Review: Gunslugs (PC)
Platform(s): Steam, The Humble Store, Chrome OS, The App Store, Google Play, OUYA
Release date: January 15, 2015
Gunslugs 2 is a hectic, arcade-style, run-and-gun game with retro flair and 80’s action flick attitude. Developed by OrangePixel, a one-man indie developer named Pascal Bestebroer, this is the ambitious follow-up determined to do everything bigger and better than the original, and it definitely succeeds.
There is not much story to speak of. You choose one of a handful of 80’s action star-inspired soldiers to take down the evil Black Duck army by blowing up everything and mowing enemies down with a hailstorm of bullets. There could be more story here, but it doesn’t detract from the experience.
Violence: There’s plenty of gun fire and explosions and people dying, but not really any gore or blood.
Language: Dialog is delivered through text and there are some of the “minor” swear words (d***, h***, a**). Nothing that couldn’t be said on primetime network television.
The goal of each randomly-generated level of Gunslugs 2 is to find and destroy enemy beacons in the form of buildings. You must enter and fight your way through these buildings in order to get to a detonation switch that will blow the building sky-high, all while avoiding bullets and laying waste to hordes of enemies. The beacons also contain captured Gunslugs that, once freed, allow you to play as them and get a much-needed health refill.
Along the way, you’ll find shops where you can purchase power-ups using coins dropped by killed enemies. Each shop only sells one item at a time and they (like everything else) are random. Items include armor (inspired by Batman or Robocop), adrenaline shot (which boosts health), and an ammo extender (which… extends your ammo).
When all the beacons are destroyed in the level, you’ll be instructed to GET TO DA CHOPPA! Hop in a helicopter and you’ll be lifted to the next level. Rinse and repeat. Every few levels there is a boss fight (which can be easily managed once you figure out attack patterns).
Gunslugs 2 starts off relatively easy, and it’s possible to blow right through the first two or three worlds without a problem, but there’s a pretty steep difficulty spike as you get into later stages, especially once you get to outer space. The game quickly goes from feeling like a run-and-gun arcade romp to a bullet-filled shooter, forcing you to take unavoidable damage in places; this is where then-random level generation hurts the experience. The outer space stages are largely inspired by the Alien movies, with powerful Xenomorph-styled enemies everywhere and green slime dripping onto the floor that deals damage if you walk through it. Sometimes that slime happens to be in unavoidable places, such as on ladders that you have to climb. Things like this are just frustrating. If I die in a game, I want it to feel like my fault, not the game’s fault. This makes beating levels sometimes feel like luck-of-the-draw wins instead of a skillful victory.
The controls feel tight and responsive. Movement is quick, lending to the frantic feel of the game. My one complaint about the controls is the fact that, to enter a door, you have to jump instead of just pressing up like most other games. It may be a bit of a nit-pick, but when you’re used to doing something for so long in video games, it just feels odd trying to change it. Gunslugs 2 does have full controller support, which you will definitely want to use because the game feels great with a controller. To configure the controller, you have to enter a Setup room in Gunslugs HQ (which seems to be a bit clunky in comparison to having a traditional menu system).
The game includes three game modes: Story Mode, Daily Challenge (available as of the recent 1.2.0 update), and Arcade Mode. Story Mode is where the main game happens. You run, jump, and shoot your way through different worlds. The Daily Challenge is one building that you have to fight your way through. It’s the only mode that isn’t randomly generated. Everyone gets the same challenge level every day, making for a bit of competition with your friends on Steam. Arcade Mode is more akin to the original Gunslugs, in that you get one life and you have to see how far you can progress in the game.
The aesthetic of Gunslugs 2 is purely 80’s retro, from the pixel art to the nostalgic movie references. While this has been done (and done… and done) in indie games, Gunslugs 2 still does it well and delivers a few chuckles along with it.
Character models are pretty minimal in design, though the style effectively communicates the 80’s action movie stars they’re inspired by. There are plenty of familiar faces in the crowd at Gunslugs HQ once you’ve unlocked them, such as Sly Rocko and B.A. Barracuda. Each character comes with a different default weapon that gives a nice variance to the cast.
The environments are full of vibrant and highly-detailed pixel art. Each world is different from the last and carries a sense of progression that the gameplay may not deliver at times. The level design itself does leave a bit to be desired. Each level is mainly flat, save for the ladders inside the beacons and the random floating platforms.
Although the game looks great, there are no settings to change resolution. The game defaults as windowed and can’t be truly set to full-screen (only a maximized window); this seems to be a glaring omission.
The music of Gunslugs 2, composed by Gavin Harrison, is chock-full of fast, frenetic chiptunes that lend themselves perfectly to the game. The music really enhances the overall experience and will make you wish there was a sound test or some other way of listening to all the songs.
Although at times Gunslugs 2 seems unnecessarily difficult, could use more variety in its gameplay, and needs to have a few bugs ironed out (the audio cut out on me once, but nothing that broke the game); a few additions would put this game over the top–like online co-op multiplayer and graphics settings. *NOTE* It was brought to our attention that there is, in fact, local co-op multiplayer included in the game (despite the fact that Steam says it’s single player). All you have to do is plug in a second controller and Player 2 can hop right in.
Gunslugs 2 seems like a perfect representation of the developer. OrangePixel: one man on and ambitious mission against all odds, takes on developing this game, and I think he comes out on top.
Gunslugs 2 is a simple, fast, frenzied, and fun run-and-gun game. It’s easy to pick up for a quick run-through, but you can also put in some longer hours to see if you have the fortitude to survive. For fans of retro, arcade, run-and-gun games like Metal Slug or Contra, Gunslugs 2 is definitely worth checking out.
+ Fast, frantic action
+ Great-looking pixel art
+ Outstanding chiptune soundtrack
+ Witty nods to retro action movies
- Too difficult at times
- Repetitive gameplay
- No graphics options