Gunslugs 2 – Review

Somebody get B.A Barracuda, Sly Rocko and Willis Kiyay out of retirement, because those evil-doers, Black Duck, are back up to their old tricks once more! In Orange Pixel’s Gunslugs 2 you will  be reprising those roles, including many more, and teaching those evil Black Duck dudes a lesson they won’t soon forget……again!

Gunslugs 2 is a straightforward sequel to the first entry in the series that has you and your comrades travelling across the Earth, and outer space,  on the heels of the evil Black Duck army.  The game pays heavy respects to SNK’s Metal Slug series, with its hectic run ‘n’ gun action, powerful vehicles, goliath bosses, and a cast of loveable meatheads. As a sequel,’slugs 2 makes great steps forward for the series, as well as a few steps back.

The action remains largely unchanged and like Metal Slug, you travel from one side of the screen to the other, killing everything in sight. Each level also has a number of Black Duck beacon towers that you will need to destroy before a rescue chopper can swoop in and transport you away to safety. The coins you collect during gameplay can still be spent in the many shops dotted around each level, which sell a modest rotation of buff items like shields that make you look like Batman or Robocop, and health upgrades. Sadly, Gunslugs 2 dispenses with some of the humour seen in the first game, and it, seemingly, no longer has the random mini game rooms, nor the funny cameos from other game series characters.  In return for those little ommissions  you are given a campaign that is longer than the first game’s, and that is every bit as hectic, if not more so.

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On your dangerous ass-kicking mission you’ll  rescue your buddies from the first game, all of whom are cute pixelated send-ups of  80s action movie heroes. Some of them seem to miraculously find themselves taken prisoner on every level, but I’m not complaining, after all once you rescue them you can assume control of them and refill your health bar, which is vitally handy in some later levels when the action really ramps up.

Gunslugs 2 turns the action-o-meter up to 11, throwing scores of enemies, vehicles and a hail of bullets your way, in a relentless barrage of fast-paced run-n-gun mayhem. There is no let up in the formula, save for boss battles where enemy count is vastly reduced to make things more manageable. Boss battles are simple and formulaic, tasking you with dodging projectiles, killing mob enemies and replenishing your health and ammo.  Whilst they are fun, they couldn’t be described as challenging.

You will most likely cakewalk most of the game, as we did until we came to the Black Duck base levels. This part of the game brings a sharp increase in difficulty with it, but it doesn’t feel all that fair or congruous with the rest of the game. Whereas, for most of the action, you’ll be running and gunning at a fast pace, if you want to stay alive in the Black Duck base you will  need to be careful as you move. Puddles of green alien ooze are dotted around the place and will damage you if you step on them, meaning you will be required to suddenly adjust your play style.  In beacon towers you will have no choice but to take a hit by running through these puddles, draining your life bar – which is much bigger deal towards the end of the game than it is at the beginning.

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The game further annoys by placing ooze puddles at the top and bottom of step ladders, and even adds pairs of wall mounted cannons into the mix which deal massive damage and are almost impossible to dodge. These bad design choices bring the game’s rapid pace to a screeching halt, and really grated on my nerves. Despite those issues it is hard not to see how far Gunslugs has come, from a technical and design point of view. The whole game feels just a little bit more refined than the first entry, and it is graphically better than ever.

Even with the slight missteps this is an impressive sequel. Orange Pixel have kicked the action up a notch, making for a satisfying and exhilarating Metal Slug wannabe, and while it never quite reaches the same lofty heights it makes for an admirable impersonation.

If Gunslugs 2 sets the standard for sequels this year we are okay with that!