Gunborg: Dark Matters (Xbox One) Review
Not a roguelike with actual levels designed by a real life human
Difficulty is high but fair and pacing feels good
Wall jumps can be too clingy at times
Will take a few stages to grow accustomed to the dual analog control scheme but works well in time
Developed by a solo developer and published by Red Art Games, Gunborg: Dark Matters felt refreshing to me because it actually isn’t a roguelike, you know, the only genre of game that seems to get released these days. Instead, this action platformer has stages developed by hand, playable from twin-stick controls. To quickly summarize, it is basically a single player Contra (just with a cool melee attack when you run out of ammo) right down the tougher difficulty, only mapping the attack command to the second analog stick.
Becoming comfortable with the control scheme is initially as difficult as the brutal gameplay. Using the shoulder and trigger buttons to jump, shoot, shield, and pick up weapons works well in time but there is something about jumping with the RT button that never quite feels right in a platformer like this. It still plays well, as that is just how twin-stick games need to be played, but just be considerate of this slight learning curve.
Playing as a badass lone wolf type, the goal it ultimately reach the other side of each stage. The only problem is, everything between you and that end point is trying to kill the heck out of you. If the hazards don’t send you to your death, then the countless enemies will. Whether it is spinning sawblades that can be cut with your melee attack, general flying fodder, or enemies that are shielded by pesky drones, the enemy variety is great and usually presented in combinations to keep you constantly on your toes. Boss fights are even more brutal as they are placed in set pieces that are constantly moving, filling the screen with enemies or projectiles. Yes, you will die a lot but each death makes you feel like it was your own fault for not being good enough. Checkpoints are usually placed just steps behind so backtracking isn’t a major annoyance.
For years, I have been saying that adding a double jump is a surefire way to make just about any game instantly better. Gunborg takes it to the next level by incorporating a triple jump! The stage design and combat often calls for this action too and there are plenty of precision platforming segments and wall jumps to complete. Each stage also contains a few yellow robot icons that can optionally be collected to earn additional perks in the long run. The playable character is small when compared to the rest of the screen which makes each encounter take place in a large arena, allowing the player the freedom to move and adjust to each battle situation. With everything trying to kill you, the number of weapons available, moving pieces of the environment, and dastardly bosses, this is a high action, twitch platformer.
My only complaint comes from the clinginess of the wall grab. The playable character always grabs each wall like a magnet and sticks like thick molasses but there are plenty of times when you will want to hop quickly but cannot, resulting some deaths or at least some damage taken. However, the animations are fluid which is important for a game with this speed and stages are short which allows for high challenge while minimizing frustration. It is thoughtfully designed.
I’d like to thank Gunborg for not being a roguelike, a genre that has become entire too overcrowded, and just being a new, old-fashioned Contra-ish action platformer that puts the emphasis right where it should be – on the action and stage design.
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By: Zachary Gasiorowski, Editor in Chief myGamer.com
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