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Guns, Gore and Cannoli / 10th of October 2015

Taking the 2D platform-shooter shenanigans of SNK’s Metal Slug as a starting point, Crazy Monkey Studios’ Guns, Gore & Cannoli manages to mix in Italian desserts, zombies and giant rats to create a co-operative game that just manages to sweeten the deal with one very important addition. Sure, it may have more than a few issues, but the fact that the developer has, from the outset, endeavoured to create a gaming experience that focuses on local play, ensures that Guns, Gore & Cannoli doesn’t exactly have much in the way of competition, and that will undoubtedly guarantee them sales. But, does the gameplay justify this? Well, for the most part, yes it most certainly does.

There’s not much about this game that manages to surprise, levels are played out as 2D side-scrolling affairs, seeing players making their way from points A to B killing every single thing that moves in between. There are checkpoints to trigger, cannoli to devour and guns, grenades and molotovs to pick up and use against the marauding hordes of the undead. Enemies vary from zombies, to mutant rats, soldiers and even fellow gangsters, with a clear pecking order to each group, generally meaning that more ammo is required for the tougher foes, though some, such as the shield bearing goon ask for a slight change in strategy altogether. Ultimately, mayhem is the name of the game, and Crazy Monkey Studios have ensured that there are enough weapon variants to keep even the pickiest of gamers going.

If anything, I would say that there are actually too many guns in the game, which means that cycling through them is more than a tad cumbersome, alternatively, favourites could have been assigned to the d-pad to ensure that the process was somewhat smoother. However, there are nine guns in the game, starting out with the lowly pistol (it makes up for its lack of power with unlimited ammo), it’s soon possible to collect two different types of shotgun, two different machine guns, a rocket launcher, flamethrower (why does setting people on fire always feel so satisfying?), a highly powerful magnum and more. Headshots, especially with the standard pistol result in a pop of the head and a lavish jet of blood that never fails to reward the player with a general feeling of contentment. Still, cycling between them all left me exposed on many occasions, and there can be no denying that the hit detection needs to be much better too as shots can often go whizzing past a foe without them so much as batting an eyelid at you, as one might expect, this is rather irksome to say the least.

Player’s assume the role of Vinnie Cannoli, a mafia enforcer sent out to protect a man at his boss’ behest, the story is set during prohibition and, as it turns out, poisoned bootleg alcohol has turned the entire population of the city into mindless, flesh eating monsters. En route to the final confrontation, high up atop a gangster controlled building, Vinnie must tackle a series of boss fights and an ever increasing difficulty level. Personally, as the game is intended for couch co-op, I don’t feel that as a single-player experience the difficulty has been quite fine-tuned enough, there isn’t so much of a gentle curve to it, rather than a smooth run followed by a brick wall. It’s by no means insurmountable, of course, but it can be more than a tad frustrating as the game suddenly switches gear without warning and throws a colossal number of adversaries at you, and the bosses – as one might expect - can be real pains too. This is further worsened by the fact that both enemies and their weapons have a tendency to simply bypass the walls that your own adhere to, seeing assaults taking place from the left, right and above, even when you’ve taken cover in a building or train.

From an aesthetic viewpoint, Guns, Gore & Canoli is something of a treat, with colourful and highly detailed cartoon-like visuals that display the developer’s keen eye for details. Apart from looking beautiful as a whole, the protagonist’s jacket flaps jumping, bright flames lick skywards as they devour everything in their path, cars gleam under light sources and characters’ faces and expressions change when hit. Although I’m also not a big fan of it, there are also some elements of destructibility in the environment, as windows shatter when bullets fly past them (not through them), but then it makes up for this shortcoming as there are also doors to break down and, most satisfying of all, chains of explosions to set-off, and the game handles all of this without a single dropped frame. The only real complaint here though, is that at points, it became incredibly difficult to see what was actually transpiring on screen, particularly when fighting within a train carriage in the sewer level. In terms of its audio, the voice acting is typically over the top, whilst the soundtrack is also fitting, if a little uninspired, still, it certainly looks and sounds the part overall, and what more could we really ask for?

Clocking in at around three to four hours, Guns, Gore & Cannoli is certainly short, but not overly so, in fact, given the frenetic pace that the game holds from start to finish, this probably makes it just about right. Sadly, there isn’t much in the way of replay value, aside from co-op games and the search for those missing achievements, but for some that will likely be enough to breathe a few more hours into the experience, but still for the price that Crazy Monkey Studios are charging, there can be few complaints.

There’s not a heck of a lot that can be done these days for as little as £6.99, is there? Yet here’s a game that will delight, infuriate and, with any luck, help to reignite an interest in local co-operative gaming experiences. It sounds good, it looks great and, despite all of its weaknesses, somehow gels together to create a rather solidly made game. If you’re a fan of over the top, 2D blasting action, you have to buy it, it really is that simple.

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