gameplay is merged with other genres (platformer + beat 'em all, for example), we feel that everything tends to feel somewhat sugar-coated or diluted.
"To address this, we decided to make our own Beat 'Em Up." One with pixel art, "a real sense of impact to the action", "madness and insanity", "the 1980s", and a bunch of other promising-sounding stuff.
Roll on 2015.