Gunslugs Review: Challenging run-and-gun brings Contra love to PS Vita
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Gunslugs is a fast-paced, retro-inspired, run-and-gun shooter that brings some of mobile gaming's best to PlayStation Vita.
- Lots of secret areas and hidden items
- Fun, challenging gameplay with strong weapon variety
- Trophies and global leaderboards
- Restrictive weapon-switching
I don’t play a lot of games on my mobile devices. Because of this, I miss out on some great titles that stand proud above the shovelware and mediocre games that clutter any given app store. Even the best mobile games are rarely ported to handheld consoles like PlayStation Vita, but thanks to Abstraction Games, the studio that ported Hotline Miami to Sony consoles, Orangepixel's Gunslugs has graced PS Vita with more devilishly difficult charm.
Gunslugs makes me feel like a kid again. It reminds me of the countless hours I spent on 2D side-scrolling shooters like Contra and Gunstar Heroes, with simple controls, straightforward objectives, and an addictive challenge making it hard to put down.
The obvious comparison that Gunslugs will draw is with Metal Slug. Both games are run-and-gun shooters. You collect coins as you kill enemies, there are “mini-tanks” you can drive, et cetera. The point is, these similarities do not detract from the incredibly fun experience Gunslug offers.
You start the game with one character, Johnny Rumble, who looks like a pixelated version of Johnny Bravo (That’s a plus in my book). Six unlockable characters include Rambo-inspired Sly Rocko, Gun Chick, Scarlette Sonya, and others. Later characters have a different starting level, so you can try to run through the whole game with Johnny Rumble or Gun Chick, or start on the third level with Willis Kiyay. This character organization, combined with randomly generated levels, gives Gunslugs a great amount of variety.
Similar to most run-and-guns, there are a lot of weapons to use. Unfortunately, you cannot keep or switch between weapons as you collect them. So if you like the flamethrower more than grenades, you will have to jump over the power up in order to keep the weapon you’re currently holding. A basic automatic gun is the starter weapon and easily the most frequent weapon of use throughout the game. An ammo gauge next to your life bar indicates how much ammo special weapons have, and while there is typically a lot of ammo found in crates or dropped by enemies, if you hold down the Square button and never let up, you can run out of ammo and be left open for a beating.
Gunslugs contains six levels, and three missions within each level. While these missions feature the same sequence of objectives (kill the bad guys, take out the beacons, and “get to the chopper!”) the first two missions are always filled with random secret rooms containing ammo, health, and extra levels that will net you more coins. The most important thing you can buy with these coins are continue tokens, and you’ll need them--aside from the pixelated graphics and nostalgic action, the difficulty of Gunslugs is very reminiscent of the games it pays homage to.
Adding to the retro aspect of Gunslugs is the music. Composer Gavin Harrison has created a soundtrack that will inspire you (OK, maybe just me) to dust off that old electronic keyboard guitar sitting in your closet and rock out in your basement. These tunes are nostalgic fun, upbeat, and fit the game nicely.
It's easy for us, the blockbuster, triple-A-weaned generation, to stick up our noses at a game that originated on cell phones and tablets, but Gunslugs breaks the grading curve. There's something here for everyone to love, with gameplay running the gamut from simple controls and objectives to complex challenge with lots of replay value.
If Gunslugs sounds like a game you'd enjoy, let us know in the comments below or give us your own review. Stay glued to PSU for more PS Vita news, reviews, and conversation.----