Mothergunship is a bullet hell, roguelike, first person shooter coming from the creator of Tower of Guns, Grip Digital. I must admit, I’d never played a bullet hell shooter from a first person perspective before, so my hopes were high, as new experiences are somewhat rare in the world of video games these days. As the levels are all randomly generated, promising high replay value, and with an intriguing gun crafting system to look forward to, I dived into the crazy world of Mothergunship to find out more.
The story, as if it matters when there are giant robots to shoot in the face, revolves around an invading alien force known as the Archivists. Their mission is to collect all the data in the universe, going about this by blowing up everything in their path! As we awaken on a ship, a commander of the Resistance is found shouting down our ears, telling us to get into a robotic suit of armour if we want to stay alive. It is here where the tutorial level begins, taking us through the basics of movement, including the fact that our suit has the ability to perform multiple jumps, how to shoot, and using both the left and right hand weapons.
In the tutorial, the basics of the crafting system are also introduced. The system is simplicity in itself, and works really well. Each gun can be crafted from three categories of items: Connectors, Barrels and Caps. A barrel can be equipped on its own, and this is the basic gun that you can use. There are obviously a lot of different types to choose from, from energy streams that do a small amount of damage but fire really quickly, to heavy rocket launchers that do the exact opposite. But it is with the connectors and caps that the system starts to come alive. See, each connector has a number of sockets, in various different orientations, and by choosing a basic connector, with three connectors in a line, you can choose to add up to three barrels to the gun, so each shot can fire a rocket, a grenade and an energy blast, for instance. The thing to bear in mind, however, is that the more barrels a weapon has, the more ammo it will consume with each shot, so you may have the most powerful gun in the universe, but only be able to fire it once. The caps meanwhile offer mods to the existing weapon, such as increased power or less ammo expenditure. A cap normally has a good effect and a bad one, such as 50% more damage, but 30% slower firing speed. The last thing to consider is how the gun will physically fit together, as large barrels may interfere with each other.
Once Mothergunship has given us a grip on things, we are introduced to the HQ. Here we can interact with the mission map, choose the next ship that we are to invade and destroy, test out weapons on the firing range, and upgrade any armour using XP that is gained in the levels. XP is persistent, so if you die during a run, you can keep both it and any coins that you find from killing the enemies. And what do coins make? Gun parts!
There are various different mission types to undertake, including story missions that move the narrative along, others that see you earning more money, and sponsored missions where the idea is to grind them out for gun parts. You see, gun parts are your best friend in this game, but there is a catch, because if you die during a level, all the parts you took with you, plus any extra that you find in the conveniently placed in level shops, will be lost forever. It is entirely possible to find yourself with only a couple of low powered gun parts left, desperately scrabbling around to try and finish a mission to expand your arsenal.
The risk/reward mechanic is most definitely present and correct, and suddenly the gun part gathering missions become much more important. These see you given four random gun parts and sent to clear a ship, and if you do, you get to keep the parts and any others you find on your way through. They can be a life saver – quite literally.
Of course, no bullet hell shooter would be complete without bosses, and Mothergunship has them in spades. Giant, robotic, room-filling bullet sponges need to be taken down, and again very much in the bullet hell mold, discernible attack patterns are in place to exploit. Of course, from a first person viewpoint it’s all a bit tricky, and you soon learn that circle strafing is a valid tactic, constantly kiting around the enemies and adjusting aim to keep the rounds hitting them. Jumping is also a good strategy, as a well timed triple jump can lift you out of the way of an attack that would otherwise have ended you. Quite often, the run up to a boss can be just as hard as the main guy itself, with rooms full of small enemies posing quite a challenge, especially if your gun is weak or slow firing.
The design of the enemies is varied and imaginative, with small dog-like robots, spinning bladey things, mega turrets that fire entire salvos of rockets at you, and spider tanks that spin in a circle firing a giant laser blast of doom. There are also static room defences that continually shoot until all the other enemies in the level are dead – and that’s without talking about the giant pits of lava that will kill you in an instant. All in all, it’s like these aliens don’t want us to blow up their ships…
Graphically the game is nice, with a pleasing robotic look to everything, the bad guys being well animated and the bullets in particular deserving praise, as some of the rockets are Super Mario World sized as they head towards your face! The sound effects are suitably meaty, with the Laser Cannon and Railgun effects being particular favourites. The voice acting is also up to scratch, with an amusing story being told from the perspective of the various characters, including Mothergunship herself.
There are a couple of niggles though, with the main one being the long loading times. It seems to take an absolute age to get into a level, and then each time you finish a room and get to the exit, there has to be a countdown again while the room is prepared before you can begin. There is also some noticeable slowdown present when the screen gets very busy and you are being swamped.
As I write this review, the multiplayer co-op sections of the game are scheduled to be released via a free update in August, but all in all, Mothergunship is a fun experience. Seeing a gun you’ve designed and crafted rip apart the robotic alien hordes is always fun, and the odd niggles aside, it is more than a decent game to play. Having the multiplayer aspect present will only enhance the fun.