It's pretty obvious that Gunslugs gets its inspiration from the classic run-and-gun shooters of yesteryear - even tipping a hat to legendary genre king Metal Slug in its title.
Yet while it's easy to see the past in Gunslugs's 8-bit DNA, developer OrangePixel has more than embraced the present, shaping the classic genre into something perfectly suited to modern touchscreen devices.
It's a pure blast of ruthless, exhilarating run-and-gun fun that's packed with countless imaginative flourishes and delivered using a familiar but effective virtual button setup. Thanks to smart and simple mechanics, it works like a charm.
Your barrage of steadily depleting bullets, for instance, sticks to a horizontal plane as you sweep left and right, while jumping and interacting with objects are handled with a single button. Automatic deployment of other functions - such as behind-crate cover - streamlines the whole experience further still.
That doesn't mean Gunslugs is an easy ride, though, with enemies frequently spilling onto the screen and out of the air in huge numbers. Individually, opponents pose little threat, but together they're formidable - meaning it's vital to stay on your toes in order to clear each stage of beacons and escape to safety.
As you progress through Gunslugs's five main worlds, an increasingly tricky array of enemies is unleashed, including flame-throwing grunts, grenade-spewing tanks, screen-high mechs, sand worms, and even giant floating skulls. It's tough, but never unfairly so - just don't expect to romp to the end on your first go, particularly given each game's limited number of continues.
Never the same way twice
Repeat plays are never a chore, though, thanks to the randomly generated nature of levels. Changes in layout are fairly subtle as you revisit each stage, but a constant parade of beguiling new toys ensures every attempt always feels fresh.
One play-through might give you a dual-direction pistol, another a grenade launcher, flame thrower, tank, or jet pack. Still others might offer up health-bolstering robotic armour, a jukebox to mix up Gunslugs's sublime chiptune score, or a selection of arcade cabinets, delivering numerous mini-games riffing on familiar arcade classics.
Hitting the bullseye
Gunslugs also features a mini-objective challenge system, a generous selection of unlockable characters, and good old-fashioned leaderboard-wrangling, all making for a game that's consistently rewarding, no matter how often you're stalled by the same sudden surge of fearsome opponents.
If there's one small complaint, it's that Gunslugs feels a bit long in the tooth. This is nothing to do with its 8-bit leanings, but rather it's because it's the kind of frothy, nostalgia-drenched arcade outing that we've seen countless times before.
If your yearning for retro-inspired action hasn't diminished, you'll find that Gunslugs is a polished, richly designed, and utterly chaotic slice of bullet heaven.
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