Ammo Pigs: Cocked and Loaded, developed by Cascadia Games and published by ChiliDog Interactive, is one of those games you’d probably see anywhere between the years 1987 and now – A 2D action-platformer with shooting and collecting coins.
Unfamiliar with both the developer and the publisher, some research needed to be done to know what kind of game I was going to deal with. The developer and publisher had no games I was familiar with, so this was not a good start. But nonetheless, some developers knock it out of the park on their first try. However, it seems Cascadia has a knack for copying other games. On their website are games such as “Might Aphid”, “Bay Lynx”, “Wacky Wheels”, which are non-inspiring clones of Mega Man, Bubsy, and Mario Kart respectively.
This isn’t to say Ammo Pigs is a clone of another game. It’s a clone of many games. It’s something that the player has seen or heard of many times over. A 2D action-platformer where the goal is to shoot enemies and get to the end. Contra, MegaMan, Cuphead, Broforce, the list can go on.
The game tells the story in less than ten seconds. The year is 2049 AD, all life is dead except for pigs. But then it’s discovered the chickens are alive too so you need to save them. The goal in every Ammo Pigs level is to find the white flag at the end of the level. Shoot your way through some of the most generic enemies ever seen, robots. Why are you fighting robots? The game doesn’t say. The story is a five-point slideshow.
Gameplay is a glitchy mess. Expect to fall in between the level every now and then. Your main weapon shoots a few spaces in front. While enemies weapons will shoot much faster. Jumping extensively or landing, shooting, and then hopping back onto a higher platform is what’s needed to beat the game. Our nameless pig protagonist has five hearts to his name, but he might as well have one, as it’s hard to determine what enemies take away one or all hearts.
Collect coins by defeating enemies and crates and use them to buy new weapons or upgrades. Rockets, dual pistols, and a triple shot are the only options to increase your arsenal and the player has a limited supply per purchase. Rockets don’t have splash damage. The dual pistol shoots backwards, and while in theory works nice, is ultimately not a good option. And the triple shot, shooting bullets in three directions, is the clear best choice. It certainly helps with defeating enemies perched on different platforms as mentioned previously.
A jetpack, bubble and dash are the only options for upgrades. The jetpack allows double jumping. The bubble is an extra hit that kills what it comes in contact with and the dash kills anything the player runs into. The dash is the clear winner and is probably the best weapon also. More coins can be collected if the player can save any of the three chickens in the level. However, the chickens do not need to be saved to complete the level, only getting to the white flag.
Saving any of the chickens is a nightmare. Although expected to be difficult, the following mechanic almost seems unfair. Chickens will get stuck behind you, with enemies shooting your way, killing them. They will miss jumps, then fall in acid or spikes. Sometimes, because you are shooting at a robot that is defending a chicken in its cage, the chicken will run into enemy fire. This is because only your gun is needed to break the chicken free from its robot overlords. Accidentally shoot the cage behind the enemy and lose the chicken.
All the levels are very similar in terms of design and structure. The player must find the colored switches to unlock the colored gates. This is at every level. A little variety to the puzzles, if they could be called that, would have been nice. Elevators and ladders are used for the player to reach higher platforms and are one of the most frustrating mechanics. Elevators take too long to start, but once the player jumps it will start dropping like a boulder. Ladders should not exist, for there is no climbing mechanic. Each part of the ladder is a tiny square for the player to jump on. That means there is no climbing down the ladder. There is no climbing up the ladder. It’s a death trap.
Aesthetically, these levels are designed in ways every gamer has seen before. Factory, desert, a second factory, maybe a castle. The point is the art direction Ammo Pigs: Cocked and Loaded has taken is not the best. Sure they weren’t going to reinvent the wheel. But variety would have been nice. However, new enemies were introduced in new areas. Such as snakes in the desert and giant wheel robots in the dungeon-like area.
The game is also extremely loud in some parts and quiet in others. The jumping pierces your ear and the music is too low. And it’s a shame too because the music by default is probably the best part of the game. It’s hard to fumble 8-bit NES style era music.
One of the most enjoyable parts of Ammo Pigs is the ending. Coming out of nowhere and with zero lead up. After completing a level and saving a single chicken, a text box appears saying “Enough chickens have been saved” and the game ends. Audible laughter ensued.
Ammo Pigs: Cocked and Loaded is a glitchy mess with little to no incentive to play. Frustrating mechanics with boring gameplay means the final recipe equals a low quality game. It feels uninspired in almost every aspect. From the gameplay, to the level design to the enemies and everything in between. The simplicity is what kills it the most. When stripped down, every part is the most basic a developer can get when creating a game. Generic story, generic gameplay, generic enemies, generic level design.
It feels like eating a plate of salad. But instead of getting anything that makes a salad a salad, you’re left with a pile of green leaves. It works, it’s edible, but you are definitely going to want something else.
Ammo Pigs: Cocked and Loaded can be downloaded from the Xbox Store