Competitive games can bring out the best (and worst) in us, which is probably why multiplayer has become the main priority in many major titles. Call of Duty and Battlefield, for example, are often bought by people with no intention of playing alone. In some cases, it can be more fun playing against real people rather than a predictable AI. Samurai Gunn is a game that nails this competitiveness exceptionally well. It’s extremely simple, yet, if you want to master it, there’s much more to it.
Teknopants have stripped everything down and created a very simple game that offers great reward. The aim is to kill your opponent 10 times before they can do the same to you. If you kill yourself (say, by either getting crushed or falling on spikes), you are set back by one kill. It’s a 2D deathmatch, in which you have two weapons, a samurai sword and a gun. The gun is the friendlier of the two as you can keep some distance while trying to kill your opponent(s), but the limit of three bullets per life means you must be careful when firing.
A match can have four players on the screen at once, or just two. Most of the fun I had was playing 2-player locally and rubbing it in my opponent’s face every time I won a match. On the contrary, I also had several head-smashing-the-wardrobe moments. If two contestants both get to 9 kills, a “Showdown” takes place, which lands both competitors in a different level with no guns – in this sudden death scenario, they can only use their samurai swords. Every pixel counts in this situation. There is also “Survival” mode which pita you against a certain number of bots that you must eliminate before losing all your lives. It’s fun but doesn’t come close to the multiplayer experience.
This Super Smash Bros-esque game has quite a lot of charisma about it, with its 8-bit artwork and delightful soundtrack. The level design is fantastic. It’s just a 2D screen, with no scrolling involved. When you first spawn, it seems like a pretty basic design, but as the match progresses and the rematches keep flowing you come to the realization that you must develop your skills if you are to beat your fellow opposition. There 4 different kinds of themes for the levels – Mountain, Cemetery, Forest and Fortress – each with their own twist. For example, the Mountain themed levels are covered in snow and have icicles hanging above. If you shoot them or hit them with your sword, they will fall and you can only hope one of your rivals are unfortunate enough to be standing directly them.
Cemetery contains what appear to be bushes that you can hang onto and run along upside down, but it will leave you in a precarious position, more often than not working to your opponent’s advantage. Forest sees you surrounded by a bamboo environment, which you can cut, allowing you to shift and shape the battlefield to work to your advantage. Fortress contains moving platforms to help you manoeuvre around the screen, but you have to be careful they don’t crush you. Little touches such as being able to shape the level or having icicles falling on top of you, at high speed, means no round is the same as before, and you must be on your toes at all times.
VERDICT: Samurai Gunn is a prime example of doing more with less. It doesn’t have to be over-complicated to be interesting. The great level design, accompanied by charming 8-bit style artwork, an incredible soundtrack and the fact that you need to be very quick-thinking and account for every centimetre of space, really make this a special game in its genre
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.