By Josh Speer / September 30th, 2016
|Publisher||Gambitious Digital Entertainment|
|Release Date||August 31st, 2016|
Perhaps my single biggest welcome surprise at PAX West was how much enjoyment I got out of RunGunJumpGun. Published by Gambitious and developed by the talented folks at ThirtyThree, this fast and frenetic platformer brings hardcore to a whole ‘nother level. I think of the game as a bit of a hybrid between Bit.Trip.Runner, Super Meat Boy and Metroid. The latter is not for any particular gameplay reasons, but just for the style of the game and the fact that it takes place exclusively on alien planets. The game has you controlling a Scavenger, going from planet to planet to find stray Atomiks before the sun explodes and does massive damage to the surrounding star systems. Atomiks are like currency in the game, so he’s doing it for the money. But personal reasons aside, the question is – is RunGunJumpGun more of the same, or does this title turn hardcore gaming on its head?
First, we should discuss how the game plays. You need to know that your little Scavenger will constantly be running forwards, leaping headfirst into danger. You have some control to help him out, however, in the form of a very nifty gravity-defying laser gun. Using the two trigger buttons, you can either fire forwards, blasting everything in front of you to smithereens, or shoot down, which propels you into the air. The down shot can also let you hover if you tap it intermittently, allowing you to get past large swaths of traps. And there are many traps in RunGunJumpGun to avoid. Keeping in mind the fact that touching anything pointy, electric or on fire will instantly kill you, there are many incredibly dangerous traps to avoid in the game, including tons of spikes, buzzsaw blades, laser beams, windmills from Don Quixote’s darkest nightmares, drone ships that fire on you and much, much more. Pretty much anything and everything in RunGunJumpGun can and will kill you, so it’s your job, though lots of trial and error, to figure out a safe path through each and every one of the 100+ levels. Luckily, you have unlimited lives, so long as you’re not too put out being forced to restart from the beginning of a level when you inevitably die.
There are a few worlds to traverse in the game, all split up into distinct Acts composed of multiple sub levels. Each world has a unique gimmick it introduces to keep things interesting, such as warping between the top and bottom of the stage or inverting your controls while underwater. What impressed me the most about RunGunJumpGun was how it gradually turned up the difficulty exponentially, to the point where I thought a given level was impossible, only for me to figure out how to safely navigate it. It takes very clever and careful design to introduce that level of difficulty while still keeping things feeling fair and balanced. Or at least as fair and balanced as a game this difficult can be.
My playthrough took between 4 and 5 hours, and it left me with sweating hands, dry eyes and bouts of screaming at my computer screen. Having said that, I still greatly enjoyed the game. Difficulty aside for a moment, RunGunJumpGun is a fantastic indie game, and not just for how it plays, but for the wonderful presentation. The beautifully neon environments, which fluctuate as you play each level, really helped differentiate it from any other game I’ve played. It’s like being in some crazy underwater world lit by incandescent fish. While it’s definitely not for anybody who suffers from seizures, the vibrant and colorful aesthetic of the game really caught my attention.
I especially enjoyed the little snippets of commentary from a vast and wild cast of alien creatures between levels. Though plot isn’t huge in the game, these paint a picture of a solar system in a state of complete panic, while still throwing some dark humor in for good measure. Of equal importance is the fantastic audio design. Each world has differing musical tracks that accompany you, and they are all dark, lush tracks that keep the game bumping. This is an important factor, since you’ll be dying quite a bit, but you’ll be constantly motivated to keep on trucking by the dynamic music.
Overall, I was very pleased with RunGunJumpGun. At $7.99 it’s an utter steal on Steam, though I would recommend you buy the Special Atomik Edition for the incredible soundtrack. It’s not a game for everyone, but if you like hardcore platformers with lots of soul, then I’d recommend it wholeheartedly. ThirtyThree have proven themselves a developer to keep on my radar, and I’m very excited to see what else they can come up with in the future. For now, you’ll have to excuse me, as I need to go and try to find more Atomiks to get 100% completion!
Review Copy Provided by Publisher