Gunslugs 2

Gunslugs 2 was one of the most bizarre experiences I’ve had since starting Indie Gamer Chick. The original, which I played on Ouya and PlayStation Vita, ranks #80 on the Leaderboard at the time of this writing. Its run-and-spray gameplay routinely beat the shit out of me, but it was just so damn charming and quirky that I couldn’t put it down. A sequel wasn’t even on my radar, so I got downright giddy when I saw that not only was there a sequel, but it was out now. Then I played it. Gunslugs 2 looks better, plays smoother, is significantly more fair, and I didn’t like it at all. How the hell is that even possible?

The boss fights are much better this time around. Hell, some of them are pretty clever, as far as shooters go. I just wish the rest of the game had such lack of convention.

The boss fights are much better this time around. Hell, some of them are pretty clever, as far as shooters go. I just wish the rest of the game had such lack of convention.

The basic gameplay mechanics are the same as before. Make your way from the left of the map to the right, shooting everything that moves, dodging bullets, collecting ammo and health refills, and blowing-up beacons. The big difference this time around is that, instead of entering the beacon buildings and having them immediately blow up, they now play out like a mini-stage. Inside, you have to make your way past enemies and traps to find a detonator to blow up the building. Hypothetically, this addition should have been enough to make Gunslugs 2 a worthy upgrade. However, the beacons are all straight forward and fairly samey from one to the next. If they had been randomly-generated labyrinths where you had to figure out the correct pathway to the detonator, that would have been something. It’s a gargantuan missed opportunity. You know, I’ve always loved that word: gargantuan. I so rarely get to use it in a sentence.

In fact, all the levels sort of feel the same from one to the next, with just the theme changing. The original threw randomly-generated events, like getting sucked into a mini-stage based on Game Boy, into the mix to break up any potential for monotony. From what I can tell, Gunslugs 2 doesn’t have anything like that. Removing the quirk from the game was a huge artistic mistake. That’s why I’m so weirded-out by the Gunslugs 2 experience: every single game mechanic is done better than the original, but the stuff that goes into that game feels stripped down, with the fun wrung out of it. It feels as if THIS game is the first game in the series, whereas the original is the sequel that takes the first and adds silly and unexpected twists to the formula. I’ve never seen that before. It’s weird.

Most of the beacon buildings have a character inside for you to rescue, giving you control over them with full health and ammo. Now, how cool would it have been if the inside had been a maze instead of a straight path? The character and the detonator could have been placed in separate locations, adding challenge and choice to the game, and also opened up the potential for more hidden stuff.

Most of the beacon buildings have a character inside for you to rescue, giving you control over them with full health and ammo. Now, how cool would it have been if the inside had been a maze instead of a straight path? The character and the detonator could have been placed in separate locations, adding challenge and choice to the game, and also opened up the potential for more hidden stuff.

And boring. Very, very boring. It’s just too damn repetitive. Again, it comes down to the fact that all the stages feel the same from one to the next. The layouts of the interiors of the beacons sure as hell feel like they repeat. I don’t know if they do exactly, but they might as well. If there had been some kind of twist once inside of them, Gunslugs 2 would have probably been one of my favorite games of the genre. It plays really well, especially compared to the first one. Heck, maybe even too easy, which I can’t fucking believe I can say given how well the first one put me and my skills to shame.

It’s like going to your high school reunion and seeing that the class clown  has straightened-up and is now a lawyer or doctor or something. You’re proud for them and what they’ve accomplished, but you’ll always look back more fondly on when he was more fun. And that’s Gunslugs 2. There are hundreds of games that do what Gunslugs 1 & 2 do, in terms of gameplay. It was the charm and randomness that made the original stand out in a tired genre, amongst a crowded field. Games should stand on their own merits, but Gunslugs 2 is a sequel. As a game that is a sequel, I can’t help but miss all the neat little turns and moments that made me remember it so fondly in the first place. That’s why I can’t sign off on Gunslugs 2. Technically a better made game, in the same way a lobotomized serial killer is technically no longer a threat to society.

Gunslugs 2Gunslugs 2 was developed by Orangepixel
Point of Sale: Steam

$4.99 wants to know what the point of a daily challenge is if there’s no leaderboards in the making of this review.

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Gunslugs

If I waited until I was good at Gunslugs to write this review, it would basically never go up. Roguelikes are just not something I’m good at. I get accused all the time of disliking certain games only because of my lack of skill with them. Instead of wasting time defending myself, I’ve taken to waving Spelunky back-and-forth with one hand while flipping the bird with the other. I *suck* at Spelunky. I’m fucking terrible at it. And yet, it’s the only game I’ve played for review at Indie Gamer Chick that I play every single day, especially since they added Daily Challenges to the console and handheld ports. Mind you, my skill level is still nowhere near being classified as “respectable.” But I love it.

Or, a more recent example would be Don’t Starve. I put a lot of time into Don’t Starve, fulling expecting to review it here. While I liked it.. a lot.. I was so bad at it (as people who watched me play it on Indie Gamer Chick TV will testify to) that I didn’t experience 90% of the content. I still play it and plan on being good at it some day. But, considering how little of the game I’ve as of yet seen, reviewing it now seems somehow unfair. I typically have no problem slamming bad games that I don’t make it far into. I’ve never yet encountered a game that was bad or boring for the opening hours suddenly become worth playing. On the other hand, I’ve played a LOT of good games that went bad later on, and for all I know, Don’t Starve is ready to jump shark on me.

Okay, okay, I'll start talking about Gunslugs now. Yeesh. Impatient much?

Okay, okay, I’ll start talking about Gunslugs now. Yeesh. Impatient much?

There’s really no worry of that happening with Gunslugs. It is what it is: a fun, quirky, simple, and charming roguelike-like shooter. Think Contra or Metal Slug, only with a lifebar instead of one-hit-kills. Oh, and the graphics are ultra-cute 8-bit fare. I’m kind of over the whole “cutesy graphics juxtaposing FUCK YOU levels of difficulty” thing, which is about as common in gaming these days as the ability to jump is, but at least Gunslugs does it well. I can’t stress enough how tough this game gets. I’ve had multiple instances of where I thought I was having a good run only for some cunt with a flamethrower to jump out and drain my health almost instantly, resulting in me screaming unintelligible gibberish that my boyfriend believes translates to “I’m appalled that you would ambush me in such an unbecoming, ungentlemanly manner and I wish to state my displeasure over the situation.”

He’s wrong. I’m trying to say “fuck you, you fucking fucker!” but I get choked up on my own rage.

But, the formula works. Difficult enough to be addictive, like loading a Pez-dispenser. Gunslugs is genuinely fun. It’s not perfect by any means. Like any randomly-generated game, not every run is equally as fun or rewarding. Or fair, for that matter. Gunslugs has all kinds of quirky ideas, like being able to enter levels modeled after Game Boy stuff. But the problem is, that all costs coins. Just now, as I was writing this section, the first randomly generated level asked for 50 coins to enter an “art school” minigame thing. The problem is, I had just started. I couldn’t have possibly had 50 coins by that point. So I went off to murder some enemies, all of whom liberally drop money, ammo, and health refills. By time I had the 50 coins, the door to the art thing was locked. Shit like that happens constantly in Gunslugs, and it’s infuriating.

The random weapon drops often lack “oomph” too. I kept getting stuff like the double gun, which allows you to shoot in both directions. Sounds great, except 90% of the enemies you encounter are in front of you, and thus shooting behind you is about as useful as a snorkel is for exploring the Mariana Trench. The ratio of double-guns to anything else was about 10 of them for any other item. When the most boring item is far and away the most common pick-up, it lessens the entertainment value of the game.

Enjoy this screencap, because I died attempting to take it. Paid 75 coins for it. This job sucks sometimes.

Enjoy this screencap, because I died attempting to take it. Paid 75 coins for it. This job sucks sometimes.

Basically, every problem I have can boil down to the random-generation engine not being refined enough. On one stage, I was able to get a bottle of alcohol (a spendy 25-coin purchase), which makes everything move in slow-motion. “FINALLY!” I screamed. Sure, it had a limited timer, but at least I would be able to put that bad-boy to good use while it lasted. Unfortunately, I got this at the very end of a level. As in, the exit was right next to the building I got it from. As I hopped in the escape helicopter, I watched in fucking horror as the power-meter for it instantly disappeared. No, what remained did NOT carry over to the next level. Sigh. What a dick this game is.

Gunslugs is a lot of fun, in the same way hanging out with one of those whack jobs that blows up bullfrogs for giggles can be. But, unlike a game like Spelunky, it lacks a certain intelligence in design. Not that Spelunky is a genius or anything. Anyone who has seen the damsel stuck in ten feet of solid rock when you’ve almost certainly not had a chance to collect enough bombs to get to him or her can attest to that. Gunslugs is too dumb though. Not so dumb that I would say “skip it.” Fuck that. At $2.49 ($1.99 with PS+ discount), it’s one of the best steals in gaming at this point in 2014. But I feel they had something special going here, and blew it by being too lax in how the computer can spit out the layout. And I’m not saying that because it would make Gunslugs easier. The difference in difficulty fixing all this stuff would result in is negligible. No, I’m saying all this because it would make Gunslugs more fun. That’s what you guys are supposed to be doing. Entertain us. I’m ranking Gunslugs as the 68th best indie I’ve reviewed as of this writing, and that’s somehow disappointing to me. It should have been better. It *deserved* to be better. Instead, Gunslugs is like one of those prodigies that by all rights should be lecturing at Harvard but instead is flipping burgers.

GunslugsGunslugs was developed by OrangePixel

$1.99 with PlayStation Plus discount ($2.49 normal price) shot a man just to see him die in the making of this review.

Gunslugs is also Chick-Approved on Ouya ($2.99 there). The best version to get is the Vita version. Cheaper and portable.

IGC_ApprovedGunslugs is Chick-Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard

*Note: only the PlayStation Vita port is approved here. The iPhone/Android versions are horrendous, like any game that features on-screen digital control schemes. Can we all agree those suck and abolish the fucking things?

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