Garters & Ghouls marries dark humour with the non-stop action of a twin-stick shooter, yet the elastic band on the bride's belt isn't as tight as it needs to be. Aiming issues and slightly slow pacing keep this macabre adventure from enjoying too long a honeymoon.
As the not-so-dead Marie Dupois, you're commissioned to battle a cult of demons and monsters called the Thrum. After rising from the graveyard, Marie's mission to find her captured husband takes you to a hair-raising carnival and perturbed university for a more than two dozen levels of gory action.
You start off with a simple crossbow and an unlimited supply of arrows, though bonus weapons dropped by dispatched enemies grant more firepower. The steam-powered machine gun, for example, makes Swiss cheese of monsters thanks to its high rate of fire.
Along with the multi-shot coil gun and explosive thermobaric grenade launcher, these secondary firearms carry a limited supply of ammunition.
Walking over a weapon immediately equips it for use, though it would be far preferable to have the option to switch weapons. The ability to save a secondary weapon would add a tactical consideration: do you unleash shots from a high-powered alternate weapon now or save it for when you're totally surrounded by enemies?
Pickpocketing the wallets of fallen foes lines your own pockets with gold for purchasing upgrades. Steam Queen shops situated in certain levels allow you to buy boosts to Marie's health and movement speed, as well as improve weapons damage and ammo. The huge number of available upgrades paired with limited funds sets the stage for compelling choices.
Clever story, eye-catching visuals, creative weapons, and a suite of upgrades - the stage is set for a monumental wedding of gameplay depth and action, though Garters & Ghouls gets cold feet at the last moment. Noticeable accuracy problems prevent the game from hitting its mark, even if you able to enjoy playing anyway.
Shots regularly fly past enemies and the portals from which they spawn due to finicky targeting. The game's isometric perspective requires fussy aim and what appears to be in your line of sight often isn't.
Adding a reticle is one option for addressing the issue, whereas more generous hit detection could be another. Either way, firing accuracy has to be tightened up to eliminate unfair misfires. Smoothing out movement on the analogue stick a bit more couldn't hurt, either.
Fortunately, a few missed shots won't leave you (un)dead. The slightly slower than expected pace provides plenty of leeway to escape the attacks of plodding zombies and wafting shadows. It's not pedestrian, but knocking up the tempo to make enemies a little more aggressive would add an edge to the action.
These shortcomings don't signal a divorce of fun from Garters & Ghouls. Instead, the captivating story and depth lent by upgrades and cool weapons act like a honeymoon that ends early when realty sets in.
It's a good foundation that has the potential to become a great shooter in a presumed sequel. After all, it's only during the reception that the garter comes off.