Guns, Gore & Cannoli – Xbox One
Platform: Xbox One
Developer: Crazy Monkey Studios, Claeys Brothers
Publisher: Crazy Monkey Studios
Release Date: September 25th, 2015
Nerd Rating: 8 out of 10
Vinnie Cannoli is the kind of wiseguy that wiseguys fear, and when he’s contacted to find a missing mobster, you can bet the lead will fly and the bodies will pile up. Capiche? The trouble for Vinnie is that nobody told him he’d be gunning his way through hordes of zombies in the streets of Thugtown. Vinnie’s solution is nothing a few more bullets won’t solve. He’s the man for the job, no matter what un-dead enemies show up. Fuhgeddaboudit!
I found Guns, Gore & Cannoli while searching for co-op games to play with friends. Clad in a fedora and toting a tommy gun through Prohibition Era streets, I was soon up to my eyeballs in zombies. Jumping and shooting my way through the throngs of enemies, I sought out a fellow wiseguy trapped by the hungry dead, and made my way toward uncovering the deeper secret behind the city in chaos. Though certainly fun to play alone, it really shone with another player. In fact, I found it pretty overwhelming on the normal difficulty setting when I played by myself. Not only was it more enjoyable to play with a partner in crime, teamwork became essential after the initial stages. The surprises and humor were also best enjoyed as shared experiences.
The hand-drawn artwork contributes heavily to the charm of this title. I appreciated all the little details in the backgrounds, destructible elements, and enemies, as though I were playing my way through a gritty comic book story. The attention to detail was almost distracting, at first. Shell casings fly, flames envelope writhing enemies, zombies explode under the onslaught of Vinnie’s firepower, or sometimes due to their own clumsiness. It all lends tremendously well to the atmosphere and period setting, as do Vinnie’s quips and dialogue with the other characters.
The sheer variety of enemies keeps the game fresh where other platformers might become stale. Not only are there different types of zombies, with unique abilities, but the individual zombies also come in detailed and humorous flavors. Some are dressed in tuxedos, others in sailor or police uniforms. The enemy gangsters also boast different appearances and carry different weapons types. Even the mutated sewer rats display an array of disgusting characteristics to differentiate them. As the game progresses, new types of zombies appeared and caught me by surprise with their methods of attack and hilarious animations. Like the variety of enemies, the murderous menu of weapon choices was impressive. The standards were all represented: automatic pistols, revolvers, shotguns, bazookas, and grenades. The addition of the Vickers machine gun, flamethrower, and Teslacoil gun helped level the field of combat against truly staggering odds.
Gameplay is fundamental to a platformer, and Guns, Gore & Cannoli is no exception. It is all satisfyingly intuitive, with new elements like grenade use and high-jumps accompanied by screen tips. Most of the game takes place on the ground, with jumping and ducking only necessary to dodge charging enemies or avoid bullets. Increasingly it becomes necessary to jump over obstacles and navigate through hazards, and the controls responded well to all of the challenges, with the occasional exception of stairs. These mechanics prove otherwise useful for combating specific enemy types that use shields, armor, or cover to to foil Vinnie’s homicidal skills. The true platforming challenges surfaced predominately in the boss battles, where fighting and maneuvering both came heavily into play. If not for the humorous elements, the game would have lost some of its appeal after Vinnie’s many deaths during my play. The chuckles kept me playing even during the most frustrating levels.
Level design always seems appropriate to the period setting of the game, including its zombie citizens. The game progresses from the shipyard, where Vinnie arrives in Thugtown, through city streets, tenement buildings, sewers, and factories. Changes occur, such as the presence of the military, once the zombies truly fall under siege by more than just Vinnie’s one-man army. This, of course, allows an organic way of introducing new enemies and new weapons. It all lends well to the unfolding story, the uncovering of the zombie mystery, and plots within the organized crime power structure. I enjoyed the mystery of each new level’s environment. New hazards plagued me, whether steam pipes, wind from giant fans, or the flaming wreckage of the city streets. Thankfully most of the obstacles also proved equally bothersome to the enemies. Zombies do not have picky taste buds and attack enemy gangsters at any opportunity, providing an additional level of strategy to be employed when the odds seem overwhelming.
The co-op play shares the screen, which fondly reminded me of some of my coin-op favorites from the late 20th century. Players who fall behind are quickly caught up to the leader by an unobtrusive teleportation mechanic. Ammunition stocks and health replenishment, naturally in the form of cannoli, are shared between players. If one player dies and rejoins the game, the surviving player’s health is shared as a penalty. It makes for a rewarding and balanced playing experience between players. The strategic advantages of co-op play, especially at the higher difficulty levels, make it my preferred way to play the game. The second player’s cover fire can provide a few extra seconds to reload weapons and make the difference between life and death. There is also a versus mode, if the campaign mode needs some further variety, that allows arcade style play in a choice of one-screen maps. If you’re alone, you can still play against the challenging AI to see who is the better wiseguy.
Guns, Gore & Cannoli is a game I highly recommend. Its flavor, lovingly crafted graphics, humor, and exciting gameplay help it rise above other platformers that typically become repetitive and bland over time. The true testimony to this is that I immediately began playing the game over again once I had finished it. A more challenging difficulty awaited me, and I couldn’t wait to pit my itchy trigger finger against hungrier, tougher enemies in the mean streets and slimy sewers. For the price of $10, I downloaded this title from the Xbox store and will play it again and again.
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