Wildcat Gun Machine, the latest from Chunkybox Games has, in addition to one of the most intriguing names I’ve seen for while, an interesting premise. Described by the developer as a “bullet hell dungeon crawler”, this title has piqued my interest, especially after taking in the exclusive interview that we previously held with the one-man team behind it. In fact, I couldn’t wait to head to a world filled with guns, gore and giant monsters, in hope of laying waste to everything in sight.
Usually I’d start a review by waxing lyrical about the narrative on offer, about the motivation of the characters and how they made me feel. I can’t do that in this case as Wildcat Gun Machine is sold as an “explosions rollercoaster”. I must say, this is a good way of describing the game. You see, you get on at the start, hold on tight, scream a bit, and then get off at the other end, shaking from the intensity of the experience. So while there is no story, normally a drawback in my book, in this case it indicates a purity of purpose, a desire to concentrate on the explosions, and that can only be a good thing.
Looking at how things are presented and Wildcat Gun Machine is viewed from a kind of top-down three-quarter view; the graphics being big and bold. The enemies that you fight are all suitably disgusting and wouldn’t look out of place in a Resident Evil game, whilst the design of the guns, the heroine, and pretty much the whole game is very nice indeed.
The music is also worthy of mention too, with some very nice tunes blasting their way out of the speakers, alongside a plethora of gun sound effects and the aforementioned explosions. All is certainly very rosy.
Now, onto the actual gameplay. The news here is also pretty good, albeit with some reservations. There is a wide selection of firearms on offer, and you can choose two to carry with you at all times. One is a pistol with unlimited ammo and a few different flavours, from standard weedy peashooter up to mega damaging but slow firing orbs of doom, via things like a fast firing bullet that overpierces enemies and damages others behind them (this is my current favourite).
The second weapon is a special weapon, and this does have limited ammo, but luckily there is usually some dotted around the levels to let you reload. Again, there is a huge amount of variety on offer, from machine guns to lasers to grenade launchers; finding a gun that suits your playstyle should be pretty straight forward. Add in different flavours of grenades to find and equip, and even new forms of the super special move, the Wildcat Gun Machine of the title, and you can accessorise to your heart’s content.
The actual combat is pretty simple to explain. The game plays out in a twin-stick style, where the left stick is used to run your character around the gaff, hopefully avoiding the millions of bullets coming your way. The right stick aims, and the RT fires, with weapon switching duties being handled by the Y button. Once you beat the first boss, you will unlock a dash move, mapped to LB, and while it has a cooldown if used, it is possible to chain together dashes without letting the cooldown kick in; something to remember in a tight corner. Once you have caused enough carnage, the Wildcat Gun Machine – a giant mech with invincibility and very damaging weaponry – can be summoned with a press of both bumpers, and this can be a game changer, especially in the boss fights that pretty much redefine “bullet sponges”.
On the whole, combat is a great deal of fun, and trying to find a way through very large spreads of bullets soon becomes second nature. It isn’t without its issues, however – it is missing that last little scintilla of polish that could have raised the game to something very special. As an example, in one boss fight I managed to dash outside the arena I was supposed to be in, and died as a result. The second boss glitched out for me completely; as soon as I triggered the Wildcat Gun Machine the fight ended but the boss health bar, still half full, remained on the screen and I didn’t get the achievement for beating it.
Aiming is a little wayward too, and in a gun with limited ammo, having to “walk” the stream of bullets onto the target does waste a bit of the precious resource. However, don’t let these niggles mislead you: the majority of the time, Wildcat Gun Machine is a fun shooter and has a real “one more go” appeal. Add in a skill tree of sorts, where you can buy extra weapons and even respawns, and there is a lot of content to try out.
All in all Wildcat Gun Machine does what it says on the tin. It is a dungeon crawler, albeit one in a modern setting mixed with a bullet hell experience, all whilst being challenging (with odd spikes in difficulty) and seriously good fun to play. You could do a lot worse than to check it out.
Wildcat Gun Machine is available from the Xbox Store