Crazy Monkey Studios have brought their indie hit Guns, Gore and Cannoli to the Xbox One, and I've found it to be a surprising distraction while waiting for this season's heavy hitters.
There's a deluge of ID@Xbox titles hitting the store on a weekly basis now, and the competition is fierce. How well does Guns, Gore and Cannoli stand out in an increasingly noisy market?
Yet another zombie game?
At its core, Guns, Gore and Cannoli is a 2D side-scrolling shooter with a penchant for comedy and the old school. You play as Vinnie Cannoli, a Mafia stereotype on a mission to recover another wiseguy who has gone missing. Guns, Gore and Cannoli, as the title implies, is heavily comedic, sporting striking 2D art that I'd sooner expect of an edgy Flash cartoon than a video game. The artistic style compliments its gameplay and story, both of which play out with tongue planted firmly in cheek.
Usually, a veteran mobster like Vinnie would find this mission to be a straightforward affair, but the 1920's Thugtown has been transformed into a survival horror hell, crammed with the undead. Your task is to guide Vinnie through various environments, including downtown urban rooftops, seedy prohibition era bars, and spooky mutant infested sewers.
The story is brimming with personality, but it's not spectacularly memorable. Guns, Gore and Cannoli offers yet another zombie outbreak story inter-spliced with government conspiracy and revenge - with gangsters. There's some negative sentiment among gamers about the sheer amount of zombie games on the market, and I think Guns, Gore and Cannoli is another groaning example of 'zombies for the sake of it'. If you're not irked by that, the comedy will have you smirking, particularly when it comes to the Plants vs. Zombie-like undead variants. However, I'd say that the gameplay is Guns, Gore and Cannoli's centerpiece.
Guns, gore, and great gameplay
Guns, Gore and Cannoli retains that old school feeling in a number of ways, chief among these is the fact you fire in the direction you're facing - akin to games like Metal Slug. Unless you're specifically looking for something "old school" the lack of control can make the gameplay feel a bit dated. Zombies will rush you from above and below, and you'll have to pay close attention to your positioning if you want to connect bullets to zombie flesh. The combat is intense as a result, and it's quite easy to get overwhelmed on the default difficulty, which can be adjusted up and down to suit your preferences.
Perhaps the greatest thing about Guns, Gore, and Cannoli is the volume of unique enemy variants. There are dozens of zombie types, mobsters, mutants and soldier enemies, each of which has different strengths and capabilities. Football zombies will charge you, scantily clad burlesque zombies will whip you, and chefs will hurl knives at you. In later levels, the number of nasties on-screen can strain your ability to react combined with the tasks of reloading, avoiding environmental hazards and paying attention to your positioning. Positioning, in particular, becomes key thanks to Guns, Gore and Cannoli's platformer-leanings. Some levels have pitfalls or other hazards, forcing you pay close attention to your movement. Zombie swarms, wayward grenades and undead leprechaun bombers will ensure you're never able to stay still for more than a few seconds.
Crazy Monkey Studios breaks up the shooting gallery with the occasional boss fight and other combat surprises that continue right up until the game ends. Just when you think you've seen every zombie type, the game will throw not only new kinds of enemies at you but also new toys for destroying them.
Speaking of the game's combat, I found that Guns, Gore and Cannoli is a little thin in the gore department, considering "gore" is right up there in the title. Headshots can pop a zombie's head into fragments, but hitting enemies with rockets or grenades simply causes them to flop the floor like a ragdoll. It's probably an odd thing to complain about, but one of the hallmarks of the zombie genre, for me, is the satisfying zombie crowd grenade blast, accompanied by raining meaty chunks. It does have plenty of guns and cannoli, though, the latter of which appears intermittently throughout levels as a health regenerating consumable.
The game sports several weapon types, including standard fares like shotguns, machine guns, and a head-popping magnum. In the later stages of the game, you're treated to a flamethrower, a rocket launcher, and even a large electric gun. You'll also receive grenades and molotov cocktails, and while human enemies are smart enough to avoid them, they'll vanquish large groups of undead with ease.
Guns, Gore and Cannoli can be played in local co-op with up to four people, which is equal parts fun and chaotic. It has a rudimentary versus mode that takes place in small arenas based on locations from the game, but I suspect most people will find more enjoyment in the main campaign. It's a shame that its multiplayer is only local-based, but adding Xbox Live support is an engineering feat smaller studios often can't accommodate.
That's some good Cannoli
Overall, I found Guns, Gore and Cannoli to be a thoroughly enjoyable experience, both when played solo and with a couple of friends in couch co-op. The hand-drawn art style is quite special and lends itself tremendously to the game's detailed backdrops and well-animated foes. The comedy is fun, and the story provides some fleeting context, but I feel Crazy Monkey Studios did themselves a minor disservice by jumping on the zombie bandwagon. The studio clearly has great ideas, though, I found the non-zombie enemies to be far more unique, and the prohibition era is a setting thoroughly underexplored in gaming.
Guns, Gore and Cannoli's champion aspects lie within its gameplay. Some may find the old school mix of platforming and front-facing aiming to be cumbersome, but I felt it struck that perfect balance between difficulty and reward. Guns, Gore and Cannoli's challenging nature reaches new heights in the later levels, adding platforming hazards and new enemies into the mix in between its neat boss battles.
- Fast-paced, rewarding gameplay
- Gorgeous hand-drawn 2D art
- Great value
- Game can stutter when there's a lot on screen
Guns, Gore and Cannoli clocks in at just £7.99 / $9.99 (and less on Steam) across around 5 hours of gameplay. It also contains 1000 gamerscore of fairly lenient campaign-based achievements - making it a solid proposition if you ask me. If you like side-scrolling shooters, I think Guns, Gore and Cannoli walks among the best available on Xbox One today.
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