It’ll be no surprise to you that Guns N’ Runs is a run and gun shooter/platformer and it comes to us from Brazilian coders Statera Studio following its initial PC release back in May 2021 that was seemingly missed by most gamers and reviewers out there. But it’s here on PSN now (albeit it after a pretty hefty embargo period) so how does it stack up compared to all the other run and gunners out there?
There’s a little bit of a story to this one. You play as one of eight members of the ‘Conspiracy Squad’ who are taking part in a rescue mission at a bunker in the middle of the Atacama desert, however the bunker is full of mechanised dangers all ready to halt the progress of whoever who decide to play as. The story plays out via static text or basic cutscenes and is usually advanced after each boss encounter but you’re not here for the storytelling, you’re here to run somewhere and, presumably, gun something.
For a game with such apparently simple mechanics (it’s a 2D affair with running, jumping, dashing and shooting),Guns N’ Runs has possibly the worst opening tutorial ever. It uses the tried and tested method of using signposts to show you the basics but these are impossibly obtuse at times, offering absolutely zero help. It’s weird how bad they are and while it’s not a showstopper and you’ll be able to figure out most of this stuff yourself, it does hint at a larger problem around playtesting. In so far as, if we were playtesting it, we’d have highlighted that nonsense immediately.
Once you get past that, you’ll be presented with a map screen (similar to some of the Mario) games which gives you a little bit of flexibility in terms of what level you want to play but we’re simple country folk here and so we figured we’d go through the levels in order. Like a normal person.
The basic gameplay from that point on is pretty much what you’d expect. Levels are split into large rooms and you’ll need to get to the exit of each of these, progressing onwards and locking your checkpoint progress as you do. You’ll face the usual obstacles. Spike pits, cannons, shielded turrets, destructible blocks and so on. You’ve got five red crosses, representing your energy bar. So if you get hit five times, you’ll go back to the start of the last room you were in. It’s straightforward enough but we can’t see anyone 1CCing this game any time this millennia but even with infinite continues beating the game on Hard and ‘Nightmare’ difficulty also seems like quite the stretch.
For a game with the name Guns N’ Runs, the running and gunning action here is actually a little bit of a side helping. For the most part all of our difficult moments came from the platforming and timing elements. This isn’t a Contra where enemy soldiers are going to criss-cross the play area with bullet fire. Instead, you’re more likely to die from hitting a drill spike or falling victim to some sort of laser beam trap. For the most part, it was only the boss battles which forced us to put our minds into ‘shoot ’em up’ mode and while these were often frustrating, and a little bit predictable, they were at least a welcome change from all the platforming stuff.
That said, the difficulty in Guns N’ Runs does come from the level design rather than any issues with the controls and so things do feel reasonably fair which helps with the overall arcade-style difficulty of the game. However, what the game does lack is a bit of innovation. If this was a 16-bit console game in the ’90s, it’d have reviewed pretty well but we’re not talking potential fan favourite stuff here. It’s competent for sure but it does feel very dated for a game released in 2023 (or indeed 2021 if you’re counting the PC version). We’re not seeing much in the way of interesting ideas, fun set pieces or clever design. Instead it’s just a competently made 2D retro game and even the idea of doing that now on modern platforms can seem wholly unoriginal.
That goes for the visuals too. The techno-future setting, 2D sprites and general level design remind us of old SNES games like The Lost Vikings and that’s fine but even in 1993 or whatever, this wouldn’t have been a massive head-turner. That said, the action is clearly presented although sometimes we’d have liked the option to pan the camera a bit during any trickier chasm-jumping sections.
But yeah, Guns N’ Runs is going for that ’90s feel and pretty much nails it. For us, we expect a bit more from games now. Even 2D stuff can be innovative and clearly modern (take Dead Cells for example) where as this just feels like a project to create a ’90s style game rather than a game designed to be a standout in the genre. But it’s okay. Sure, it’s often more frustrating than it is fun and it does drag on a bit but it’s does what it sets out to do. But it definitely doesn’t set out to push the genre forward.
+ Controls and visuals do an adequate job
- Is more about frustrating platforming than fun shooting