It’s a really tough time at the moment for those game developers that prominently feature couch co-op in their titles. This is, of course, due to a near total ban on all social mixing thanks to the Coronavirus. Some households will still be able to take advantage of local multiplayer, however everyone else will have to make do with online play. This, unfortunately, limits the potential of games designed to be enjoyed best by getting your mates all around the one TV.
Enter Guntastic then – a quickfire party brawler in which the one shot, one kill rounds only last for a maximum of 30 seconds. You can play head-to-head, or with four players with the ability to throw CPU opponents into the mix too. However, there are no team options here; it’s every man for himself.
You can choose certain battle conditions, such as how many kills are needed to win or how long each round lasts for (although you are highly unlikely to survive that long). Options are admittedly pretty limited, however it’s all about getting stuck in with Guntastic, so it’s not the biggest issue.
There are six stages to battle across, and eight varying characters to play as. Each only differs cosmetically, as it’s all about the weapons and drops in the match that mix things up. The stages are all pretty similar if truth be told, however a few have some unique variants such as lifts and teleporters to navigate, but the differences are minimal. Rather disappointingly, all of these are unlocked from the very start, which takes away any sort of reward and progression factor, and by extension limits replayability.
In terms of weapons, there are a fair few to choose from, all of which do their own thing. For example, you can don spring-loaded boxing gloves to batter your enemies, or you can shoot out little Bob-omb types who will scurry to explode next to the nearest opponent. All are delightfully ridiculous, which match the madcap, frantic tone of the game perfectly.
There are also other items to make use of as you play, such as invisibility and shield pick-ups. These provide a very brief respite from the action, but will most likely only extend your lifespan a few seconds, if that. In Guntastic however, seconds can make all the different between winning and losing.
Despite consisting of short, brutal affairs, Guntastic is really fun to play. It will test your reactions, but feels well-balanced between skill and blind luck for the most part. Your characters are light and floaty, but still fairly easy to direct, with the control layout being nice and simple. You can move, jump, pick up items and use said items. That’s all there is to it. Sometimes less really is more.
The game harks back to the 16-bit era, and the arcade-style visuals and Street Fighter II-eque menu music work well in bringing this to life. Each character avatar is simple, but distinct enough in the same way as the six battle arenas are all unique. Overall, Guntastic pretty much hits the nail on the head with the theme it pitches.
However, as with so many indie titles, there is a drawback. Guntastic also features online play for up to four players and, despite several attempts, I found it impossible to matchmake with even one opponent. The servers, unfortunately, seem to be deserted. The only redeeming factor here is that you can set up online private games, so you can still play with your mates.
This brings me to my biggest issue with Guntastic – the price. It’ll set you back £12.49, which feels too expensive for what’s on offer. For this I would have liked to see more characters and stages, and perhaps another game mode or two. Also, given that online play is struggling seemingly due to a lack of players, it suddenly feels like a price tag hard to justify.
Guntastic on Xbox is a well-designed, fun little game, if only for a limited time. However, its hampered replayability along with a lack of depth, put up against a not insignificant price tag, makes it difficult to recommend.