RunGunJumpGun PC Review
Well-designed levels that bring impressive depth to a set of simple mechanics
Mechanically varied stages
Great level design
Easy to pick up
Lack of innovation
Consistently short levels
The concept is simple: Hand Flappybird a minigun. Yes, that’s overly simplistic generalization but it’s a start. What makes a physics-based 2D runner good? What can make it great? In my opinion, the first check is level design, the next is mechanic variety. RunGunJumpGun delivers in both categories, dishing out creatively hazardous level designs at a pace that makes each level worth retrying fifty-plus times and each new level all the more refreshing.
You play as a scavenger hopping from planet to planet, station to station, gathering atomiks – some McGuffin type collectables whose purpose seems secondary. Armed with what must be the most powerful minigun ever, your running scavenger can propel himself upward by firing his weapon downward or blast through upcoming obstacles. Collecting enough atomiks in one world will unlock the next, each of which introduce their own set of mechanics, colors, and villain.
Buzzsaws, cannons, teleporters, spikes, etc. do a great job of stopping players dead, over and over again. But it’s when all these mechanics are stewed together that levels begin to truly shine: whipping my way through a cloud of fireballs and buzzsaws was consistently thrilling. Mastering what each level has to offer feels incredibly rewarding; collecting every atomik in a stage and surviving obstacles one-hit-kills requires virtually perfect execution. The game’s 100+ stages are relatively short so memorizing and executing a stage perfectly can be done in relatively little time. This makes the repetitive nature of retrying levels less arduous and the overall game more enticing for short play sessions. However, a lack of epic levels did make the pacing of stages tedious. Longer levels were roughly twice as long as their shorter counterparts, featuring a checkpoint at the midway mark, when the game could’ve used longer, punishing obstacle courses to tie off each world.
Gameplay is great fun, all in all. Although the game didn’t have an engaging story, the game’s aesthetic was enough to sell the still portrait presentation of each world’s villain but still drive home plenty of character. The pixel art graphics and use of color also helped set the tone for each new world, despite some mechanical similarities; a few worlds pair previous mechanics with their out to create at times unbelievably tricky gauntlets. The game’s soundtrack was weak to say the least, lacking any memorable moments or melodies, remaining primarily ambient when most gameplay called for something driving. At best, it served as a pulse in the background. We’ve seen how indie game’s soundtracks, such as in Hotline Miami’s or Transistor, that can elevate the overall work, make the execution of mechanics more satisfying, and help create memorable moments. It’s hard to take anything less.
A minor but important detail I adored about RunGunJumpGun was how quickly it launched. Within seven seconds of launching the game from my desktop, I was already in a level. The same could be said of trying to quit the game. Again, a minor detail; however, I mention it at all for good reason. I’m not much of a fan of runner games. I can appreciate them and have my fun with them. That being said, when a game’s launch time rivals that of my Google Chrome, I’ll play it every time I have a spare five minutes. RGJG is played with the two shift keys – one to propel upward, one to fire forward – so it’s easy enough to pick up, features a variety of levels that can be mastered between 1-10 minutes, and lets players skip past levels they don’t care for through a handy stage selection menu.
RunGunJumpGun is very good. No, it doesn’t take its genre further or innovate but what it does it does well. (A mobile port would kill.) Let’s hope to see more from ThirtyThree Games on the Steam storefront.