Gunslugs review for PS Vita

Platform: PS Vita
Publisher: Abstraction Games
Developer: Orange Pixel
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

I really want to be more enthused about Gunslugs than I am. And I don’t mean that as a slam in any way. In pretty much every respect, it’s everything you could ask for in a mobile-to-handheld port. It controls well, it looks great, it’s addictive, and, perhaps best of all, it doesn’t come to Sony’s handheld with the sort of “Vita Tax” that other developers have added on in similar situations. Basically, Gunslugs is everything you could ask for, and possibly more.

If you’re expecting a “But…”, you can keep expecting, because there isn’t one forthcoming. Seriously, there are only two things wrong with it, and in both cases I use the word “wrong” in the absolute loosest sense imaginable.

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First and foremost, Gunslugs is more than a little indebted to old-school run and gun games like Metal Slug or Contra — by which I mean it’s exactly the same as those games. It’s not the deepest game ever, but, then again, neither is its source material.

Even more importantly, Gunslugs never leans on ’80s nostalgia/cheese in the way that, say, the Dragon Fantasy games or Retro City Rampage did. There are some nods towards ’80s action flicks scattered throughout the game, but time and again Orange Pixel resist the urge to drop a reference and call it a day. This is an honest-to-goodness fleshed-out game that just so happens to look retro, not just a pointless exercise in, “Hey, remember that thing? Yeah, that was cool.”

The second thing “wrong” with Gunslugs is, quite frankly, gob-smackingly stupid: it doesn’t inspire the same sort of giddy, over-the-top joy in me that I get from games like Tearaway or Hotline Miami.

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The flaws in that my thinking there should be glaringly obvious. GOTY contenders like those are so memorable precisely because they’re so rare, just because a game doesn’t hit those rarefied heights, it doesn’t mean that it’s automatically worthless. Gunslugs is a great example of this. It’s not a must-own game, but it is a very, very good one, and you could do far, far worse than it if you’re looking for something fun and inexpensive to pass the time between those must-owns. Not exactly the most ringing endorsement, I know, but if you’ve got a couple of hours and a couple of dollars to spare, Gunslugs is definitely worth your while.

Grade: B+