Within the last couple of years or so, retro-styled games have become a trend among indie game developers. Teknopants, a development studio from Los Angeles, has thrown its own hat into the ring with Samurai Gunn.
Samurai Gunn is an arena brawler, and is without a superfluous storyline or backstory to any of the characters. These things would only weigh the game down and take away from the beauty that lies in its apparent simplicity.
The graphics and animation are unapologetically rudimentary and pixelated, but are all a part of the wonderous charm this game offers.
After selecting either the versus mode or survival (horde) mode, players must select a fighter (and a costume) and a level. Once a match begins, a bass-lined music track that sounds inspired from Afro Samurai, plays, and sets the stage for battle.
Armed with only a sword and a gun (with a few bullets, per life), the action can be hectic or methodical, depending on a player's style of fighting. Because it takes only one hit to kill an opposing player (or enemy AI in survival matches), sometimes waiting for an opponent to come to you is the best tactic.
The combat sounds simple, but there are some nuances that require a bit of strategy and finesse. For instance, melee attacks can be made in any direction (up, down, left, or right), and even in mid-air. Not only that, but well-timed attacks can deflect sword strikes, as well as bullets (bullets will ricochet).
Even the maps, as simplistic as they look, add depth to the gamplay. Some maps have pits that allow players to fall through the bottom of the screen and emerge from the top of the screen. There are arenas with moving platforms, as well as dangerous spikes and icicles.
When a player kills an opponent, the death is glorious, a spray of pixelated blood and sharp sound effects give a bit of weight to each kill.
At the end of a versus match, if the number of kills are equal, players will enter a showdown mode, where the two players face each other on a flat plane, and nothing but their blades to determine the winner.
Samurai Gunn features offline couch co-op (no online modes), so up to four players must cram their fingers onto the same keyboard, unless you have a sufficient number of gamepad controllers.
Matches are fast-paced and exhilarating, especially in multiplayer matches. The gameplay is at first glance simplistic, but there is quite a bit of depth to the combat after just a couple of rounds.
With at least one friend (or enemy), Samurai Gunn is a blast to play, and it is impossible to put down the controller once someone starts tallying wins.
Although the $14.99 price tag may seem a bit high given the low-budget appearance, there is little I would change about this game. The amount of exhilarating multiplayer fun this game offers, coupled with its slick styling will give you plenty of value and keep you and your gaming pals coming back for more.
This review is based on a review code provided by the publisher.