As someone that was weaned on side scrolling shooters like Contra, Metal Slug and Rush N’ Attack, I’m always down to try out a retro shooter. Here to test my mettle is Orangepixel’s Gunslugs 2 for the OUYA, bringing with it cutesy pixilated graphics and bullets a plenty. You can see the 80s influence — from both games and films — but merely aping a bygone era doesn’t make for a good game. Well, I’m here to kick ass and chew bubble gum, and, you guessed it… I’m all out of bubble gum.
There are no frills anywhere to be found in Gunslugs 2, opting instead for a simplistic approach in all facets of the game. The graphics, while not lacking in charm, are beyond basic in both level design and characters; to the point that my wife was convinced I was some sort of gun wielding critter as opposed to a person. The soundtrack does its job, and move, jump and shoot covers the entirety of your move set as you make your way through.
While that sort of simplicity is welcome in this style of game, it carries forward into other areas where it’s less desirable. Specifically it’s the procedurally generated level design. Sure, it’s “different” in the sense that objects and enemies are in new spots, but you’d be hard pressed to characterize what’s going on as legitimate variety.
Each level drops you at the beginning and has you move right across the screen, killing enemies and entering beacon towers. Destroy them all and it’s time to GET TO THE CHOPPA! Reach it and you’ll be transported to the next level where you’ll, well, do basically the same thing again. Uninspired boss fights don’t do much to mix things up, either, so, while it’s fun in smaller doses, I found that in longer sessions tedium began to set in.
What hurts Gunslugs 2 more than a lack of variety, however, is that it just feels kind of cheap. The aforementioned beacon towers are the worst offenders with enemies waiting at the top of ladders and environmental hazards that are difficult to avoid even when you’re well aware of them. On the plus side, you can free captured characters than then replace the one you’ve been playing as, granting you full health in the process (though potentially at the expense of a better weapon).
The game moves at a very fast pace, and as such it’s easy to lose track of everything going on as enemies and their projectiles fill the screen. Odds are you’ll take a lot of hits, which is countered by your foes dropping a generous amount of health packs. Gold, earned by killing your blocky nemeses, can be spent at in-level shops on items like armor and adrenaline shots to help even the odds.
It’s a bit weird to see an old- style shooter that seems more like a war of attrition than one that demands precision, but such is the world Orangepixel has created. Upon completing the Story mode you unlock Arcade, which challenges you to run the game’s entirety on one life.
Gunslugs 2 is a bit of an odd duck. Visually and thematically, it’s geared toward gamers that grew up on punishingly difficult games that required practice and quick reflexes. In execution, however, it seems more about taking down enemies quickly so that they drop enough health to offset the amount of nearly inescapable damage you’ve taken. Its price is eminently reasonable, but I’d still recommend trying the demo to see if the pace is to your liking.