There are times when unplugging from the constant barrage of news, updates and upcoming projects can be entirely refreshing. There are always things – usually games and movies – that the Internet takes polarizing sides on and it inescapably mars the very idea long before it even comes to fruition. Games like Broken Age, which could have simply been an amazing experience from DoubleFine, turned into a cautionary tale of big names making big promises in the public eye, and the entire vehicle soured the future of crowdfunding. So when I read that a game took nearly four years to make, I’m almost glad I didn’t know it was coming, so my expectations don’t match those of the backers who’ve followed the journey of Tio Atum Studio from concept to release. Also, as a result, I was totally blind as I loaded up Greedy Guns, and I think I’m better for it.
Greedy Guns is a surprisingly large Metrovania title that gives you the option of co-op in the shoes of mercenaries working for HOLO CORP, a faceless company who wants to mine the DNA out of an alien world for research and profits. Given that you are a mercenary and aliens seem to literally bleed money, you’re all too happy to help explore and “extract” the DNA by shooting the ever loving crap out of anything that moves. You also are passively interested in the strange smoky being who occasionally appears and threatens you, but that’s probably nothing. Probably. Maybe. No, it’s something. But there’s no need to tell you the whole plot, just know that you have a gun and no limit to your bullets.
Greedy Guns compares itself to several games – Gunstar Heroes, Contra – but I honestly saw and felt a lot of familiarity with the classic Super Metroid more than anything else, at least in terms of exploration. I feel like a lot of modern Metrovania games tend to be a little loose on the term, meaning that, yes, you have to backtrack to explore and find everything, but even that tends to be pretty tight and you rarely need to retread too many times. That is not that case with Greedy Guns. There were places that I found early on that I ended up not exploring fully until HOURS later, when different weapons and abilities had been added to my personage. I mean, this game is impressive in the scope, and I’m fairly certain that I didn’t go anywhere near as deep into exploration as I could have. Checking the Kickstarter page, it seems there are at least five hidden rooms for backers and I definitely only found three. Yes, as a Kickstarter game, you will run into several instances where you find the unmistakable footprints of fan input, including two bosses that I also did not find. They are apparently HUGE Portuguese YouTube stars, so I’m certain there’s a great fanbase who’ll be happy to play and stream this game just for a chance to shoot Venom Extreme and Feromonas in the face.
Controlwise, Greedy Guns takes a lot of getting used to in order to fully appreciate and experience the game. You need to be able to run, roll, shoot in multiple directions and basically stay alive during some serious onslaught moments. The jump and shoot buttons are both double mapped to the shoulder buttons, so you can get a pretty good groove as far as the standard mechanics, but, at first, a special kind of dodge roll is the only way to avoid taking damage from bullets and enemies that have pinned you into the corner. This means you need to re-adjust your grip on the fly from offensive to defensive, giving up the ability to comfortably aim and shoot in favor of not dying. You can also use the keyboard and mouse setup, but I personally didn’t like it. It took me out of this incredibly console situation that felt right at home with a SNES and NEO GEO mashup, effectively making it feel like Metal Slug was free to run around and go wherever in order to blow some shit up.
You start with just a standard pistol, but there are quite a few weapons that you can find and unlock to purchase from HOLO CORP. To repeat, you find the details of the weapons hidden throughout the game, send them to HOLO CORP, and they then make the weapons available, to buy, from their weapon dispensers. I was a little annoyed with this setup for a couple reasons. Firstly, yes, I get it, money is everywhere and you need to save it up in order to buy weapons. But I never found the new guns close enough together that I then needed to backtrack and grind cash to afford them. I always had way more than enough on hand to pick up whatever shiny new toy was available. Secondly, the weapon dispensers are the ONLY way to change what you’re currently wielding. It makes a lot more sense than a merc carrying like ten guns at once and only using two, but sometimes those dispensers were few and far between and, if you suddenly need a different tool on hand, you’re totally screwed.
As an aside, some of the weapons just were flat out not good. The rapid fire, which I believe is the first thing you unlock, has a ton of functionality, delivering far less damage in exchange for a great number of shots. But the rail gun, for example, I never used if I didn’t absolutely have to. It didn’t deliver the damage payload I needed for the isolation of one bullet at a time. Same with the grenade launcher, that actually killed me more often than not. In the end, the setup that you get during the tutorial is, I felt, the best combination of weapons, and I used that as often as I could, swapping only when the weapon called for attention.
You are gonna want to find that perfect setup of weapons for yourself, too. Enemy waves are definitely what sets this more towards Metal Slug than Super Metroid, in terms of combat. You can quickly and often are beset on three sides by aliens, each with different kinds of attack methodologies (shooting, blitzing, generally being impassable jerks), and they can potentially spawn again and again, keeping you engaged for minutes at a time. The bosses are also their own special breed of hell, often changing their attack patterns three or more times during the course of their fight. I was initially put off by the autosave method of Greedy Guns because I felt it made the game too easy, but I was quickly proven wrong. The autosave is a blessing, because you can quickly get overwhelmed and turned into alien chow in a heartbeat. If I had to respawn at the other end of Zebes like Samus used to do, I think I would have quietly uninstalled the game and pretended like I never even owned a PC in the first place.
But here’s the crazy part: the game never felt unbalanced or unfair. Too often, I find that developers who want to specifically pay homage to Contra end up making a bullet-filled shit storm that you can only play with surgical precision and overly-amped reflexes. Greedy Guns certainly won’t let you fall asleep at the switch, but I never felt that there was a part of the game that was impossible. Sure, when I kept getting murdered by the pointy tentacle people who were taking up a large labyrinth that I couldn’t jump in and had to keep precision rolling, I was getting fed up, but I knew it was because I was sucking out. Once I successfully got through, even my merc commented that he was getting claustrophobic, and I knew that this area was tough on purpose and it wouldn’t always be this way. I loved that awareness the developers had, it shows so much consideration for balance and perspective.
Also, I am totally digging the soundtrack. Greedy Guns is clearly throwing it back in a tribute to the 8 and 16 bit era, but it had a very modern twist on things. With plenty of guitars and driving beats, I felt like I was hearing a huge blend of sounds and idea. At one point, it felt like someone doing dubstep through a Gameboy, and I really dug the experiment. This game knows what players want and need to hear in order to pump them up and get them through the enemy waves, but also how to create atmosphere when there isn’t music whatsoever. The rare moments when the music was either low or missing entirely felt both eerie and calm, almost like you knew something would be coming, just not when or what. I felt really attuned to the game at that moment, and that is rare for a first time game from a heretofore unknown studio.
My one regret is not being able to play this co-op. I really wanted to take Greedy Guns for a spin with a friend or family member, but I simply couldn’t coordinate schedules and I also couldn’t play the second controller with my feet. I do think that this would be an even better time with a second person, because having a variety of weapons between two players seems like it could solve some of those problems with not having the right tool on hand, and also make some of the swarms a bit easier to deal with. Then again, that’s just one more person who might blow me up with the grenade launcher, so maybe I’m better off alone.
Greedy Guns is a fantastically great time. The game is huge, the enemies have a ton of variety, there’s a lot of weapons and combinations to work out, there’s some good, dry humor coming from both the merc and HOLO CORP, and the soundtrack fits in perfectly with the atmosphere. I hope that we may see an online multiplayer at some point, but I do love the comeback of the couch co-op from so many developers. If I were Tio Atum, I would be very proud of what has been produced here, and I commend them for giving a good name to crowdfunding games. Greedy Guns is the finest Metrovania game I’ve played in over a decade, and the balance between exploration and gunplay is marvelous. If you’re even remotely interested in a sprawling planet of aliens to shoot, pick this game up immediately.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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