º Mowing down zombies with an assortment of vintage weaponry.
º The cinematics create a real sense of the period and its story.
º Character models and animations are marvelously done.
WHAT WE DISLIKED
º The game can be completed in about three hours on Normal mode.
º Some weird control decisions leads to the unwanted waste of ammo.
º Absence of greater exploration or incentives for multiple playthroughs.
I haven’t played such a fun and engaging 2D shooter in a very long time. There were explosion and testosterone-filled moments that brought me back to the dark arcades, where I use to drop hundreds of quarters into games like Contra and Metal Slug. But this was more than nostalgia; Guns, Gore & Cannoli made me feel like a gangster mowing down zombies in ‘Thugtown’ during prohibition. I know, zombie games are so bland; but with a game this good, it’ll be hard to ‘fuhgeddaboudit’!
Bad Italian impressions aside, this indie game by Crazy Monkey Studios is nothing short of impressive. The game is a 2D side-scrolling shooter that should impress any fan of the aforementioned arcade shooters. In the game, you play as Vinnie Cannoli who sails into town looking for Frankie The Fly, with the strict instructions to bring him back to the Boss alive. The story isn’t complex, but it’s not without its share of twists and a great tone. The game feels like a classic mob movie, but with a supernatural spin; each chapter ending with some visually dynamic cutscenes that were designed with a real sense of care for player immersion.
As you progress from left to right, laying down the gunfire into hordes of zombies, you discover new weapons that keeps the game fresh. With the ten weapons comes some classics, such as a vintage pistol with unlimited ammo, a double-barrelled shotgun, tommy gun and a multitude of others; this includes some truly fantastical ones. Each weapon has its benefits and weaknesses; so when situations quickly change, it’s nice having a full arsenal to deal with them. Those without a razor sharp memory may find it hard to rotate through them however without taking your eyes off the action. The game gets progressively harder, as a rival mob and even the military gets into the mix and tries to bring you down too.
Simply put- the game is just a ton of fun. The challenge is always there, with packs of running zombies sneaking up behind you as you take on a ton of walkers in front. You’ll occasionally come upon several military troopers taking on a ton of zombies, bringing more realism to the game. You can either wait to take the winner of that fight out, or just go ahead and go the Vinnie Cannoli-route of ending it for both with a tie. No matter what you choose though, the game is simply a joy.
The game does a great job of adding variety to the level designs as well, adding some platforming elements along with unexpected creatures that jumps out from hidden areas. In one segment, you quickly scale the side of a building as poisonous gas rises from the city street, forcing you to jump up rafters filled with baddies. One level has pressurized air blowing you around electrical barriers, while you blast a hovering zombie with your missile launcher. These small additions will keep the most veteran shooter on their toes.
It really is the small touches that really makes this game shine. For example; it’s easy to get pinned against a wall with three vicious meatbags in front of you, and your clip is empty. Well, Vinnie is an expert multitasker, who can reload while kicking his enemies back. It’s a great feeling kicking three enemies as you load the last shell, and as they start their sprint towards you again- you bring the thunder. Timing your kicks is important, and you’ll feel like a real enforcer when someone leaps at you through a window, only to be kicked back into flames on the streets below.
There’s a few problems however- there’s very little reason to explore the map outside of ammo. Sure, you’ll occasionally stumble upon a clever pop culture mob reference, but beyond that there’s just supplies. I know it feels gimmicky in most games, but in a game so drenched in a classic feel, I was kinda hoping there would’ve been some additional trinkets to find, perhaps attached to some kind of cheats. Outside of the expertly-crafted shooting mechanics, there’s not many reasons to go off the beaten trail.
There was a few minor hiccups in my experience; I had the game crash on me twice in my short playthrough, which is rare for my system. I also had trouble connecting my PS3 controller; strangely the game identified my ‘X’ button as shoulder buttons, and my shoulder buttons came across as directional pad inputs. I also really disliked hitting my fire button twice in the middle of a shootout, getting off the first shot, and then several second later being forced to watch that next one fly over an already dead enemy. I would say this was a decision by the developers, considering the amount of polish on everything else.
The biggest downside for me was that there’s checkpoints throughout the level, meaning there’s very little consequence to your death. I would’ve preferred a tougher approach to the the game, where you restart the chapter with three lives or something to that effect. Because not only does it come across as too easy, it also comes across as way too short. The average player will probably beat the game in three hours, so hopefully its audience will appreciate its tougher difficulty modes, as there’s not much more to extended out replayability. That’s not to say I won’t pop this back in down the road, because I really want to play more, even now.
The sound effects are well above par; the bullets blasting from the barrell of a shotgun, the impact on the enemies and the spilling of whatever was chipped away. Crazy Monkey spent its time in the sound department, and it really shows. The OST feels very 20’s, complete with a selection of ragtime and a touch of classic cinema. The voicework is amazing; at some points it comes across a little hammy, but in a game where the main character shares a name with his favorite food, I think it’s acceptable.
The art-style is phenomenal, especially for a lower budget game; with each stage feeling vibrantly macabre and drenched in the splendor of the 1920’s. They all feels distinctly different, and yet each design fits in well with all the rest. The characters are nicely defined by solid black outlines, with flat vibrant colors, and are smoothly animated; even if there’s a shortage of enemy models.
Overall, if you’re a fan of fast-paced shooters with an emphasis on the retro feel and speed of old arcade games, this game is not a bad place to get that fix. It’s currently ten dollars on Steam for Mac and PC, and will coming to XBO, PS4 and WiiU soon.
Publisher: Crazy Monkey Studios
Developer: Claeys Brothers
Genre: Action Shooter
Release Date: April 30th, 2015
Pegi: T (ESRB)
Version Reviewed: Mac