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Friday, September 17, 2021

[Review] Survive a Serial Killer at the Laundromat in Atmospheric Horror Game ‘Bloodwash’

The latest game to be released under Puppet Combo’s Torture Star Video label is Black Eyed Priest and Henry Hoare’s scuzztastic ‘serial killer at the laundromat’ horror Bloodwash, and it’s no washout. 

This first-person horror sees a Giallo-infused tale of a weary mother-to-be named Sara, who comes home from a long day to find her deadbeat boyfriend hasn’t done the washing, and she needs fresh clothes for an interview in the morning. Unfortunately, the building’s washer has given up the ghost, so when a sympathetic neighbor tells Sara about a 24/7 laundromat on the outskirts of town, she decides to head there as the clock creeps ever closer to midnight. An unpleasant stranger on the bus ride to the laundromat warns her she’ll die tonight, but Sara ignores it as the rambling of a weirdo. Unfortunately, she doesn’t realize she’ll soon find herself confronting a serial killer known as ‘The Womb Ripper’ and end up in a fight for her life.

Bloodwash embraces the lo-fi polygonal style of early 3D games and slaps a grainy VHS filter on top for maximum effect. This isn’t a new phenomenon in the indie horror space, but Bloodwash is certainly one of the better uses of it because the overall atmosphere of the game is akin to the fever-dream feel of watching a bootleg VHS of an obscure slasher late at night. It also manages to capture the unease of being in a largely deserted public space in the middle of nowhere.

The dingy apartment building Sara lives in, the dark, foggy streets outside it, and the bus that might as well be a tube of rust. This is a world filled with the unpleasant and depressing, which just makes it all the more captivating to me. Add character models that (quite deliberately) look like overstuffed sausage meat in a human-shaped casing, and it makes for a pretty unsettling game world from the off.

When Sara does arrive at the laundromat, a handful of other retail units are still open, and each one can be explored, with items to find, readable comics to pick up (I spent a good chunk of my playtime reading them) and local legends to be heard from a selection of grotty individuals currently using the facilities.

Interestingly, the player has to wait for a while for the wash to finish, and then another chunk of time for the drying, which is when the game really ramps things up. Before that though, it’s a moody, but fascinating place to explore while you wait. You can find a remote for the laundromat’s TV and watch clips and trailers for a bunch of things, including Lon Chaney’s Son of Dracula. Or you could visit the pizza place and play its amusingly puerile arcade cabinet that features a game where a half-naked (the bottom half) vagrant shoots piggy police officers with projectile vomit and when powered up, his own fecal matter. Or maybe a browse of PeePaw’s shop and its library of horror movies, video games, and adult entertainment? 

This early build to the arrival of the Womb Ripper plays out in much the same way an old slasher movie will set the protagonist up with a whole bunch of largely harmless weirdos before unleashing the killer. The talk from the locals of a mysterious fire, a missing suspect, and potential victim throw some meat on the simple story’s bones, and taste is not spared in some of the more lurid descriptions of the Womb Ripper’s work (the name is pretty much on the money). By the time you actually get to see the titular killer, there’s a clear image of Sara’s potential demise.

Mercifully, Bloodwash doesn’t turn into a repetitive chase and hide game, as it could so easily have been. In pretty much every instance of the killer appearing, it’s for them to pop out of nowhere to jump you, and you have the means to escape unscathed, and later, do some damage. There’s no fat to be trimmed in these encounters, they come to do a job, and get on with it at a decent pace. Yes, the interaction and item finding is rudimentary in the closing 30 minutes, but it’s the right choice to keep the flow at the proper speed. By having the sort of stuff you could attribute as padding (though I feel it’s all valuable to the experience) in the tone-setting opening, it allows for that more effective manic finale that largely pays off everything you’ve learned about the Womb Ripper to that point.

All in all, Bloodwash takes a couple of hours to finish, with a little of that time put aside for finding its rather ace comic books, and chatting to all the locals about the latest scrap of evidence you’ve found. Again, this is just right. A movie-length experience that really nails a lot of the cheap, scuzzy, mean-spirited tone of a certain kind of slasher film, whilst still very much behaving like a video game. When you hear of games trying to be more cinematic or movie-like, the way it’s meant is usually in terms of acting, or blockbuster set pieces. Bloodwash encapsulates the unseemly, dead-of-night accidental discovery of a rude, crude horror flick, and that is, for me at least, a far more appealing way to go about it.

Bloodwash is out now on Steam PC.



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/video-games/3683504/review-bloodwash/

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