Platforms: PC/Mac, Steam (Summer: PS4, XboxOne, WiiU) | Developer: Crazy Monkey Studios/Claeys Brothers Studios | Publisher: Crazy Monkey Studios | ESRB: T | Controls: Keyboard/Gamepad
Note, we received and played through our copy of Guns, Gore and Cannoli in very early April, but were asked to hold the review until release. The game may have changed in that time, so treat our review as that of a beta.
I’m going to make you an offer you may not be able to refuse… I’m going to give you gangsters, guns and gore. Then I’m going to give you zombies, and I’m gonna put ’em together.
“Welcome to Thugtown circa 1920, the height of Prohibition. “
Guns, Gore and Cannoli is the genre mash-up that you never knew you wanted, featuring 20’s style gangsters and zombies. The game comes our way from Crazy Monkey and Claeys Brothers Studios. Taking place in Prohibition-era 1920s, GGC is situated in the fictional city of Thugtown. It uses classic, if somewhat limited, arcade-style platformer/shooter gameplay to tell it’s story in a simplistic comic-book-like presentation. The title features, as you may have guessed, guns, gore and cannoli, with a healthy does of zombies.
Our story opens on main protagonist, Vinnie Cannoli, who also serves as our narrator. He’s relaxing below deck, recounting the story of how he came to be on this ship headed for the harbor in Thugtown. As an enforcer for the mob, Vinnie is occasionally called upon for the odd job. Mr. Belluccio, a mob boss with more than a passing resemblance to Don Corleone from the Godfather, has sent him on this trip to collect a guy named Frankie. This wiseguy will be the main target for the duration of your time with the game.
Reports out of Thugtown suggest a violent uprising of rioters and a loss of control by the police. Still, Cannoli makes the slow trip into the harbor. The ships communications let him know that all is not well as the crew above deck are quickly overrun by “rioters”. The game wastes no time, jumping right into the action. Vinnie starts by kicking the door to his cabin down. The kick is essential for breaking down doors and windows and creating distance from zombies that get too close.
He then faces his first zombies, the standard, shambling kind. Within a minute or two, all of the main gameplay elements of an arcade-style action platformer are on display. Exploding barrels can help conserve ammo and clear out zombies. A standard pistol is your base weapon, with unlimited ammo. You’ll quickly pick up a shotugn, a quicker kill, but a much slower reload time and lower clip capacity. Soon the standard zombie is joined by runners, which can quickly close the distance and swarm Vinnie.
The game continues on like this, in a standard progression. Various firearms have differing speeds and capacities, and each usually has a specific strength against individual zombies types which increase in number as the game rolls on. All the while Vinnie cracks wise like a caricature of a gangster. Which is a reminder that, Vinnie’s goal here is to complete a job for a mob boss. So expect to see human enemies as well. Rival gangsters, police, and even the military are spread out across Thugtown, just hoping to make sure that Vinnie Cannoli sleeps with the fish… err zombies.
It’s all setup in sort of a B-movie kind of way. The graphics are a nice mix of cartoon and comic, giving off the feel of a high quality flash game, but it seems a bit muddy to me. A sharper presentation mixed with some dynamic lighting would have made the style pop out more. Still, the design is consistent from area to area and nothing feels out of place.
The gameplay doesn’t share the same consistency as the design choices do however. Whether by choice or necessity, there are some mechanics that are head-scratchers. For starters, Vinnie has no ability to shoot above him, or at the angles. This probably helps to prolong what is a fairly short game on standard difficulty, but it doesn’t make sense for a modern game in this style to not feature a wider range of shooting.
The game also seems to have some quirks with regards to depth. Moving into a doorway is easy enough, but try walking up or down a staircase a few times and you’re bound to get frustrated. Often times I found Vinnie continuing in a straight line on a top plane, rather than walking down the stairs I wanted to descend. Similarly, you’ll want to jump up stairs, rather attempt the walk up most of the time.
I also found it quite easy to get semi stun-locked by swarming zombies, but that may just be a result of how I was playing the game. I found the zombie runners and football players to be the most difficult to deal with for that reason. Vinnie’s short jump distance and height make it difficult to get away once surrounded, but I guess that fairly standard in zombie-lore… don’t get caught by a horde.
The minimalism found in the variety and design extends to the music and sound work. All of the voice acting is of the cartoony, Italian-American caricature style, which I have no real problem with in cutscenes. Vinnie’s fairly cliche one-liners get very repetitive when matched with levels that feature a dearth of music. When presented, the tunes are appropriately old-timey, but there is not enough in the game, leaving the background aurally sparse.
I know it was you, Vinnie. You broke my heart. You broke my heart!
The length of your time spent with GGC will largely depend on play-style and difficulty selection. I found it to be just long enough that I was fine with the game being fairly short, as after awhile, any variety that was introduced was more of an iteration than a revelation. It’s hard not to find myself disappointed with the game. It’s not a bad experience by any stretch of the means, I guess I just expected more from the concept.
Only Single Player is, of course, focused on the single player experience. However, I suggest if you are picking this game up at its $9.99 price, that you do so with a friend, as co-op for up to four players is available. Playing with some friends, and at a higher difficulty level, may provide you with a better experience. Guns, Gore and Cannoli blends two interesting genres together and does so well from a design stand-point. However, some key functionality seems to be missing — lack of depth, and design quirks keep it from being a really good game. I would love to see this idea polished and refined into something with the quality of say a Metal Slug game.
The story is fairly simplistic, but you get a dose of gangster warring factions and double-crosses to go with your standard zombie apocalypse flavor. There probably isn’t anything to bring you back to the game after completing it, unless you’d really like to finish on the higher difficulty levels. In short, I know it was you Vinnie, your broke my heart.
Guns, Gore and Cannoli was provided to OnlySP for review from the developer.
American Fugitive Review — A Grand Tale of Theft and Auto
The original Grand Theft Auto rocked the virtual world with its violent gameplay from a birds-eye view perspective back in 1997. Once the series moved to a third-person, 3D perspective with Grand Theft Auto III, few gamers looked back and few developers attempted to replicate the original style. More than 20 years later, Fallen Tree Games has become of those few with American Fugitive.
Players control Will Riley, a man convicted for a crime he did not commit and filled with the desire for revenge. Once he has escaped from prison, Will must find old friends—and meet some new ones—to run errands and discover the person who killed his father.
The game is played from a top-down perspective in a 3D open world. More reminiscent of Chinatown Wars than the original Grand Theft Auto, the camera adds a level of complexity to American Fugitive, as players often will not see what lies beyond the edges of the screen. While a behind-the-character perspective would, at times, not go amiss, players will eventually grow to familiarise themselves with the camera, respecting the callback to classic open world titles.
The open world itself is also reminiscent of classic titles, with simplified designs regularly complimented by the detailed art style. The game’s animated, cartoon design scheme is fitting of its fast-paced action gameplay, always managing to keep the player on their toes and keen to discover more. Technically, the game plays almost flawlessly, with no significant performance issues to disrupt the player while they explore the map.
Players can explore the rural open world of Redrock County on foot or in a vehicle. The vehicular gameplay may take some time for players to familiarise themselves with, with some overly slippery mechanics leading to some unfortunate collisions, though fitting to the game’s tone. Thankfully, most environments in the game are destructible, so sliding off the road—if the player follows the road to begin with—does not often lead to disaster.
Despite beginning the game as a seemingly innocent man, Will doubles down on his criminal actions once he escapes from prison. Akin to Grand Theft Auto, the player can hijack cars, kill civilians, and attract the attention of police. Most residential buildings in the game can be robbed by the player, often leading to tense confrontations with the homeowners or police, so players must continue at their own risk.
The ‘wanted’ system in the game works similarly to Grand Theft Auto games, with players accumulating up to five stars depending on their behaviour. The stars often accumulate a little too quickly, however, with additional stars regularly added simply for evading police. Oftentimes, the player may possess a full wanted level—complete with large police vans and circling helicopters—within a minute of committing a minor offense. While this over-the-top gameplay design is fitting to the pace of the game, it may lead to frustrations within the main story missions by bringing the player’s progress to a halt.
The missions are also reminiscent of those in Grand Theft Auto, tasking the player with a wide variety of tasks to keep them busy while the story evolves. While many of these missions may seem disconnected to the main narrative structure, they are unique and regularly keep the player entertained, ranging from simple fetch quests and car robberies to full-scale shootouts. The game’s fast-paced gameplay and lack of loading screens also make the poorly-placed checkpoints bearable, especially when the beginning of missions require the player to drive to a certain location.
American Fugitive‘s storyline is simple in design but entertaining enough to keep the player engaged. The game’s ‘cutscenes’ exist in the form of text atop character designs; while some simple voice acting would elevate these scenes with more dramatic tension, they are short enough to maintain the player’s attention and continue the missions at a fast pace. Players will find themselves surprisingly engrossed in the story, wanting to see it through to its full conclusion.
Accompanying the fast-paced gameplay and narrative is the game’s music. From slow, explorative themes to fast-paced tracks, American Fugitive‘s original score is reminiscent of some of the best soundtracks across different media—from television’s True Detective to video gaming’s Red Dead Redemption 2 and The Last of Us. Each song accompanies the gameplay nicely, ramping up and down as the player makes the appropriate actions, and, along with the expert sound design, add the auditory sprinkles atop a visual and narrative treat.
American Fugitive, simply put, is fun. Fallen Tree Games has added its own unique twist to a classic gameplay formula, and utilised a simple but engaging narrative and a beautiful original score to maintain the player’s interest until the very end. Despite a few minor flaws in gameplay, the game stands strong against its competition. Players looking for a fast, fun, and mature sandbox game should not miss American Fugitive.
Reviewed on PlayStation 4 Pro.
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