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Gunlord X (PS4) review

 
Gunlord X logo
Gunlord X logo
Gunlord X logo

 
At a Glance...
 

Formats: PlayStation 4 (reviewed); Nintendo Switch (available)
 
Genre: ,
 
Year:
 
Publisher:
 
Developer:
 
Final Score
8.0
8/ 10


User Rating
12 total ratings

 

We Liked?


  • Great level design - you feel you can explore but still keep progressing towards the boss
  • Satisfyingly OTT weapon selection to test out
  • Music and design set the 90s nostalgia tone fantastically well

Not So Much?


  • A game better played in short sessions; doesn't feel intended for long term playtime
  • The platforming side of the game can frustrate when precision is called for


0
Posted December 22, 2019 by

 
Final Fiendish Findings?
 
 

When reviewing a game, I like to look at what that game offers on its own merits. But before I can discuss what Gunlord X is, I think we need to address the elephant in the room. That elephant’s name is Turrican.

Gunlord X does not feel simply like a run-and-gun platform shooter from the same mould as Turrican; it feels like a “what if…?” scenario – “what if there was a new Turrican game?” As our hero explores the levels, rolling into a ball, releasing surround blasts and firing his 360 degree lightning beam around, the influence is unmissable. It passes “inspired by” and moves into the territory of “homage”… but then, if you’re going to try on some shoes, why not try some big ones? After all, Turrican was one of the most impressive titles available almost three decades ago, and has left a gap in the market since the series was ended.

Ok, elephant handled. Let’s focus on Gunlord X.

Gunlord X screenGunlord X is actually an update of an earlier title, Gunlord, released in 2012 on the Neo Geo and later on the Dreamcast, thanks to the efforts of developers NGDEV to keep a little love going to those old platforms. It feels like it would be a safe bet for those old systems – albeit now with very small audiences – to release a shamelessly old-school platforming shooter… when released onto a current-generation system the question becomes “how does the design stand up on it’s own merit?” To which the answer is “pretty well, actually.”

As a run-and-gun shooter, Gunlord X is filled with a selection of satisfyingly overpowered guns to use, which to their credit also feel very different from each other and have different merits in different situations. Making your way from the start of the level to a boss fight at the end, you’ll be clearing away all manner of nasty critters trying to stop you, avoiding traps, leaping from platform to platform, and generally reliving the kind of old-school satisfaction we tell ourselves games don’t have any more.

You’re able to shoot in any direction – the lightning beam precise within 360 degrees, the regular guns on an eight-way digital basis – and you’ll find enemies approaching from pretty much everywhere there is room, with even some boss fights having you look to the skies or deal with them underfoot. As a quick recommendation, I’ll also suggest looking at the control methods, as the non-default on the PS4 is actually a twin-stick method which feels both more intuitive to play and a better use of the controller.

While we’re mentioning options, the game also plays up to its design-era with optional scanlines (which can have their size adjusted, as well as being disabled). It’s also worth mentioning that the soundtrack volume is slightly higher than the game audio by default, and when you hear it you’ll understand why – the music fits the game fantastically well. It’s not that any of the music is intrinsically memorable, but it adds to the moment-to-moment experience of gameplay very well.

Gunlord X ScreenThe press release for the game describes it as “open world”, and arguably this is very, very wrong. The game is split into several levels, which you progress through linearly. However, while following the route towards whichever fiend is blocking progress to the next level there is a surprising amount of room to explore – a small gap you can roll through, weapon upgrade blocks serving as disguised platforms, enemies grabbing you and pulling you into places you couldn’t access otherwise… and you still find yourself heading from A to B. All credit has be given here for the quality of this level design.

Your exploration is marked by discovering diamonds – each level having a large number of small ones and a few giant ones, and the amount found being recorded on the level selection screen. It’s clear this is meant as encouragement to come back and try again, though this will probably be a greater draw to completionists than more casual players. Here is also one of the greater flaws of the game, as the platforming isn’t as strong as the shooting. It’s fine while generally moving through the levels, but when you want to jump onto that out of the way ledge to grab an item… sometimes you’ll make it, sometime you won’t, and it can feel quite unforgiving. Exploring is fine, exploring is fun… but there can also be times that you decide to abandon collectables to avoid the frustration of attempting a precise jump just one more time…

So the game may follow a design popular in the 8- and 16-bit era, but those were games designed for short term thrills, products of an era when gaming and coin-ops were so closely married. And generally, games of the era were completable in half-hour to an hour, before taking a break.

This is how it feels playing Gunlord X – the game is fun, the game is satisfying, but the game is also best played in shorter bursts as it can feel like a chore over longer periods (in reviewing, I played both longer and shorter sessions, and was far more looking forward to returning after the shorter ones). And once completed, the game’s overall longevity will likely be measured by your desire to fully explore the levels – but knowing you’ll be facing the same bosses at the end of it all.

It really does carry the feeling of an 8-bit title from 1990, but polished until it shines almost thirty years later.

The product under review was provided by the creator, manufacturer, publisher or their PR representative free of charge and without caveat. Please see our site review policy for more information.

Peter

 
Peter can be described as an old, hairy gamer, a survivor of the console wars of the 1990s, and a part-time MMO addict. He has an especial fondness for retro gaming and observing the progressions in long running gaming series. When scandalously not caught gaming, he can also be found reading comics and fantasy fiction, or practising terrible photography.