Developer: Ritual Games & GrabTheGames
Publisher: Ratalaika Games S.L. & GrabTheGames
Genre: Action & Adventure, Platform-shooter
Platform: Xbox One & PS4
Age Rating: PEGI 7
Release Date: 29/04/2020
A code was provided for review purposes.
In this review, Ellis and Alicia teamed up to share their thoughts on Gun Crazy after playing the game on two different platforms. Ellis tested the game out on the PlayStation 4 and Alicia tried it out on the Xbox One.
Ellis: Gun Crazy is designed to be that nostalgic bullet hell shoot’em up game that takes us back to our childhoods, Sega Mega Drive hooked up to the TV and Arrow Flash in the cartridge slot. And while the game provides us with total 8-bit design, including the title and the main character, the game was sadly underwhelming in many ways.
Alicia: When I started playing Gun Crazy, I was expecting to head down nostalgia road for a dose of something that would have fitted nicely into my 1990s diet of computer games. Instead, Gun Crazy turned out to be one of the most chaotic and frenzied games I have ever played.
What’s the Story?
Ellis: Jumping into the game, there’s no plot line made glaringly obvious – your 8bit character hopping out of an animated police car, and you’re expected to go. While the game severely lacked an on the go tutorial, the majority of the buttons were obvious (triggers to shoot, x to jump). Still, nothing was notifying the player of the ability to double jump, or if you can even block attacks.
Alicia: So, who is the character you play? Well, that’s a good question. You arrive in level one standing on top of a police car so we can assume that you’re a police officer. There’s no preamble or attempt at a plot, and the game description from the website doesn’t give us much more information, only saying ‘Become the fiercest lady on the police force!’
Alicia: It’s worth having a quick practice with your character in the tutorial (select ‘play’ then ‘controls’) before you start playing; not because the controls are difficult but rather because once you get going there are no quiet moments to get to grips with how your character moves.
Alicia: In some ways, Gun Crazy does remind me of a 90s old-school arcade classic. It does get some of the basics right: you have to beat different end-of-level bosses, there is a limit on the number of continues you can have (three), once you completely run out of continues you see a demonic face with a sinister laugh, and you have to go back to the beginning.
Yet, in my opinion, it falls down on how the challenge is created in the game. I prefer the parts where you can use a skill in dodging, jumping and using the ‘fast run’ to outwit your enemies, rather than just hoping for the best when the screen is so full of coins and other detritus that you can only really avoid them (and losing a life) by luck rather than good judgement.
Ellis: The gameplay was interesting, to say the least. It was your typical bullet hell game, they did live up to the genre in that sense, but it is an odd combination of mindless yet strategic gameplay required for it. After many years of playing different types of bullet hell games, I had adopted the Leeroy Jenkins-esque playstyle, yet this game was rather unforgiving in terms of damage. While bullets reign all hell, every shot hurts you as to be expected, but in a bullet hell game when you only have 5 hearts to a life, playing your first level unsure of what each enemy is going to bring to you, there is a small margin for errors. I had already lost my first entire life within 5 minutes of playing the game.
As the game progressed, the difficulty seemed to ramp up, yet the lacklustre designs remained; throughout the level, there didn’t seem to be any health regeneration items, only different ammunition to your weapon (which you instantly lose when you die, by the way). Meaning if you’re going into that boss battle, it’s you, your weapon and your one or two hearts you have left.
Alicia: I didn’t like the inconsistency in level length and level difficulty. In level one, you have to defeat two mini-bosses and a boss whereas on levels two, three and four, there is only a boss at the end. Level two is very short in comparison to the other levels and whilst level one is broken up into three parts, level four just seems to go on, and on, and on…
Alicia: Although Gun Crazy is described as ‘hectic’ on the game website, you don’t get a feel for just how in your face this game is from the trailer; what it doesn’t show you is that when you hit your enemies, your points – in the form of great yellow coins (?) – fly all over the screen obscuring anything and everything (including your character) from view for large portions of each level. I don’t think this added anything to the experience, and it was just plain annoying.
Alicia: The flying coins coupled with multiple enemies on screen – above, behind and in front of you – the shots from your laser gun, special gun power-ups, flying missiles from your enemies and the flashing bosses made the screen uncomfortably busy. At times it was almost impossible to see what was going on.
The Soundtrack and Design
Alicia: The music, weapon sound effects and the screaming from the character you play when she dies, combined with the busy screen, make quite an overwhelming experience. I ended up turning the music and SFX volume right down; otherwise, it just felt a bit over the top.
Ellis: While the design of the main character was a highlight in the game, it felt like the rest of the game had less of a design priority. While it did try to emulate that 80s feel, there was a distinct lack of animation coming from everything else other than the main character. Getting past the animation, the soundtrack also was one of the highlights, reminiscent of similar games it reminded me of the Anamanaguchi provided soundtrack to the Scott Pilgrim game. And while it was enjoyable to listen to, it didn’t change much for the boss battles and was quite repetitive.
Alicia: It seemed an odd choice to make 100% of the achievements available by the time you complete level two. While playing a game isn’t all about the achievements, I find it’s nicer to have that incentive to complete extra challenges throughout the game. Another annoying feature is that you can gain ammo for the special gun power-ups by dodging through gun-fire from your enemy even when you don’t have an active power-up. However, it doesn’t carry over from level to level. So, if you build up a stock of ‘special’ ammo in a boss fight but don’t have an active power-up it is pointless; once you get past the boss and start the next level, your ammo goes right back to zero.
Ellis: Finally, the game lacks a distinct warning on photo-sensitivity/epilepsy, which although was provided for me when I turned on my Playstation I expected one from the game at least. While bullet hell games tend to be flashy, this was on a scale of that infamous episode of Pokemon, “Denno Senshi Porygon”, the intensity was a consistent issue that is concerning, while the old school retro games didn’t have the graphic intensity that we have now, this was definitely the biggest disappointment.
Alicia: Another word on the bosses – despite them flashing red and all sorts of missiles flashing and flying across the screen when they attack, there was no warning whatsoever about photo-sensitivity before you play. I found that it wasn’t a game I could play for long bursts because of the flashing and general chaos on the screen.
Alicia: What’s my verdict then? If you’re sensitive to noise, flashing or likely to be overwhelmed by an overly busy screen, this is not the game for you. However, if this kind of game hypes you up and you enjoy the buzz from all these stimuli on your senses, give it a go. It’s not my cup of tea but that’s not to say there aren’t some gamers out there who might have a different take on Gun Crazy.
Rapid Reviews UK Rating
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.