Conquered Cuphead? Think Dark Souls was a walk in the park? Aleksandar Kuzmanovic’s arena-based shooter Gunlock may be just the challenge you need.
The goal of Gunlock is simple – blast away at anything and everything, racking up a high score in the process. Platforming mechanics are par for the course, with our hero packing a double jump, a wall jump, and a boosted jump after landing on an enemy. The controls are tight and responsive, bringing to mind the system found in titles like Super Meat Boy.
It’s not just about jumping your way to victory – Gunlock packs a bevy of weapons to choose from. Starting out, players can choose from a handful of standard weapons, but new ones can be unlocked through coins gained from fallen enemies. There are dozens to unlock, from your standard assault rifles to more exotic fare like the “Big Ol’ Dirty Yankee” and “The Hive.” All weapon pickups are random, and some weapons are clearly better than others, but players can choose the loadout they want for each stage beforehand. In a way, it’s kind of fun to try out each weapon and pick out your favorite – there’s certainly no shortage of things to choose from.
Levels play out in one of three arena-based areas, where the screen loops both horizontally and vertically. Players must take down enemies to build their score, which fills a special meter. Once that meter is full, a boss takes the stage, complete with a health bar. It’s basic stuff, but there are some wrinkles to the formula. For one, ammo can be replenished by jumping on enemies as opposed to shooting them down. This leads to an offensive style of play that forces you to get up close and personal with each baddie. A multiplier system exacerbates this, as it resets itself after seconds of inactivity. Successful playthroughs will have players memorizing enemy patterns and attacks, not unlike the NES games of old. Getting into the groove provides a sense of zen, one that will have you lost in the game.
The game is not without its frustrations though. This is one of those brutally difficult games where you have to start over after one hit. It can be frustrating to get to a boss, only to have to start from the beginning due to a slip up. This is fine for the most part, but one of the three stages has slippery icy floors, which can be seen as a definite handicap. Granted, adept players can take down each boss and unlock the following stage in a matter of minutes, but getting to that level of play will take far longer than that.
Even so, the game does not offer a ton of content. Completionists would likely like to unlock every gun and color “paintjobs” that change the look of the game, but the three arenas do not provide a ton of variety. Leaderboards are available, but a few more stages would have gone a long way.
It’s easy to get lost in the score-based challenges Gunlock has to offer. It’s not the meatiest title around, but its tight platforming mechanics and tough-but-fair challenge will appeal to platforming fans looking for their next fix.