Dutch indie developer Orangepixel has had some success on other formats with his old-school-inspired fare. Gunslugs may have unashamedly retro stylings, but this peppy run and gun jaunt has plenty of latter-day bells and whistles to satisfy modern gamers out of touch with the past.
Taking its graphical and aural cues from the 8-bit era, the gameplay is pitched somewhere between the nails-tough Contra series and SNK’s Metal Slug. Abstraction have delivered the best version of this game that one could expect, thanks in no small part to the brilliant Vita controls, which suit the style of gameplay perfectly. The devs put it best themselves: “Almost everything you ever wanted – and buttons!” We wouldn’t go as far as to say this gives you everything you ever wished for, but it does give you a solid few hours of highly entertaining vintage-style platform shooting, all set to a chirrupy chiptune soundtrack.
You take control of a loveable yet psychotically trigger-happy super-deformed soldier of your choosing, and set about taking on a series of randomly generated levels, which feature a boss after every two portions of action. Initially there are only two selectable mini-badasses to choose from, and you begin with a pretty weedy basic gun. It doesn’t take long however before you are unlocking hilarious new characters (I loved the John Rambo pastiche) and all manner of crazy weapons and vehicles you get to ride in start popping up on the battlefield.
It soon becomes apparent that this is one tough little game. Most of the enemies you encounter can be dispatched fairly easily – yet things soon become extremely hectic with the number of explosions and ordnance flying around the screen. You have a life bar, which means you can sustain a certain amount of smaller attacks, and first aid kits are regularly dropped by slain foes. This is all fine and dandy, however your most likely cause of death is always the reams of explosions that can be triggered by landmines, exploding barrels, grenades and downed vehicles. It is up to you to make sure that you are mindful of your environment and don’t charge in gung-ho without paying attention to that errant landmine, or the potential multiple-barrel fireworks display. It’s easier said than done when things are different on each playthrough, and death takes you back to the title screen!
The challenging difficulty can be alleviated by purchasing new gear in the randomly generated shop buildings that you find from time to time. You earn coins by downing enemies or just generally blowing things up, and can buy protective armour or even a precious extra life. When you do discover another character along the way, not only do you get to employ them in battle, but they also serve as a sort of checkpoint – the little Rambo dude is discovered in the jungle stage, therefore if you begin the game with him, you will start on the stage where you found him.
VERDICT: The pricepoint may not be as generous as the iOS and Android original, yet Gunslugs still feels like a generous package. It may sound short on paper, yet in practice it can be murderously difficult, and isn’t something you will beat with ease. The rogeulike nature of the levels keeps things fresh, unpredictable and chaotic – but in a good way. There are some fun in-game achievements to unlock, and of course Trophies. Most importantly of all, it looks, sounds and handles brilliantly on the Vita.
VERY GOOD. An 8/10 is only awarded to a game we consider truly worthy of your hard-earned cash. This game is only held back by a smattering of minor or middling issues and comes highly recommended.
Review code provided by publisher.