Wildcat Gun Machine by Chunkybox Games
Wildcat Gun Machine is a bare-bones shooter, albeit a modern one. Presented isometrically, it borrows elements from multiple genres, like FPS and bullet hell, while focusing almost entirely on mechanics at the expense of…well…everything else.
Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!
It dispenses with narrative entirely. You’re a person with a gun. There are enemies. Shoot them. Don’t let them shoot you.
You want more than that? Fine. You can different kinds of guns – with which to do the shooting, of course – plus some additional upgrades like grenades and improved movement speed. There’s also a dash – use that to get shot less – and the titular Gunmachine, a temporary god mode that you can activate after blasting a requisite amount of enemies.
Wildcat Gun Machine isn’t simplified to the point of absurdity, and there are in fact some nice examples of level design, complete with winding corridors for trapping (or being trapped by) enemies and environmental hazards like acid-sprayers and exploding barrels. Maps are solid, too, with each act starting from a hub area and spreading outward, with different colored keys providing access to different areas.
But really, that’s about as much as you get as far as flavor. It really all comes down to the shooting.
Multiple reviewers on the game’s Steam page have complained about the guns’ “feel.” I found these complaints only partially accurate. It’s true that there’s nothing as satisfyingly “heavy” as, for example, any of the shotguns in any of the Doom games. Guns in Wildcat Gun Machine tend to whir, buzz, or beep without providing that chunky, bass-heavy shotgun thump. When you consider the influence of Japanese bullet hell games, though, the “feel” of the weaponry makes a lot more sense.
And it’s not like gun choice makes no difference. I was shocked at how quickly I ended up getting killed after ditching a slow, heavy pistol for a lower-caliber weapon with a faster firing rate.
This also isn’t Borderlands. Guns number in the dozens, not the thousands, and you can have two equipped at any time: a pistol and a rifle. The latter chews up ammunition quickly, so smart pistol selection is crucial. You can’t change your weapon inventory on the fly, either; you have to use the central checkpoint (which also serves as save point and upgrade shop), making gun choice even more important.
And while Wildcat Gun Machine is short on frills, it’s certainly not short on style. The graphical approach reminds me a lot of new school tattoo art: a combination of cute and grotesque delivered in an over-the-top cartoonish fashion, from the protagonist – who reminds me a little bit of pop singer Pink if she had an eye patch and a collection of brightly-colored firearms – to the enemies, which range from flying, flaming skulls to cyborg zombies to Cronenberg-meets-Akira insectoid blob monsters.
The thumping electronic soundtrack pairs well with the brightly colored mayhem; there’s plenty of dubstep if that’s your thing, and I particularly enjoyed the moody progressive house track in the opening and loading screen.
More Than One Way to Skin a Cat
Wildcat Gun Machine isn’t perfect – along with some clipping issues, it’s also got some fairly unforgiving difficulty spikes along with some other quibbles, like bosses escaping off-screen. How am I supposed to appreciate the monster design if the monster keeps dodging out of view?
On the other hand, it’s compelling and stylish and kept me coming back for more punishment even after multiple deaths that had me swearing under my breath.
It’s also essentially the first game from a lone developer, which makes the amount of polish all the more incredible and the occasional rough spot a bit more forgivable. The person behind Chunkybox Games already displays a confident sense of style as well as a firm grasp on the core mechanics of multiple shooter genres. Indie publisher Daedalic Entertainment was smart to snap this one up, and I can only imagine that they’re as excited to see what comes next from this dev as I am.
Wildcat Gun Machine is available via the Nintendo Store, Sony PlayStation Store, Microsoft Store and Steam.
Watch the trailer for Wildcat Gun Machine below: